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Shrine of Lies

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Kadara.

It could be beautiful if it could get its shit together, Lola  thought wrinkling her nose in disgust. The smell of liquor and puke permeated the thick, humid desert air. Drunks stumbled all around them slurring everything from insults to sexual invitations. 

As if that wasn’t unpleasant enough, Vetra was quickly making her regret agreeing to bring her along every step of the damn way.

“You’re more frustrating than Syd, and that’s saying a lot. Believe me,” Vetra said.

“We are not getting into this agai-” Ryder began before stopping short. In front of her were a small group of exiles armed to the teeth brutally beating an unarmed man unconscious.

The fucking Outcasts, Lola thought to herself with a sneer. Sloane’s little band of fucked up misfits.  Lola walked up to them.

“Now may not be the best time, Ryder,” Liam said, knowing what she was about to do.

“Don’t.” Vetra warned. But it was too late. Ryder was already approaching them.

“What’s going on here?” She asked, her voice full of authority. She placed a hand on the dagger she had strapped to her thigh.

A dark woman with short, bright blonde hair turned to her. The woman scowled, immediately registering the Nexus Pathfinder symbol on Lola’s combat suit. She turned her full attention to Lola, as her Outcast bffs continued to kick and curse at the man curled up on the ground.

“So it’s true. A Human Pathfinder finally decided to grace us with thier presence.” The woman practically spat at her. “A little late, you missed all the fun on The Nexus,” she said referring to the rebellion.

“Yea, being lost in space has a way of making you late for important engagements,” Lola responded with a shrug. She met the woman’s gaze, Lola would not be intimidated.

“Oh, you have jokes, Pathfinder? How about this one? You have no jurisdiction here. This is an Outcast owned port.”

“One. I fail to see how that in any way resembles a joke. Two. I honestly couldn’t give a flying fuck if the Goddess herself owned this port." Lola stared her down. "You’re beating unarmed people unconscious. And see, that concerns me. I am now extremely concerned," Lola said, stepping closer to the woman. The space between them now closed.

The woman scowled down at her and Lola scowled right back, her biotics beginning to flare. She felt Vetra and Liam take up posts beside her, ready to follow her lead even if they believed it to be reckless. They'd chew her out for it later.

Worth it, she thought.

The other two Outcasts, sensing what was about to happen, stopped beating the man now lying motionless on the steel ground, and stepped beside their fellow idiot in arms.

“Ryder, I would like to point out that it would be difficult to meet with Shena if we were to be barred from Kadara port.” SAM chimed in,  just as she was about to unleash a biotic blast.

Ryder paused. The six of them all patiently waiting for the other to make a move. The lot of them all itching for a reason to fight. Lola let out a loud frustrated sigh, before muttering “fine” under her breath.  She shot the Outcasts the most intimidating scowl she could muster before abruptly turning to leave the scene.

“I don’t like this, SAM. I don’t like this at all.” She felt physically ill.

That woman was right, Lola had no power here, no authority. No clear way of aiding those that might need her. None of this sat well with her, it all felt wrong.  She cursed under her breath. If the Initiative didn’t need the Angara as badly as they did, she would have gladly taken her chances and slit those asshole's throats, but unfortunately there was so many lives at risk, that she had to leave one behind.

Shit job. Shit decision. 

Needless to say, she was in an extremely sour mood by the time she reached the bar. Filled with disappointment over her inability to help, and irritation over Vetra mother henning her, not to mention Liam’s new role as my self-appointed bodyguard, Lola thought with a scowl. 

She was feeling a severe loss of control and seedlings of self doubt. 

Who the fuck thought I could pull this off?

“Your father,” SAM replied.

“Stop answering my thoughts SAM. It’s creepy as hell.”

The bar was surprisingly full of patrons (especially for the middle of the damn day). Ryder stood by the bar, eyeing the other patrons. This place was bursting at the rim with unsavory types, but she couldn’t identify anyone that might’ve been her contact.

She felt Liam’s eyes boring into her from across the room. She shot him an annoyed look, which he returned, clearly unbothered by her irritation. If he won't stop drilling me with his stares, then he could do it to my back, she thought turning her back to him. She didn’t need to witness him attempting to intimidate any and every person that just happened to look in her direction. 

He acts like the whole damn galaxy is interested in me. Shit, she wished she was that alluring.

She drummed her painted fingernails on the countertop.  

Now where the hell was Shena?

 


 

Reyes walked into Kralla’s Song. He looked at his Omni-tool. He was more than a few minutes late. No matter. He was certain The Pathfinder would still be here.

He looked around the full club and was immediately struck by a woman standing alone at the bar.

Now, who is this?, He thought, his interest immediately piqued.

He was sure he had never seen her here before. Granted, he didn’t know every single resident of Kadara, but her? Her, he would’ve surely noticed.

She had thick, dark, curls that cascaded playfully down to her pert, tight rear, and a black combat suit that hugged her like a second skin. Every curve displayed for his viewing pleasure.

Coño.    

Reyes cocked his head to the side for a better view. How anyone could manage to fit into such a snug combat suit was beyond him, but he was thankful for the act all the same. She was drawing in more than her fair share of looks and whispers.

Not that he could blame them.   

He couldn’t see her face from his position on the upper level of the bar, but if she how she looked from the front was even a fraction of how she appeared from behind, pursuing her would be more than worth his time. The Pathfinder would just have to wait a few minutes more, he decided, heading her way. It wasn't until she turned that he saw The Nexus symbol on her suit. He froze, his mind working out what he just saw. 

The symbol was that of a Pathfinder.

He fell back into the crowd, not wanting to be noticed just yet. Was she his contact? He fought the urge to laugh out loud. Mierda, the reports didn’t mention how attractive she was. But, then again, why would they? He could see it now: Pathfinder. Female. Fuckable. 

When Evfra told Reyes he would be meeting with a Nexus representative, a Pathfinder no less, he imagined some stodgy older veteran unfortunate enough to be tasked with appeasing the Angara.  He had been busy with other matters and had briefly skimmed through the information that had been sent to him on her. Sloppy, my lack of preparation was sloppy.  So, no he wasn't expecting this. He wasn't expecting her.

She shifted from one foot to the next, her full hips swaying from the small transfer of weight.

He smiled to himself. This was going to be much easier than anything he could've hoped for. After all, if there was one thing Reyes knew he had in spades it was charm. Charm that worked especially well on the members of the opposite sex. Reyes smoothed his hair back, and moistened his lips. For better or worse, manipulation and deceit came as easily as breathing to him, and although Reyes didn’t necessarily enjoy it, he long ago accepted it as a necessary evil if one wanted to survive. And he intended to survive.

“Liam.” He watched her call to a tall, slim dark male a few feet behind her. Her voice was naturally breathy, honeyed. “Five more minutes than we’re gone.” The guy nodded.

Yes, she was definitely his contact.

He headed her way.

She could change everything.

 


 

Ten minutes turned to fifteen which eventually turned to thirty, and Lola was still standing at that unpleasant, sticky, slightly wet bar waiting for her Angaran contact. She was just about to tell Liam to grab Vetra so they could leave, she'd just have to find another way to retrieve the prisoner, when a husky, lightly accented voice called out to her.

“You look like you’re waiting for someone.”

Lola smiled to herself. It took balls for an exile to approach a Pathfinder on duty, especially one like herself. Her ‘resting-bitch-face’ was known to scare off pretty much anyone that looked her way.

Lola turned to him. She sucked in her breath caught completely off guard by the man standing in front of her.  

Well, Damn.

This man was the ‘tall, dark, and handsome’ cliche personified, and he was offering her a drink. Lola couldn’t help but to look him once over. The broad shoulders, toned arms, and hint of rock hard abs that showed right through the fabric of his shirt…. she received the strong impression that he rarely got turned down, if ever.

She looked at the drink in his leather gloved hands. Her contact was late, and her spirits were down, one drink with a handsome stranger couldn’t hurt.

“I have time for one drink.” She responded as casually as she could muster. She took the drink from his hand. His hooded bronze eyes met her grey ones, a smug smirk played at the corner of his full lips.

This man is completely aware of his own good looks, she thought to herself, setting the glass down on the counter beside her after taking a sip. And something tells me that he is not shy of exploiting said looks for his own personal gain.

So, what exactly did he want from her?

 

 


 

 

Reyes quickly downed his drink.

“Shena?” He asked searching her face. She looked amazing from afar, but she was even more striking up close. And all that hair, it tumbled off her shoulders in dark,  silky bunches.

Mierda!

He wondered what it would be like to tug on it while in the middle of a down stroke. And judging by the way she just looked him over, the feeling of attraction was mutual.

Reyes held her intense, inquisitive gaze.

He took note of how her pupils had dilated, and her lush lips had parted ever so slightly upon seeing him. The slight intake of breath... Pathfinder or not, she was still a hot blooded woman.

He took in the delicate upturn of her grey eyes, making them seem more feline than human and the slight rouge of her full lips. The way her dark honeyed skin seemed to positively glow in Kadara’s setting sun... she must be a distraction nearly everywhere she goes, he mused. 

He offered her his most charming smile. His mind running rampant, devising up ways to get her in his bed, on a table in his room at Tartarus, on that couch… Down boy. Business first, he reminded himself, then pleasure.

This wasn’t the first time Reyes had been attracted to a woman he was attempting to do business with. Women were his achilles heel, and his downfall would be caused by one, he was sure of it.

Don’t make the same mistakes you did with Zia, he thought, frowning at the memory.

 Zia Cordier was the most recent potential business partner he had bedded and she had been a pain in his side ever since. With all the trouble she caused him….was still causing him, you’d think he would have completely sworn off mixing business with pleasure.  

But …  Fuck, he could never deny himself a beautiful woman. Reyes watched as Lola brought her glass to her lips took a long drag of the alcohol. She tilted her head back ever so slightly, revealing a long, slender neck and more of that beautiful copper skin.

But, any trouble she’d cause would surely be worth it, wouldn’t it?

Only one way to find out.

“But you could call me Reyes,” he said, reaching his hand out to shake hers, if only for a reason to touch her. “I hate code names.”

 

 


 

 

Lola raised her eyebrows in disbelief.

 He was truly her contact?

He gripped her hand firmly but gently. His large hand engulfed her small one. She bet they were rough and calloused under the glove.

I have a feeling this man is no stranger to manual labor, she thought with growing interest. His body was probably molded by it.

She wished his hands were bare instead of concealed.

Their embrace lingered, hands intwined, and his attention remained focused only on her. Electricity pulsed through her, emanating from his touch.. Goddess, he was sexy. Confidence radiated off him, like heat from the sun.  Lola had to force herself to focus, and remove her hands from his.

“I was expecting someone more….Angaran,” she said. Her attraction to him palpable, she was sure he knew. Even so she attempted to appear aloof.

He chuckled as though he could see right through her facade. It was a deep, confident rumble that filled her up and warmed her core. 

His golden eyes gleamed with mischief.  It’s like he holds the most devious of secrets, Lola thought entranced. They were incredibly alert, yet full of so much humor. It was then that Lola realized that it was he who was in control. It's all calculated, his words, his actions, and yet...

He leaned on the counter, moving slightly closer to her. Close enough that she could take in his scent. It was of whiskey, and the earth, smoke ...and gun powder. But Lola was too mesmerized to accurately analyze that information. Why someone would smell of something so archaic.

“The resistance pays me to supply information, among ...other things,”  he said. His voice was low, conspiratorial, it felt as though he was letting her in on one of those secrets she was sure he harbored.

“So, you’re a smuggler?” She asked, trying to make sense of his vague explanation.

Vetra was technically a smuggler herself. Drack too if she was really counting.  

She momentarily wondered if The Nexus knew that their salvation rested on the shoulders of such shady characters. Except Cora, Cora was as straight laced as they came. A damn Saint.

Reyes’ smirk tugged at the corners of his lips He tilted his head side to side, neither confirming nor denying her suspicions. Instead he left his place beside her and walked over to an open viewport. One that was overlooking Kadara Port. She followed suit.  Vetra threw her a look that clearly said “who the hell is that?” Lola gave her a small shrug, and shook her head as she went to join Reyes.

She listened carefully as he told her about Sloane and her unsavory ways. He expressed doubts about Sloane’s ability to play nice (no surprise there), her need to appease Kadara’s resident Angara (Sloane  seemed to understand  how precarious her position as 'top dog' was), and her plans for Vehn Tehven: death.

Well, Evfra and The Moshae won’t like that, she thought.

“I’ll have to take him with or without her permission” She decided, speaking more to herself than Reyes. She saw no other choice.

She crouched down slightly to place her elbows on the sill, hands clasped. She frowned at the drunks stumbling around below. This couldn’t be how their people ended up.

The Initiative failed them.

Exiled or not, they were their people, and they deserved better.

She saw herself in them.  How often did she find her own self on the precipice of destruction? Weekly? In another life, she could have easily found herself here, among the lost and renounced.

 


 

 

Reyes studied her profile. She was looking at that mess of a port below them. He wondered if that frown meant that she was as unhappy about the state of affairs here as he was. Perhaps they weren't so different, even if they did represent opposite sides of the same coin. Maybe she did understand. 

The Initiative failed them. Failed us as whole, he thought, remembering the shit show he left behind.

He knew she was younger than him, he could tell, younger by a few years and she looked it. But there was no naïveté in her eyes, instead they seemed hardened.

As the only Pathfinder she held a tremendous amount of power, her decisions would literally shape mankind’s future.

I need her on my side, he decided.  By any means necessary. It didn’t hurt that she was soft on the eyes.

Helping her free Vehn could be the first step in gaining her trust.

“There may be another way to get Vehn,” he began. “You work Sloane and I’ll look into my connections with the resistance.”

He turned to walk away, not wanting to give her a chance to respond, a chance to turn his offer down.

 


 

 

Surprised by the abruptness of his departure, Lola turned to watch him go.

His walk was confident, and relaxed, with a slight swagger. He was completely at ease with himself and his environment. Lola almost envied him for that.  

“How do I contact you if things go south?” She called after him, realizing that all he left her with was his name and a noncommittal, extremely vague promise about possibly aiding her.

But instead of answering, he only looked back, smiled that cocky smile that was she beginning to think was permanently stuck on his face, and winked at her.

She stood there frozen in place as he disappeared from the club.

He actually responded with a wink. A damn wink. Despite herself she couldn’t help but smile.  

Trouble, this man was complete and utter trouble.  Just my type.  She had the worst taste in men.

She regained her composure and was about to follow after him when Umi, the bartender, reminded her of the bill he had left her with. The sly bastard.  She quickly paid, and left the bar. Vetra and Liam trailing behind her.

She found herself hoping that that wouldn’t be the last time she’d ever see him.

 


 

 

After some finagling, Ryder was able to convince her crew to allow her to handle Sloane alone. After all, Lola didn’t want Sloane to feel intimidated, she was sincerely hoping they could come to an agreement. If only because the alternative would require further finagling, and honestly Lola didn't enjoy being purposely dishonest, but she had long ago accepted the fact that sometimes in order to do some good, you had to be bad. 

Needless to say, her meeting with Sloane didn’t go well.

Sloane refused to compromise. Plainly put, she was a pompous, self-indignant bitch. Ryder laughed to herself as she left Outcast Headquarters. It was extraordinarily ludicrous, Sloane actually sat on throne. A shitty homemade throne, sure, but a throne nonetheless. Who the fuck did that?

 That's when she heard someone call out her name, and not her last name, but her first, which no one did.

 


 

 

Reyes was able to quickly retrieve the information needed to help Ryder.  He knew Sloane wouldn’t play ball, so he situated himself right outside her headquarters to catch Lola as she left.

He didn't have to wait long.

The doors opened and sure enough Lola sauntered out. .She stood out from the rest. She was like a shiny new penny surrounded by grime filled, tarnished ones. He watched as she raked her hand through her thick head of hair, and a part of him toyed with idea of being the one to sully her.

“Lola, have a nice chat?” He called out to get her attention.

She turned to him, surprised, with the look of amusement still on her beautiful face.

“I think she likes me,” she joked. She placed a hand on her hip and cocked it to the side, a look of pride on her face. 

He laughed. He enjoyed a woman that could roll with the punches.

“It’s ok, I think I found a work around.” He quickly filled her in on how to break Vehn Terev out without making Sloane aware, and provided her with the pass-codes necessary to enter the room Vehn was being held in.

Reyes stepped closer to her, his shoulder brushing hers. She tensed at the touch.

“Here,” he said, his voice low. He took her hand in his and pressed a small capsule into her palm.“This will eat through the bars.”  

Once again he lingered. He rubbed the capsule into her palm with his thumb and was pleased when she didn’t pull away, but allowed him to caress her.

She’s so small, he thought, her hand practically disappearing in his. Reyes stood at a little over six feet tall. She has to be at least 6 inches shorter than me. 5’ 5”? 5’ 4”?   He could easily throw her over his shoulder and run off with her. He'd easily overpower her. He marveled at the fact that such a small woman was expected save them all.

He let go of her hand, preparing to leave when she said: “There’s still the matter of the tab you left me with,” amusement colored her eyes.

“I am usually the model gentleman,” he lied.

“I don’t believe you,” she countered, teasing him.

“That’s because I’m lying,” he replied, his voice deep with implication. She arched her brow and hummed in approval at his comment .

So, Tann’s little Pathfinder likes brutes, he thought.

“When you’re done, come to Tartarus,” he said, trying not to think of how foolish pursuing her was. So much was at stake, and yet all he could think about was finding a way to touch her.

“I’ll think about it,” she countered, a small smile on her face and playful glint in her lovely eyes.

He wanted to fill those grey pools with lust for him. “First drink’s on me, promise.”



 

 

Chapter Text

Ryder sat in her quarters on the Tempest. She replayed the day's events in her head as she finished her report for Tann.

By all accounts it was successful. They got Vehn out, alive without too much trouble, and she had Reyes to thank for that.

Mr. Vidal..., she thought, his honeyed voice still ringing pleasantly in her ears.

There was no doubt about it, he was a dangerously handsome man, a shameless flirt, a bit of a scoundrel. ..

And trouble she reminded herself, don't forget trouble.

"SAM, could you gather all available intel on Reyes Vidal and have it delivered to my terminal?" She needed more of him, even if it was only in the form of words on a screen. Plus, she doubted many truths left those lips of his.

Lola sat back in her chair, crossing her feet at the ankles as she placed them on the desk.

"You're thinking of Mr. Vidal." SAM announced. "Does he interest you?"

"Yes," she responded absently. Why lie to someone who could read your thoughts? She did at first, lie, but had given up the attempt at privacy once she had fully realized how utterly futile it truly was.

Lola thought back to Reyes, of his rich brown skin, his strong jaw and broad shoulders. And his voice, that voice! Melted chocolate. Pure, ecstasy.

Then she thought about his invite for a drink at Tartarus, In Kadara's slums. An area completely outside of Sloane's "protection".

Why there? It was a dangerous place to choose to get drunk, she thought. 

In truth she hated alcohol, it made her face red, which was no easy feat with her darkly tanned skin, and it made her sleepy, which she already felt practically all the time.

All the same, Lola decided to go. She wanted thank him for his help, and mine him for any knowledge he may have on this Charlatan she kept hearing the exiles whisper about, and I do need to settle Kadara. A place full of people that hate me and what they think I stand for.

She wondered if they'd still feel the same if they knew that she hated Tann just as much as they did.

She sighed, she certainly could use any allies she could find on that dustball of a planet.

She showered. Washed her hair. Kadara is just so dusty, she thought to herself.

Sprayed on her favorite perfume (a gift smuggled in by Vetra as thank you for the time Lola had helped Syd out of a dangerous  situation), and slipped into one of her better ventilated combat suits. Even though the sun was starting to dip below the horizon, that Kadaran heat didn't let off.

She strapped guns to her back and knives to her thighs, then thought better of it. She had her biotics, worst case scenario.

"Should I alert the crew of your departure?" SAM asked.

"I don't really think that's necessary, SAM. I'm just going to pay Mr. Vidal a quick visit." She paused, zipping up her leather boots. "I'm going to thank him for his help earlier and  see if he has any information on The Charlatan. You know, just quick, easy business." She checked her reflection in a mirror. She frowned at herself suddenly feeling self conscious. Her brother had often accused of her being vain.

Which isn't fair. He's all charm and witty banter. Socializing comes easy for him. Everyone adores him. She had to work twice as hard as him to build connections, and thrice as hard to keep them.

"You use sex appeal to draw people in," he would say, his words echoing in her head. "You're more than your looks, you don't need to dress yourself up as a present to get people to draw nearer." Was he right? Was that what she was doing?

"I estimate that the chances of you being shot at increases by seventy percent once you leave Sloane's protected area," SAM announced, pulling her out of her thoughts.

"Damn, really? Seventy?"

"Yes, Pathfinder. Seventy."

"Shit." They'd really ride her ass if she snuck out to such a dangerous place alone, at night, to see a trouble making smuggler, in secret.

"I was given strict orders to look after your safety. I will be alerting the crew now."

Lola groaned. "Yea, fine. Tell whoever's coming that I'll meet them at that elevator shaft thingy."

She momentarily hoped it wouldn't be Liam.

 


 

When Reyes returned to his private room at Tartarus he immediately went to work finding out everything he could about the Pathfinder. A golden opportunity had fallen into his lap, he wouldn't squander it.

He told Kian, Tartarus' owner/bartender, (and one of the trusted few that knew Reyes' true identity), to alert him immediately not if, but when a beautiful woman came looking for him. Reyes was feeling confident.

"Many women come looking for you. Many of 'em beautiful" Kian replied, his Irish accent apparent in every word he spoke. "Should I just send 'em all your way or is there a specific one you be wanting to stop by?"

Reyes narrowed his eyes at Kian.

Kian was loyal but also a smart ass. Reyes appreciated the former much more than the latter.

"She's The Human Pathfinder." He replied.

 Kian's eyes widened in surprise, "So, it's true? One finally showed?" 

"One finally showed," Reyes confirmed, leaning onto bar.

Kian whistled to himself, "Alright, all business then?"

"Business." Reyes confirmed even as he wondered if she was screamer. "She has grey eyes and curls that fall to her ass. Trust me, you cannot miss her."

"Alright then," Kian replied.

 

Reyes searched the extranet on his omni-tool. He had already received a healthy amount of information on her from his sources, but he felt he still needed more. He wanted more. 

Not surprisingly, he found an excess of articles  on her instantly, the arrival of a Pathfinder being monumental for The Initiative.

'Lola Ryder arrived to The Nexus after inheriting the role of The Human Pathfinder following the death of her father, Alec Ryder, on Habitat 7. Alec Ryder's decision to pass the role to his daughter was a controversial one as the role originally belonged to his second, Cora Harper'…. Yes, yes, he knew all this.

He clicked on a video. In it she was giving a speech. She had just succeeded in making Eos viable, with an outpost that seemed to be flourishing.

Impressive for a person with no official Pathfinder training, he thought to himself.

She was smiling in the video, clearly proud of what had been accomplished. Her demeanor wasn't stiff and reserved as one would expect, but instead she spoke as though she was speaking to a room full of friends. She made sure to give her crew their due credit, mentioning each by name.

They stood bunched around her, like planets orbiting their sun. One male crew member in particular had thrown an arm around her shoulders, and drew her nearer. Her smile widen at the action, brightened even.

He paused it, and zoomed in.

They were staring into each other's eyes, beaming. Reyes frowned at the image. Their smiles resemble those of newly weds. Intimate, yet bashful, and aimed just at each other. Reyes zoomed in on the male's face. He tapped on his Omni-tool, pulling up the male's name.

Liam Kosta, he read.

Yes, this was the same guy that was watching her in the bar. His look was protective. Territorial, even. Reyes himself had been on the receiving end of such looks on more than one occasion, and it was always from a lover, current or past.

He made a mental note to find out the exact nature of Kosta's relationship to Lola. He was about to do more digging into Kosta's personal background when his omni-tool chirped.

"Your Pathfinder's here." Kian's voice carried through. "Asked me if you'd come down. She's hot little thing. Business only my ass."


 

Reyes slowly descended Tartarus' metal stairs. The sound of his footsteps were drowned out by the music. 

He enjoyed how invisible he felt here, lost in a sea of strangers and submerged in the music. Here, he was nothing more than a shadow shifting about in the dark. One monster of many.

Reyes reached the last landing and scanned the room for her. He found her almost immediately.

She was sitting alone at a table in front of a pair of male Turian dancers. Not paying them an ounce of attention.

Reyes considered this...she was sitting alone. What was the likelihood that someone of her calibre would be permitted to travel to such dangerous places, at night, unarmed, and alone.

None. He searched the room. Someone was here with her, he was sure of it.

There.

In the far corner stood the male Reyes recognized as Liam Kosta. Kosta had his head dipped toward a female patron he was chatting up. An Asari named Shandra. A regular, if Reyes remembered correctly, but despite how attractive and underdressed Shandra was, Liam's eyes kept wandering back toward Lola.

Lover. He was definitely a lover of hers. Now the only question was whether Kosta was a past or present one.

Reyes shifted his attention and began seeking out the Turian who had accompanied Lola earlier. She must've tagged along as well.

Yea, there she was. Unlike Kosta, she seemed completely at ease. She was chatting up a small time smuggler in the corner of the room. 

Reyes turned his attention back to The Pathfinder. She had a drink in front of her, but she wasn't touching it, instead she just ran her long black nails over the rim of the glass repeatedly.

She spent a lot of time in her own head, he noted. He could help pull her out.

Even in all the drunken movement and excitement of being in a club full of exiles, she stood out. She was stillness amidst a cacophony of movement. Her calm, and relaxed demeanor was like a beacon amidst a stormy sea. He found that it called out to him in a way he didn't quite understand. All he knew was that he desired to be near her. Though he clearly wasn't the only one.

He watched as men and women approached her, only to have her smile politely and wave them away. One of the male dancers ( Zayne… or was it Xander?) in front of her bent down and said something to her through the bars. To Reyes' surprise the dancer elicited a loud, genuine laugh from her. Head fell back, and eyes closed. Her laughter rose above Tartarus' music. It was light and melodic.

Reyes felt himself grow irritated. Kian wasn't paying those damned dancers to flirt, he  thought descending the last of the steps that kept him from her.

It wouldn't be until much later that it would dawn upon Reyes that what he was feeling was the smallest twinge of jealousy.


 

Lola looked up just as Reyes approached her. Tartarus' dim lighting accentuated his high cheekbones and strong, angled jaw. His dark, glossy hair, was pushed back and off his face, allowing all an uninterrupted view of his dashing looks.

His golden, sleepy eyes met hers and he motioned for her to follow him to a more intimate alcove of the club. A spot where the music wasn't as strong, and the crowd wasn't as thick. She followed him and they sat across from one another at a table that resembled an earth booth.

"I hope no one was bothering you." He said leaning back comfortably into his seat.

Lola wasn't sure but she could've sworn his eyes darted momentarily to the male dancer. Had he been watching her?

"Why?" She asked, not wanting to confirm to deny anything.  "Would it bother you if someone had been?" She responded, testing the waters. She was about to ask if he meant anyone in particular when Zeke, the dancer, approached the table from Reyes' side.

"I meant what I said earlier," he said leaning towards her.

"I'm sure you did," Lola laughed in good nature. She would've been flattered by all the attention she had been receiving if the she hadn't seen each person that approached her hit on someone else just before they tried their luck on her, and on someone else again after her.

Zeke, included. Horny Bastards...all of them.

Reyes loudly cleared his throat getting the attention of the dancer. Upon seeing Reyes, Zeke stiffened and took a few steps back from her. "Mr. Vidal," he stuttered. "I apologize I didn't realize…" he trailed off, eyes shifting rapidly from Lola back to Reyes. "I was just leaving." He disappeared into the crowd.

Lola looked at Reyes. What the hell just happened?

Reyes held his relaxed posture, still leaning comfortably back in the booth. He moved to rest one elbow behind him on the seat's back board. His eyes though, his eyes were hard steel, tracking Zeke's exit from Tartarus.

"Mr. Vidal?" She asked.

He had insisted that she call him Reyes. Apparently, doing so was a privilege not bestowed upon just anyone.

Reyes' eyes softened upon returning to hers. He smirked and shrugged nonchalantly, as though what had just occurred was of no significance.

No significance my ass, Lola thought to herself. One hard look from Reyes literally sent Zeke scurrying away, and more importantly, Reyes didn't even try to hide the fact that he had that power.

He is either trying to impress me, an idea that Lola didn't hate, or intimidate me. Lola narrowed her eyes at him trying to decide.

"Being the man that obtains their personal goods has its perks," he offered as way of explanation, that smug smile slowly returning to his handsome face.

"Right," she said unconvinced. Who was this man sitting before her, really?

He must've sensed her doubt because he swiftly moved to change the subject.

"You left your drink," he said cocking his head to the previous spot she was sitting. "Would you like another?" Without waiting for her response, he lifted his hand and twitched his fingers. A waitress immediately appeared by his side with two whiskeys.

One for Lola, one for him.

She arched a well groomed eyebrow at him. "More perks?" She mused.

He laughed. That deep, honeyed rumble that barreled right toward her.  There was no doubting his voice had an affect on her.

"Indeed. I am also one of their longest standing patrons. Drink." He said again. His tone was soft but it wasn't a question. He slid the drink closer to her.

"No." Lola shook her head, she pushed it back his way, there was no way she was going to make anything easy for this cocky bastard.  Drinking it would give off the impression that she was there for than just business, and despite the somersaults his eyes on her had her stomach doing, Lola was doing her very best to be a good little Pathfinder and keep things as close to professional as possible.

"This isn't a social call," she said bluntly. "Anyway, Kian let me have the last one on the house. Actually, he said he'd add it to your tab. So, your debt is repaid."

"No. My debt is not repaid until you drink." He took her drink in his gloved hand, his eyes never straying from hers, and downed it in one go.

"So, I remain indebted to you."  He ran his hand through his hair smoothing back any strands that may have slid free. A sly grin ghosted his face as he watched her watch him.

"I guess we'll just have to do this again." His eyes bore into her, daring her to say no to him.

She didn't. She couldn't.

She took too long to respond and that sly grin re-appeared on his face. He won, and he knew it, and she hated herself for being so easy to lure.

 

"You're not a man that hears no often are you?" She asked, voicing her earlier suspicion. 

His eyes ran the length of her body, in response. And he took his time, completely unabashed by the brazen, wanton act.

Lola couldn't help but hold her breathe as he surveyed her. He was caressing her without a single touch.

There was something undeniably intimate in the way his eyes were consuming her body inch by inch.  

"You certainly are not a woman a man would give up on easily," he replied. His voice an octave deeper, his accent slightly thicker.

Lola imagined the type things a man like him, with a voice like that, would murmur to her in bed.

She was willing to bet that they'd be filthy and debauched, and she desperately wanted to hear them all. 


 

Reyes watched as she looked away.

Had he been too forward?

"Surely, you are aware of the affect your looks have on men," he offered, hoping to get a better understanding of her.

Lola was still looking into the crowd when she responded, "I'll tell you the same thing I told Kian when he asked if I'd considered dancing at Tartarus..."

"Momentito," Reyes said holding up a gloved hand to slow her down. "Kian requested what?"

That sly bastard, he laughed inwardly. Reyes knew there was a reason he liked him.

Lola looked at him, "he asked if I would consider getting in one of the cages with the dancers.'To boost morale.' "

Reyes couldn't hide his exasperation, or his amusement at his friend's efforts.

"Coño," he breathed, shaking his head and running his hand through his hair. "And what did you tell him?"

"That I don't exist for male consumption."

"Hmmm," Reyes hummed, considering her words. And consume her they would.

"And that if I ever were to dance here, I'd require my own cage and eighty percent of the credits made. Because I would clearly bring in a shitload," she said smiling broadly.

She has dimples.

Reyes let out a loud laugh.

She was still smiling when he had stopped laughing, and images of her gyrating half naked with that smile in a cage flooded his mind. He deeply, sincerely regretted that it was something that he would never actually get to see. She would look painfully sexy snaking around in a tiny shirt, and even tinier skirt, curls rolling down her back, sweat freckling her rich caramel skin.

But, maybe he could get her to dance just for him….A private showing, in his private room... the thought sent heat coursing through him. He cleared his throat, chasing the image from his mind before he got too lost in it.

"Yes, it is a shame you don't live for male adoration." He said meaning every word. "I would certainly be the first in line to pour my credits into Tartarus for that view."

She scoffed. "Please! You've never had to pay to see a woman in your life."

He smirked. She's right about that , but still…. "What makes you so sure?" He asked placing his arms on the table top so that he could draw nearer to her.

There was an air conditioning vent located directly behind her, it's poorly cooled air blew her scent his way. He inhaled it. She was an intoxicating scent of chiffon vanilla and water lily. Perfume...she was in business with another smuggler. Interesting. He tucked that information away in his mind for later.

"You're the type of man that doesn't hear no often," She said, repeating her earlier statement.

"Except for tonight," he said eyeing the cup of her's that he had emptied.

"Except for tonight," she agreed with a small smile.

She leaned on the tabletop and rested her head in her hands. Those grey feline-esque eyes stared up at him, the black kohl that lined them making them even more piercing, and enticing. Even with those eyes watching his, Reyes' eyes slid down to her lips, the red coloring calling out to him, accentuating their fullness.

He may have never had to pay for woman in his life, but he'd sure as hell give damn good credits to have her leave red marks all over him with those lips.

He looked up just in time to catch her eyes roaming over his chest. She moved a finger from the hand her chin rested on into her mouth, her teeth lightly grazing her fingertip. She didn't blush when she saw she was caught. She didn't look away, No, she just held his gaze with steady eyes.

His mind immediately filled with the all dirty things he could do to her.

"Anyone ever tell you that you're a handsome man, Mr. Vidal?" She asked, completely oblivious to the lewd thoughts she had running through his mind.

"Why didn't you come to my room?" He asked bluntly, his voice an octave deeper. Would he had had her by now if she had?

"Because, " She said leaning back, and away from him. "All I wanted to do was thank you,"

Bullshit, he thought.

He waved a hand dismissively. "It was my pleasure to assist the first Human Pathfinder."

"Well, I certainly wouldn't have been able to release him without you. Evfra and the Moshae will be thoroughly pleased."

He thought carefully about the next words to leave his mouth. He didn't have a firm understanding of what drove her yet and didn't want to risk chasing her away.

He decided to give her time. Afterall, he could be a patient man if there was something of worth to be gained from it. He needed more time with her. Time to win her trust and confidence. Time to win her onto his side, and…. onto other things of his.

He cleared his throat, attempting to drive away thoughts of her tone, honeyed body grinding on top of his.

"Well, Lola -" He stopped, noticing how she smiled bashfully when he said her name.

"What?" He asked intrigued.

"You're the only one who calls me Lola."

Interesting. "Is that not your name?" He asked in mock confusion.

"It is. It's just for whatever reason most people insist on calling me by my last name. Ryder."

He thought this over. The name Lola oozed sex appeal, just like the Lolita in front of him. "No. You are without a doubt a Lola."

She arched an eyebrow at him as though she sensed his meaning. "Am I now?"

"Oh most certainly," he nearly growled his response. Shit. He hadn't meant to do that. He leaned back, sure he had come off too aggressively too soon. But instead of blushing and looking away like he expected, she subtly bit the inside of her lower lip, which of course just turned him on further.

Business.

"Lola, don't take this the wrong way, but you aren't exactly liked on Kadara."

"Ouch." She said clasping at her chest in mock injury.

"You'll need someone on the inside. Someone who can give you what you need. I can be that guy, if you'd allow me."

She nodded slowly, considering his words. After a moment, she opened her mouth, seemingly to respond, when Kosta appeared by their table.

Reyes fought the sneer he felt threatening to appear on his face. It was his own fault. I should've been keeping a closer eye on him. He had allowed himself to become engrossed in her, and now he'd surely pay for it by having her stolen away.

"Lola," Kosta said, completely ignoring Reyes. Kosta placed his hand on her shoulder and leaned in to whisper something in her ear. Reyes watched as Kosta's hand lingered on her bare shoulder, as he ran his thumb intimately over her skin. She sighed and nodded in response. "I'll be right there. Wait outside with Vetra for me?"

Liam turned and eyed Reyes, his face full of distrust.

"Liam." She said more sternly.

"Five minutes," he responded. He slowly turned and left.

"Duty calls." She smiled at Reyes weakly, and rose out of her seat. Reyes rose with her.

"So, I'm not the only one."

"Hmmm?", she asked, confused.

"To call you by your first name."

"Hmmm," she hummed, thinking. "Maybe, not. But with the way you say it? " She paused, arching her brow seductively. "You might as well be."

She walked past him. "I'll see you around, Reyes."

And with that she disappeared into the crowd.

Oh you must certainly will, he thought. You must certainly will.

Chapter Text

 

“When will we be leaving this wretched planet?” Jaal asked, not bothering to hide the misery from his voice.

“When we are done with our business here,” Lola responded. “Or if something more urgent occurs. Any other questions? Something any of you want to say?”

She looked around at her crew. They were all scattered about the meeting room, gathered for a mandatory meeting.

“Now’s the time to get it off your chest,” she urged.

There had been nothing but grumblings from them since they first arrived to this planet.

They had only been docked on Kadara for five days. Granted, they had been a long five days with their own people trying to kill them at every turn, but just five days all the same, and yet the complained like they've been stranded for years. 

Group of damn babies.

The constant bickering was getting way out of hand, to the point that the discord between them was now threatening to tear them apart.

So, as she always did when she felt overwhelmed and incapable (daily?), Lola asked herself: ‘WWLD’ ?

What would Leo do?

Her twin brother was an expert at forming bonds and keeping them going. He was a natural leader, a natural mediator.

Unlike myself .

She was impulsive and abrasive. Her father would often ‘joke’ that Leo was honey and she was vinegar.

“When will we be able to follow up on the lead I have on the Asari Pathfinder?” Cora asked.

“As soon as we can-”, Lola began.

“The humans here are trying to murder us just as aggressively as the Kett are. We could simply fall back for awhile and return once we have some more help. Like another pathfinder on our side, and especially, one as experienced like Sarissa...” Cora trailed off, starry eyed. “Her help could invaluable. The push we need to succeed here.”

Great. So, even Cora believes that I can’t handle this.

“I’ve been hearing bad things about the Krogan Colony on Elaaden,” Drack said. “We need to swing over there as soon as we can. Good news is I here there are plenty of your crappy exiled humans there too. So, you won’t even miss them.”

“Right. We will get there, I just -”

“Ryder, what about that piece of remnant technology I told you about?” Peebee asked hopping to her feet, and cutting Lola off mid sentence.  “I know Kalinda.. Well, I knew Kalinda...” She waved a hand dismissively in the air. “Whatever. The point is that we need to reach that tech before she does. It could unlock so many secrets!” She clapped her blue hands together. “We have to get it before she does, Ryder. We just have to! Look at what the exiles accomplished on their own! They can go a little while longer without us.”

“Well, I don’t know about all that,” Lola said. “ But I do hear you. And we will go after that tech, but -”

“Also!” Gil said interrupting her. He raised his hand, like a student in a classroom. “ I am practically done with that Kett transponder, so you know, you’re welcome,” Gil finished with a proud smile.

“That’s fantastic!” Lola said, meaning it.  Frightening, considering what fixing that Kett transponder meant for them, but great all the same. Progress, she thought.  “We just need to -”

“Don’t get too excited yet,” Vetra said, cutting her off. “He’s only practically done because we’re missing a key piece. I have a contact on Elaaden and he says that he has what we need, but we’d need to stop by the Nexus first so I could pick up what he requested in return.” Vetra tapped a long reptilian like finger against her chin ( mandibles? ) in thought.  “And we should do that. Soon. Before we miss our chance. After all, the exiles will benefit from the elimination of the Kett as well.”

“So that’s two for Eladeen,” Drack called out.

“This isn’t a vote, you guys!” Lola said pinching the bridge of her nose. She could feel the start of another migraine threatening to overtake her.

She was losing control of the meeting. It just fucking started and she was already losing control. “Look. I just wanted to -”

“I don’t care where we go. As long as it is far from this abject place,” Jaal grumbled again from his seat in the corner.

And that’s when all hell broke loose.

Everyone began talking above everyone else. Everyone claiming that their personal missions were more important than everything else.

Lola clutched at the console in front of her in an effort to steady herself. She felt like she was going to pass out and throw up at the same time. Yup, migraine. She watched powerless as her team imploded. She didn’t know whether to cry or laugh at her complete lack of leadership skills and the pain threatening to rip her head apart.

Damn it, Leo! This should have been you up here, not me. The pounding in her head grew in intensity. Lola squeezed her eyes shut attempting to ignore the room’s rising voices which only added to her pain.

“Enough!”  A voice boomed above the rest. Lola opened her eyes. The room became silent. Liam stood from his spot near Jaal, rage and disgust filling his eyes as he looked at his crew mates.

“What is wrong with you guys?”  He asked, looking at each crew member in turn. “These people need us. These are our people! They bet everything on The Nexus. They left their lives, their families, their damn galaxy on a promise for something better.” He walked to stand beside Lola.

“These are your people too, Jaal,” Liam said pointing at Jaal. Jaal looked down, having been properly scolded. “Lol- erm, Ryder,” he blushed slightly at his slip up. “Ryder is The Pathfinder. She does the hard work, makes the hard decisions. We are supposed to be supporting her. She’s mending the damn galaxy!” He paused, allowing his words to sink in. “So, until Ryder, our Pathfinder, says it is time to move on. It isn’t. It’s that simple.”

Lola looked up at Liam. He had always been prone to passionate outbursts, in fact his fervor had been what initially attracted to her to him, but all the same, she hadn' expected this. Him to stand with her against their crew. She looked at them. They were all staring at the floor or a nearby wall, avoiding eye contact with her and one another.

They actually looked..sorry .

Liam placed a comforting arm around her shoulders. Lola looked up at him. He gave her a small encouraging smile. "Thank you," she said her voice a near whisper. His smile grew.

“Yea, well. I guess the kid is right.” Drack was the first one to speak. “You haven’t let me down yet, Ryder. I guess I can trust your judgement,” he said. He then walked off, but not before patting her roughly on the back with his heavy hand.

“Yea, I’m sorry too, Ryder. I didn’t mean to add any extra stress. You already have a lot on your shoulders. I’m here for you when you need me," Cora said following behind Drack.

“I guess, I’m sorry too”, Peebee said with a roll of her eyes. “Anyway, you know I love you.” She threw her arms around Lola for a quick hug before scurrying after Cora and Drak.

To Lola’s complete surprise and relief, one by one her team members apologized (each in their own way) and retreated back to their usual posts on the ship.

She looked up at Liam, at a loss for words, filled with gratitude.  His brown eyes searched hers, for what she couldn't guess. “Visit me later, yeah? It's been a minute since we had some one on one time.” Liam gave her chin a playful punch before wandering off himself.

Once she was alone Lola felt her shoulders relax, a millimeter. Damn, she was tense. She rolled her neck and shoulders before collapsing onto a nearby sofa. Her migraine ripping through her head.

“Ryder, my office.”

Lola jumped from her seat, and clutched at her chest, before realizing it was just Lexi. “Oh, shit! Lexi! You scared the absolute hell out of me.”

Lexi rolled her eyes and headed in the direction of the med bay, a.k.a, Lexi’s office.


 

Lola was put on shore leave, a.k.a time out.

They all were.

“You’re under an immense amount of pressure,” Lexi had said.

No shit, Lola had thought, but was wise enough not to say.

"Take this." Lexi handed her something that looked like a blue vitamin tablet. "It's for your migraine." Lexi narrowed her eyes at Lola knowingly.

Lola was supposed to report every migraine occurrence to Lexi, but the thought of Lexi keeping count made her nervous. You have cancer, you're going to die, was something Lola was sure would come out of Lexi's mouth if she truly knew how often her migraines had been occuring. Not wanting to receive news of an imminent death, Lola would often “fail" to report them. Yet, somehow Lexi always knew.

Lola popped the pill into her mouth and dry swallowed.

“Your mental health matters just as much as your physical. Why you humans fail to acknowledge that simple fact is beyond me.” She trailed off, shaking her head. “It’s clear to me that you need a break. All of you. A moment to unwind, let off steam.”

Lola’s mouth dropped open. She honestly couldn’t think of worse timing. So much was happening on this planet alone, and she had a whole galaxy that needed righting.

She mentally went through a list of things that needed to be done.  Kaetus (Sloane’s right hand man, and definite ex.. ) had just told her about killings that he believed were being carried out by remaining Kett. And just the other day Lola had stumbled upon another body that SAM concluded was part of string of similar killings, possibly being carried out by the same person or group. Then there was the news of Oblivion. A Sloane trademarked drug, that fucked anyone up that took it, and not in the good weee! I’m high! sort of way.

In fact, Dr. Kyoto had asked me to look into getting the formula back for him from Sloane.

Then there was the matter of The Charlatan.

“Shit! I forgot to ask Reyes about the damn Charlatan!” Lola had exclaimed suddenly jumping out of her swivel chair, startling Lexi into dropping her pen.

If anyone had any worthy intel on Sloane’s main rival for Kadara Port, it would be him.

“Short term memory loss,” Lexi mumbled, picking up her pen then scribbling in her pad.

Lola scowled down at her. Who even used an actual pen and pad these days. It's archaic!

“It’s not really short term memory loss..” Lola had argued feebly, crossing her arms and pouting like a child. She re-took her seat in the swivel chair. Lexi tisked. “Ryder, I just want keep you as healthy as feasibly possible, both physically and mentally. According to SAM, you’re not eating enough, not drinking enough water, having migraines and ..” She paused to refer to her notes. “What is this about nightmares?”

Lola sighed. This was all so ridiculous and unnecessary.

“You know, nightmares, Lexi. We all have them. They happen.” Lola shrugged, realizing she wasn’t sure if Asari actually did dream. She was about to ask Lexi when she stopped herself. Of course they did, c’mon Lola, don’t be an idiot, she chided herself.

“SAM says that you often wake up crying. That you sometimes scream yourself awake?”

“Goddess damn it, SAM! When did you turn into such a snitch?” Lola hissed at him, sinking further down into her chair.

“When Doctor P’terro requested me to,” SAM said matter of factly.

“Sit up straight, please. Bad posture can affect mood among other things.” Lexi said absently as she once again referred to her notes.

“Yes, mom.” Lola mumbled, fixing her posture.

Lexi sighed, looking Lola over. “It’s only for one day. The ship will stay docked here, and tomorrow you can go right back to saving the galaxy. But you need one day, one day to focus on yourself. You all do. It won’t fix everything, but maybe it will stop you all from going insane and trying to murder one another.”

And with that Lola was shooed out the med bay, and straight into Liam.

Lola backed off of him. “Lexi got you too, huh?” She asked, looking up at him.

“Oh yea, I think she’s going through all of us one by one.”

They stood there for a moment, awkwardly positioned in the small hallway. Liam leaned back against the wall.

“Thank you. For what you did earlier,” Lola said, noting how small her voice sounded.

“No, need to thank me, Pathfinder. It needed to be said.” Liam smiled down at her. Unlike Reyes’ cocky smile which screamed fuck me , Liam’s was full of light and hope.

I really need to stop thinking of that man, both men..all men, really.

It had been four days since she first visited Reyes at Tartarus.The Kett transponder had quickly taken priority, and she was unable to find a single moment to steal away.

It’s for the best, she thought to herself, sighing.

SAM was unable to find much information on him. So much data had been corrupted during the mutiny on The Nexus, and, unfortunately, that included his. All SAM was able to pull together was information found in staffing emails.

Reyes was a pilot assigned to shuttle N-503. His call sign was Anubis.

The Jackal headed god of the afterlife, death, and embalming. She had read it so many times that she had it memorized.

I'm a pathetic human being.

Lola had no doubt that Reyes had left a trail of broken hearts from here all the way back to Milky Way, and that if she gave into him she’d be yet another one of his many conquests.

More than once since obtaining that small amount of information on him, she had wondered what he had done to earn such a macabre call sign. Any conclusion she could come to had both excited and disturbed her. Leaving her to think of him all the more.

Fuck him and his fucking sexy -

He may be bad for her, but his intel was most likely not. So, maintaining contact with him remained important. Lola shook her head, attempting to arrange her cluttered thoughts.

“Liam!” Lexi called from the med bay, tearing Lola from her thoughts.

“Uh oooh, your turn.” Peebee sing songed as she passed by. “Keep her busy will ya? She wants me next,” she said frowning.

Liam chuckled, “C’mon, she’s not that bad.”

“We will have to just agree to disagree on that one.”

“Stop talking about me and get in here!” Lexi’s voice called once again from the room beside them.

Liam pushed himself off the wall he was leaning on and moved toward the med bay’s automatic doors.  Lola was about to wander away when he grabbed her wrist. His grip gentle.

“Wait for me, yea?” He said, his voice dropping down to near whisper. “There’s something I wanna show you.”

Memories of their time together came flooding back to her. He had grabbed her wrist just like that before pulling her back to him for their first kiss.

Lola nodded her head absentedly, “Yea.. ok.”

“Awesome,” he smiled and entered the med bay, the metal doors closing with a soft ‘swoosh’ behind him.

“Haven’t you already seen his something?”   Peebee asked poking at Lola's side with a finger.

“Peebee!” Lola said, shielding her side. Peebee was wearing a smug smile on her face. “Goddess, you knew.” Of course she did , Lola thought shaking her head.

“Are you kidding me?” Peebee asked crossing her arms over her chest and cocking her hip.

“So, I’m guessing the whole damn ship knows.”

Peebee nodded. “We are not crew of fools , Ryder.”

“Well, shit,” Lola mumbled turning away. “How?”

“First off, you weren’t exactly quiet that day, and honestly, neither was he,” Peebee giggled trailing behind her. “Gil was the first to hear a ‘Oh Goddess, yes, Liam! ’ followed by a  very distinct groan of 'Mmm, Lola', and you know what a gossiping hen he is.”

Lola picked up her pace, not sure if she really wanted to hear anymore.

Peebee picked up her pace as well, unbothered.

“And have you seen the way he protects you on the field? Goddess, he is practically killing himself out there! He doesn’t do that for any of us, believe me.”

Lola turned into their tiny galley.

Food. She needed food.

Peebee was right on her heels.

“And most telling of all…" Peebee paused hoisting herself onto the counter to sit. “...is how close he gets to shooting any guy that shows even the tiniest of interest in you..like, say that Reyes character.”

That got Lola’s attention.

“Wait, what?” Lola turned to her, closing the fridge door she had just opened. A small plate of leftover lasagna in her hand.

They had been talking about her behind her back?  What the fuck, man?  

" Hold up. You weren’t even there!”

Peebee shrugged. “Vetra was. You should have heard her ranting about how you were throwing yourself all over this man you just met. An exiled smuggler no less!” Peebee exclaimed. She was clearly enjoying this.

“I wasn’t throwing myself,” Lola grumbled, irritated. Yes, she was attracted to him, but who the hell wouldn't be?! He's sex on two strong legs.

She sat down at the small table and began picking at the cold, hard, leftover lasagna.

“Her words, not mine.” Peebee said throwing her hands up in defense.

She thought back to when he had caught her staring at his chest. He didn't blush, he didn't look away, he just held her gaze with steady, calm eyes, almost proud to be on the receiving end of such looks. And that boldness of his had driven her mad. She had to bite her finger just to keep from leaping across the table onto him. A real panty dropper, that one. He just wanted to fuck her ...or fuck her over. She could let him do the former. She was sure he'd be an attentive lover.

“Wait,” Lola said, back tracking to the important part. “Vetra thinks Reyes is showing interest in me?" Lola felt a stupid, dopey grin threatening to hijack her whole face.

"Is it more of a ' I just want to fuck her' type of attention, or a 'I want to fuck her and get to know her' type of attention?" Honestly she could probably work with either.

“Oh my goddess! It’s true!” Peebee squealed hopping of the counter. “You are falling for an exiled smuggler! Oh, Tann is going to just love this!” Peebee erupted into gleeful laughter.

“Tann? What does he even ...? Falling? I’m not falling, I just...Peebee, he's hot but I don’t even know him!” Lola argued. Goddess, she didn't even know where to start with Peebee. Was I? Falling for a smooth talking stranger? No. Of course she wasn't. It was lust, plain and simple.

“Don’t even know who?” Liam asked waltzing into the kitchen, his session with Lexi clearly over.  He picked up an apple off the counter beside Peebee, tossed into the air and took a bite of it.

Peebee and Lola fell stone silent. Liam looked expectantly back and forth between them.

“Peebee!” Lexi’s voice carried in from across the hall. “Don’t make me come out there and get you!”

Peebee visibly cringed.

“You’re up.” Liam smiled at her. She scowled at him and headed for the door.

“Who don’t we know?” Liam asked again, turning to Lola.

“Reyes Vidal!” Peebee called over her shoulder before Lola could even answer. Peebee shot her a teasing grin before scurrying away.

Fucking Peebee! She was going to kill her. Really and truly. Maybe in her sleep.

Lola turned her attention to Liam. His bright eyes had darkened at the mere mention of the smuggler’s name. He took another bite of his apple, a little more violently than before. “I don’t like him. We can't trust him.”

“He hasn’t really done anything that would make him untrustworthy,” Lola said more to herself than him.

Liam growled an indecipherable response before tearing viciously into his apple, again.

“You said there was something you wanted to show me?” She asked, desperately wanting to change the subject.

Liam’s dark eyes brightened back up, he smiled his kid like grin and cocked his head toward the door. “You’re gonna love this.”

 


 

 

Liam had led her off the Tempest to one of the many street vendors that littered Kadara's Port. The Kadaran sun bore down on them making Lola extremely thankful that for once she wasn’t squeezed into a black, suffocation inducing combat suit.

“You look cute.” Liam had said referring to her dress. It was a simple, short dress. Red silk, loose, with two thin straps and an open back, and plenty of side boob. Chosen purely because she wanted as much ventilation as possible. And yea, it was "cute"... ’cuz you know, just in case... Reyes.

Anyway, she threw on sneakers, and called it an outfit.  

“You look younger somehow, not like the ass kicking Pathfinder I’m used to seeing. I dunno, I like it. It's nice.” He gave her a small smile.

Her face was devoid of her normal black eyeliner and slightly rouged lips. Her hair was loose and frankly, out of control. But yea, she did look younger without her makeup.It was supposed to help you look younger but for some reason, it always aged her. Which was fine by her because really how intimidating was a Pathfinder that looked like a little girl instead of a woman? Zero. She wasn’t intimidating at all.

"Thank you."  Cute's nice, but it wasn't exactly what she was going for. Puppies are cute, kittens are cute... she slit throats and established human settlements in space for a living.. cute, she wasn't.

“Here we are!” He said spreading his arms in front of one particular street vendor. Lola looked it over. It was smaller than the rest, and more cramped. A grumpy looking Turian sat behind a steel counter watching a foreign show on a tiny, portable tv. Lola failed to see exactly what it was that she was supposed to have noticed.

Liam’s shoulders slumped. “Aww c’mon, Pathfinder.” Lola looked harder but all she saw a bunch of crap. Items that looked broken and some she couldn’t even identify.  Lola gave a small shrug, feeling guilty at ruining the surprise he was so excited to share.

Liam frowned dramatically and looked over his shoulder at the vendor. “Oh, I see the problem. Wait here.” He rounded the counter and ducked inside leaving Lola on her own. After a few minutes of waiting, she decided to looked around. It was crowded on this side of the port, less drunks she noted. There were vendors of every kind scattered in every direction. Everything from weapons, and armor, to spices and food was being peddled. One cart in particular caught her eye. Lola wandered toward it making sure not to stray too far from where Liam left her.

Books, she thought smiling to herself. Piles and piles of books. How long had it been since she’s stepped into a bookstore? Her heart sang as she ran her hand over their spines, taking in the many titles both foreign and familiar. Too long, it’s been too long, she thought. If there was anything she missed from her old life, it was cozy bookstores.   She had picked up one book in particular when she heard someone call her name, her first name. Her heart skipped a beat.

That voice.

She immediately knew who it was. She turned around to face Reyes Vidal.

 


 

 

It had been four days since he last saw her.

Four days too long.

The first day, he wasn’t surprised that she hadn’t shown. She was The Pathfinder, after all.

She’s in high demand, he had thought.

As much as he quickly desired to be the sole recipient of her attention, that wasn’t going to happen. At least not yet.

The second day, he had fully expected her to show. So much so that he made sure to hang around Tartarus much later than usual, just incase she made a late night visit.

She hadn’t.

He was genuinely surprised, and not surprisingly, the neglect just made him want her that much more. As she had said, not many women reject his advances. It seemed doing so only stoked the flame.

When he had checked his omni-tool and saw it was 4 a.m. he had given up the wait.

The upside being I was able to complete a significant amount of Collective business. .

He had alerted his people that they were to keep a close eye on her and all her movements. If she spat the Charlatan wanted to fucking know about it.

Reports poured into him after that, and they all had one thing in common: Lola was being fired at, constantly . That wouldn't do. He couldn't stop The Outcasts from firing at her, but he could stop his own people. He swiftly gave the order that his people were to cease firing at The Pathfinder and her people.

Immediately, he had wrote. The Charlatan has taken a special interest in her. He sent the order and hoped it would provide her some relief.

By the end of the third day, all thoughts about being a man capable of waiting patiently went out the window.

By that morning, (the fourth day) he had to force himself out of his room at Tartarus and into the ‘fresh’ air. He needed to distract himself, and his normal work just wasn't doing it. He had to keep himself from messaging her in an effort to lure her to him. He was no stranger to taking on the role of the aggressor. In fact, he often delighted in it. He had chased down and caught more beautiful women then he could count, but something instinctual told him to wait. Wait, just a little longer. So, he did.

And as usual, his instincts were right.

He wasn’t completely sure it was Lola when he first saw her.  It had been just a glimpse. She seemed smaller, more vulnerable without her combat suit and heels. She didn’t look anything like the red lipped hellcat that had met him at Tartarus.

He was planning on paying Keema a visit, something he rarely did, if ever, but then he saw her. Standing alone, in a red dress.

A red fucking dress.

And it took every ounce of the small amount self control he possessed to not push himself up against her.

“Reyes Vidal,” she said, her face immediately blooming into a smile when she saw him, something he honestly wasn’t used to: someone being pleased to see him.

He was bad news, and most knew that. Bad things tended to happen when he was around.

He pushed down thoughts of how she might react when she finally learned who he truly was. All the terrible acts he had committed. It doesn't matter, he reminded himself. He was just trying to get her to fuck him, not marry him.

She was standing in front of a book vendor. One Reyes hadn’t even known existed, and he had walked this path many times.

His eyes roamed over her body like they had a life of their own. There was so little fabric there, and that red played so well against her copper skin. That endless golden skin.

He forced himself to focus on something other than how dangerously short her dress was. After all, he couldn't take her there..unless she let him.

A book, she was holding a book.

So, she enjoyed smuggled perfume, and literature, he thought focusing his attention on the novel in her hands. She was clutching it, holding it close to her, like it was precious treasure.

“You never came to see me.” He said approaching her, allowing her smile to melt his concerns away.

“Everyone wants a piece of The Pathfinder,” she shrugged with a slight frown, a touch of regret in her eyes.

“Perhaps-,” He said plucking the book from her hands.

“Hey!” She protested. She reached up attempting to snatch it back, but even on her toes she wasn’t tall enough.

He turned the book over to look at its cover: Jane Eyre.  So, our little pathfinder is a romantic. He tucked it under his arm.

“- but I’d be satisfied just having a piece of the woman that makes the Pathfinder.” He looked down into her grey eyes. They reminded him of the ice on Voeld. Sometimes, he missed the cold.  “Any chance she might be able to pay me a visit?”

She stopped struggling at that, seemingly at a loss for words. 

So, not many people requested her for just her.

He cocked his head to the side surveying her dress, he took her bare hand in his gloved ones and made her spin for him "..and maybe come in that dress." He wolf whistled, eliciting a laugh from her. That genuine head back laugh he had witnessed once before. It made him smile in return. Not a cocky smile, not a smug grin, but a genuine smile.

He let go of her and they stood close enough for her curls to whip at his arms as it blew in the wind. Close enough for him to pick up her perfumed scent. He watched as she kept trying to secure her hair behind her ear only to have it pop right back out. He was close to reaching out, close to placing it gently behind her ear for her when once again Kosta appeared out of nowhere.

“Lola, you disappeared on me,” he grabbed her hand. “C’mon, it’s ready -” Kosta stopped speaking when he saw who he had lost her to. His eyes darkened.

“Reyes,” he said simply, not letting go of Lola’s hand.  Reyes looked from Kosta to Lola. Something in her eyes, seemed pained, conflicted.

Reyes didn’t smile. No point in even pretending that they could be cordial. “Kosta, right?”

“That’s right,” he said puffing out his chest.

Reyes just nodded, before turning his attention back to Lola.

“You know where to find me, Lolita.” And with that he left, taking the novel with him.

 

 

Chapter Text

Lola was the last to return to the Tempest. She arrived just as the sun was beginning to dip below the horizon.

The day had been long, torturous. 

She had spent the day hunting down cannibals, alongside Liam and Drack.

Actual cannibals. People eating people.

Lola still couldn’t wrap her mind around it, the desperation required to make one person kill and eat another.

But was this really an act of desperation? They had people caged, in waiting to be...there was a plan in place...this wasn't a random act of desperation.

She couldn't shake the image of the severed limbs that were scattered about the room...the smell alone was enough to... No. Stop thinking about it, she urged herself.

There was no doubt that life on Kadara was difficult (a fact she was actively and tirelessly working to change), but was it that difficult? 

No, this was just an act of evil.

Every time she thought about it she felt physically ill, and just ..exhausted. It was a never ending queue of shit humans she had to deal with.

Am I even making a dent? A difference that will last?  She seriously doubted that she was.

The severe emotional strain of the day’s events made her thankful that Lexi had forced them to relax the day before.

And it wasn’t so bad, Lola thought.

She had spent the day with Liam.. thinking of Reyes .

Liam had found a vendor that sold old movies. VHSs. The vendor's stock wasn’t large, and the tapes were located in the back of his little section of Kadara Port, which is why she hadn’t noticed it at first. There were 16 tapes in all.

They had bought all 16.

It was an eclectic mixture of movies for sure. Some of the tapes she had never heard of, in alien languages that contained no subtitles, and some she had watched in more current versions as a kid.

They decided to take turns randomly picking out tapes from their newly acquired stash to watch together. Liam had some sort of contraption that took the tapes and projected them as a sort of hologram. They had popped popcorn, sat on that sofa, and watched three movies back to back before Liam fell asleep. All in all, it was a relaxing day.

Nothing had happened between her and Liam that day. Liam was the perfect gentlemen, and made no moves to repeat what had occured the last time they were together on that sofa, which Lola was thankful for.  Because even though she did find Liam attractive, she couldn’t sleep with one man while thinking about another.

And think about Reyes she did.

Lola entered the Tempest. The cold air from the ship hit her skin immediately cooling her off.

This Kadaran heat is no joke . She couldn’t wait to get out of her combat suit. She headed in the direction of her cabin.

“You have a package awaiting you in the research room, Pathfinder.” SAM alerted her.

“A package? Like in mail?” She asked confused as she crossed the ship's hall.

“I believe it would be more like a gift.”

Lola perked up at the idea. “Really? A gift? From whom?" She ran through a list of her crew mates in her head. She couldn't think of any reason any of them would buy her something.

Unless it was from Liam  she thought, unsure of how that made her felt.

"No! Wait, don’t tell me. I’ll find out in a second.”

“As you wish, Pathfinder.”

She turned around headed to the research room instead.

Her crew's voices echoed from that room throughout the ship.  What are they all excited about ?

As Lola neared the voices grew louder. It sounded like everyone was talking over one another

Oh no , Lola thought. She hoped they weren’t arguing again. I thought we had settled this, she thought irritated.  Her day had been so long, too long, she had no patience left for their shit. She entered The Research room prepared to scold them all, when they all fell silent and looked at her.

“What?” She said looking at their faces. It ranged from amused to displeased. Oh, goddess what have I done now?

“What?!” She asked again when no one would answer.

Suvi stepped out of the crowd and handed her a small package, an equally small smile on her cute face.

“Oh, yea, SAM had told me there was a gift waiting for me.” She turned the package over in her hands. “Now, which one of you losers thought enough about me to get me a -” Lola stopped talking when she saw the message that was scribbled on the plain brown paper wrapping.

Lolita, XX Reyes    

The letters were long and slanted. Chicken scratch , her brother would have called it. Lola had a similar writing style.

Lola looked up at her crew wide eyed. “Reyes..he..he sent this?”

“Well, don’t just stand there. Open it for heaven’s sake!” Gil said exasperated. He snatched the package from her hands and tore through it’s plain brown wrapping.

“Hey!” What was with people snatching shit out of her hands. Was it a tall person thing? Did they just feel entitled to everything just because they were taller than everyone else?

“He dropped it off himself,” Suvi said with the smile still on her face.

“He came to the Tempest?” Lola asked turning to Suvi. For some reason Lola just couldn’t imagine him doing that. Hand delivering a gift. He didn't seem the type.

Suvi nodded, smiling a sweet smile. “He’s handsome, and has such a way with words. I could see the attraction.”

“It’s a book!” Gil announced holding it up for the crew to see.

“Gil!” Lola said snatching it back.

“I told you he was interested in her.” Vetra said in a knowing tone. “He’s bad news. I know smugglers.”

“You are one.” Gil pointed out.

“Exactly, so who would know better than me?” Vetra concluded, clearly serious about her faulty logic.

Lola ignored them and read the cover.

Jane Eyre.

“It’s the book I had wanted to purchase yesterday. He bought it for me,” Lola couldn’t help the stupid grin that slowly grew on her face. 50 points awarded to Reyes Vidal.

“Oh, I know that face!” Peebee cried.

“What face?” She asked dumbly. He bought and hand delivered it.   .

“That one!” Peebee said pointing at Lola’s face. “That ...that swoony grin!”

“I have no idea what you are talking about. I can’t be happy about a book?” Lola said flipping through the book. She sniffed it. Mmmm, It still has that book smell.

Peebee squealed. “It’s a note!”

“A what?” Lola asked.

A small piece of paper had fallen out from between the pages. Peebee wasted no time scooping it up.

“What does it say?” Gil asked excitedly.

“No.” Lola said, trying to muster up as much authority in her voice as possible. “That’s private.” She attempted to take it back it but she was outnumbered. Gil and Peebee simply elbowed her out of the way. "You guys are such assholes."

"Oh, shut up. You love us." Gil said, patting her on the head. She scowled at him.

Lolita” Peebee read loudly.

“He gave you a pet name!” Suvi said. “How sweet!”

“He’s just trying to get in her pants.” Vetra replied, with a shake of the head.

“Vetra.." Lola whined. Was it really that serious that a man might want to sleep with me?

Come see me. ” Peebee continued reading.

“Yup.” Vetra said crossing her arms.

"And wear that dress. ” Peebee finished, her eyes growing wide.

“It doesn’t actually say that,” Lola said as Peebee finally handed the note back to her. Lola looked it over. “Oh, Goddess. It does.” She bit the inside of her lip, turned on by his demanding nature. That horny bastard.  

“When were you wearing a dress?” Cora asked. Suspicion written all over her face.

“The other day when we were on shore leave together.” Liam spoke up, his voice devoid of any emotion, his eyes on Lola.

She hadn’t even see him there, and she thought things were awkward before...She immediately felt guilty. Guilty for what? That another man was interested in me? That I was respecting Liam's decision to just 'see where things go'. Nowhere, they were clearly going nowhere with him,. He was clearly in no rush to claim her. It’s not like I had led him on.

“I agree with Vetra. He is definitely interested in getting to know Ryder as more than just The Pathfinder,” he said.

“And is that so wrong?” Lola felt her anger flair. She knew Liam had put her on some damn pedestal, that he was drawn more to The Pathfinder than herself. “I am more than just The Human Pathfinder after all. Goddess forbid, someone shows an interest in getting to know that part of me.”

“So, you were on shore leave together?” Cora asked, ignoring Lola.

“Yea.” Liam replied.

“Hmmm,” Cora hummed in response.

“Wait, no ‘hmmm’ ." Liam said catching Cora's insinuation. "It wasn’t a big deal -”

Lola wanted to scream. If everything between them wasn’t a big deal to him than why was he acting so...so... fucking possessive all the time?

“- we just watched some movies in the storage room and -”

“The room in which you two  -” Jaal began.

“Yes!” Liam said quickly cutting Jaal off before he could finish his sentence, his voice raising an octave. “Wait. You knew?”

Jaal nodded and shrugged as though it was the most obvious thing in the world.

Oh, Goddess Liam, yes.” Peebee responded, a smug grin on her face.

Lola buried her face in her hands. She was way passed humiliated. What the fuck was happening right now? 

"I had not realized it was a secret." Jaal explained. "Your volume that day did not indicate that you were trying to be subtle."

"Oooh-kay, Jaal! We get it!" Lola practically cried out.

“Yes, yes. We all know about that. So, what dress?” Gil asked turning to Lola. His face dead serious, as though this information was the most important thing in the galaxy to him right now.

Usually, Lola would have no problem dishing to Gil. In truth, they had quickly grown close. Gil was full of wit and clever comebacks. He never missed a beat, but he was also as emotionally fucked up as she was, and they took comfort in the fact that at least they were a pair of fuck ups instead of lone fuck ups. In fact, Lola, Peebee, and Gil had quickly become inseparable. A trio of fuck ups. They could often be found cracking each other up with jokes late until the night. Jokes that would make their grandmothers blush. But this, this isn't how she wanted to talk to Gil. She did not want to discuss things she was still trying to figure out in front of the whole enitre crew.

Lola looked at him in disbelief. “I don’t know, Gil! A dress!”

This was too much. They were too much.

“Must be some dress.” Cora added.

What the hell did that mean??

“A red dress,” Liam mumbled. His eyes flitted to hers. Lola couldn’t read what was behind them, and honestly at this point she couldn’t care less. He was acting just as badly as the rest of them.

"A Freakum dress." Gil nodded knowingly.

"It was not a 'Freakum' dress..." Lola shook her head, stopping herself from explaining any further. "Alright guys.” she said, trying to keep her cool despite how fucking pissed and exposed she felt. “You had your fun at my expense. Ha ha ha.. I’m going to my room now.”

“Are you going to visit him?” Peebee asked, before Lola had a chance to exit the room. “‘Cuz I wanna go!”

Lola was about to ask Peebee why the hell she thought she would bring company to meet Reyes, If I were to go, wouldn't it be alone?,  when Cora spoke up.

“She can’t.” Cora said.

Everyone fell silent at that, including Lola. It took a moment for Lola to understand what Cora was insinuating, and she did not like it.

“Excuse me?” Lola said turning back around to face Cora. She narrowed her eyes at Cora, challenging her to continue.

In general, Lola and Cora got along, though no one in their right mind would ever call them actual friends. Lola respected Cora. After all, Cora was smart, stable, reliable, a real asset to the team. Lola even sympathized with Cora concerning how her father clearly fucked her over in the end.

It wasn’t right. Without a doubt, what he did wasn't right.

But where Cora was a stickler for rules, craved order, Lola felt they suppressed progress and was known to bend if not completely shatter them. That key difference in their personalities caused them to butt heads more often than not.

“Is it not obvious?” Cora looked around at the rest of the crew. “Great. So I have to be the bad guy, again .”

“Just say what’s on your mind, Cora.” Lola said, although she already knew exactly where this was heading. Lola crossed her arms, preparing for an argument.

“Ok. Fine," Cora acquiesced. "You can’t date him, Ryder.”

Lola nodded in understanding, clenching her jaw. I knew it. I fucking knew it.

“First off, I’m not dating anyone.” Lola replied struggling to keep her voice leveled. “Maybe I'll fuck him. Maybe I won't." She continued, being crude on purpose. "And if I did that would be my business, and only mine.”

“If you were just a civilian, yea, sure. You could sleep around with any and every shady character that looked your way.”

“Cora-” Lola warned.

Lola respected Cora but she also demanded respect in return.

“But you aren’t, Ryder.” Cora continued, ignoring Lola’s warning. “I’m sorry, but you just aren’t. You are The Human Pathfinder , and everything you do reflects back on The Initiative. That includes who you date. And sleeping with some sleezy, exiled smuggler-”

“He isn’t sleezy .” Lola said through gritted teeth.

“ - a criminal is what he is." Cora said nodding at her own words.  "Sleeping with a criminal when you represent the law is a huge conflict of interest! It's unacceptable.” Cora said shaking her head as though she couldn’t believe she had to tell Lola this. "You'd be putting all of us at risk! And for what? A handsome face that called you pretty?" 

Lola wanted to tackle Cora's ass to the ground.  Calm. Keep calm. You’re the leader. Act like it.

“Look, Cora. Everyone. I appreciate your concern, but since I am currently not sleeping with the big bad smuggler 'that called me pretty', this conversation is moot.”

“He is actively working on getting you into his bed.” Cora said, her voice growing louder and firmer.

Damn it, why won't she just let this go! , Lola thought.

“And by the look of the smile you get every time his name is mentioned. I’d say, he’s pretty damn close to succeeding.”

That was it. Lola felt her biotics begin to flare, and fought the urge to send Cora flying across the room.

“Are you done?" Lola growled. Her long nails were cutting into her skin, she was clenching them so tightly . "Because I’m leaving.”

 


 

Lola had showered, and ate as quickly and quietly as possible. She did not want to run into, or talk to any of her teammates for the rest of the damned night. She had holed herself up in her quarters, and resigned herself to spend the night reading the book Reyes had gifted her. Jane Eyre was a favorite, not that Reyes could have possible known that. She had read it many times but with each new reading she found something new and magical about it.

She had just gotten comfortable when there was a light knock on her door.

“Fuck off!” She called, expecting the worst.

Ignoring her, Peebee entered the room followed by Gil.

Lola's jaw hit the ground upon seeing them.

Peebee had on what Lola was sure was the tightest leather dress in all of Heleus, and matching thigh high stiletto boots. Lola half expected to see a whip in her hand.

Gil had on a sheer shirt, and a pair of black leather pants that gave Peebee's leather outfit a run for her money.

And plastered to both of their faces..were the wickedest of grins. Cats. Cats that caught the canary..the both of them.

“So, losers, are we going to Tartarus tonight or what?” Peebee asked.

They were both dressed for a night of mischief. Lola couldn’t help but smile at her friends.

“But-” Lola began. There were a million reasons why they would never even make it off the ship.

“I lent Kallo money, he owes me. He’ll cover for us if there are any questions, and in return, I will conveniently forget about his debt to me.” Gil explained reading her mind.

Lola climbed off her bed and hugged them.

“You beautiful, beautiful assholes!” She laughed.

“Alright, now go get that ass ready.” Gil replied smacking her rear as she ran to get her red dress. "Good girl, go put on that Freakum dress!"

"Woo! Let's get Ryder laid!", Peebee hollered.

 


 

 

“The Charlatan remembers him as a good man.” Reyes said.

He was just finishing up one of many many meetings he had with clients and Collective representatives that day. “They're sorry they lost him at Sloane’s hands.The Charlatan wants to make sure that the soldier's family receives reparations. They remember him speaking of a sister and niece he was watching over. Make sure they want for nothing.”

“Will do, Mr. Vidal. I’m glad The Charlatan takes care of their people.” The Collective soldier replied. “Have you ever met them, personally?”

“The Charlatan? Unfortunately, no.” He lied. “I just get paid to deliver information every now and then, nothing more.”

“That’s too bad.” The Collective soldier said.

Once he left Reyes collapsed onto his sofa. It had been a long night. He rubbed at his neck hoping to relieve some of the pent up tension, but it was futile. Too much was happening. Too many of my people’s lives were being lost at the hand of Sloane. Tortured and murdered. 

Reyes took a swig of his whiskey. Allowing the alcohol to fill him before checking his terminal for messages.

He frowned.

He had been keeping close tabs on Lola, and it seemed his girl had stumbled upon a cannibal nest. He had heard whisperings about cannibals in the badlands but had more problems than anticipated weeding them out.  They sought out people, hunted them for the sole purpose of catching and storing them for later consumption.

It all disturbed him more than he’d liked to admit.

He read the report.

The Pathfinder succeeded in locating and eradicating all known cannibal nests, freeing those that were imprisoned there.

He felt an odd sensation of pride knowing that she had succeeded where he hadn’t, but also concern at what she might have witnessed there.

Ridiculous, he scolded himself. She was The Pathfinder, she has most definitely seen worse. But he found himself concerned all the same.

I need a break, he decided and he left his room. He stepped up to the railing on the second floor and looked down at the dance floor below. It was full of inebriated, writhing bodies. And she was amongst them. His eyes immediately picked her out of the crowd. His omni-tool had beeped a second later.

Your Pathfinder’s here. Kian had messaged him.

So, she is…

Reyes stood in his spot on the second floor looking down below at her. She had yet to notice him. He decided he wanted to watch her some before approaching.

His inner scoundrel being unable to resist.

She wore the dress, he thought with a smile.

He had thought about her in that dress non-stop since he had first saw her in it. The way it revealed so much and yet had shown so little.

 It was truly the most delicious form of torture.

She finally was within reach. With boots that clung to her thighs and her hair piled high, allowing him an uninterrupted view of the curve of her back and the sides of her breasts. She looked every inch the hellcat he'd grown to enjoy seeing. 

He imagined her slipping the dress on just for him, just because she knew it’d please him.  Yes, a part of her wanted to please him, and he was more than willing to let her.

Reyes leaned further against the railing wanting a better view of her. A few tendrils had broken loose from the curls  that were messily piled on top of her head, they framed her beautiful face, and it made him think of how she might look after a night of love making.  And he could tell even from up there that she had her eyes lined and lips painted, just the way he liked her. He was pleased with everything he saw.

He kept a watchful eye, counting every shot she drank. One. Two. Three…. Watching to make sure she didn’t over do it.

He watched as she snaked along to the music, beside the Asari he had met when he went to drop her gift off, Peebee, and a man he had never seen in person, but recognized as Gil from the research he had done.

At least Kosta was nowhere to be seen.

Peebee grabbed Lola’s hands stealing her away from the male.

A real firecracker that one, he thought thinking back to how Peebee had overtly thrown herself at him. He chuckled to himself.   He knew then that she was a true friend to Lola. It was obvious what Peebee was pulling, that she was attempting to test him. It was sloppy, but a good effort all the same. He knew that his actions would be relayed back to Lola, and, obviously, he didn’t take the bait. Even so, the truth was, Reyes had thought of none and wanted none since he met Lola.

For better or worse she had ensconced his mind.

It had been a long time since a woman had him so enraptured. He had forgotten how agonizing it was.

 


 

Despite Peebee’s insistence (and rallying cry), Lola was not planning on getting laid that night.

I just want to see him, she thought when she had walked in.

Gil immediately headed toward the bar to order drinks, which Lola needed, but wasn’t completely sure she wanted.

But when he disappeared toward the bartender and didn’t come back, Lola had a strong suspicion about what had happened.

“Pathfinder!” Kian had called when he saw her approaching.

Lola held up a hand. “Ryder, please. I’m not The Pathfinder tonight.” She had grown partial to the idea of Reyes being the only one to all her ‘Lola’ (you know, except for Liam),  and had began introducing herself as Ryder to all who asked.

“Well, Ryder .” He said correcting himself, his irish accent coloring his every word.” It’s a pleasure to see you again. It’s been a few days. Maybe Reyes will finally relax. You’ve had him wound up tight, you know.”

Gil turned to her with a huge shit eating grin on his face. “Hear that, Ryder? You have him wound up tight.

Lola shoved him causing him to erupt into a raucous laughter.

“I see you got a little distracted by Kian while grabbing the drinks.” She said attempting to embarrass him. Kian threw her a wink unbothered by the insinuation. 

“Ah, yes! The drinks.” Gil turned back to Kian. “Three Vodka’s please. Or whatever the hell you have that's close.”

Unfortunately, Gil did not embarrass easily.

“Coming right up.” Kian said disappearing behind his caged counter.

“Where are those damned drinks?” Peebee practically yelled over the music, heading over to them. Her and her outfit turned more than her fair share of heads from both male and female of every species.

“Right ‘ere” Kian said plopping down three shots of...something.

They each took one and quickly threw it back. Lola scowled at the way it burned her throat on the way down.

Gil studied her. “No, you’re still too uptight.” he said.  “Another round, Kian.”

Three more shot glasses appeared in front of them.

“Gil…” Lola warned.

“I’m here. Peebee is here. Nothing is going to happen. Let loose. Have fun. It’ll feel good. Promise.”

“Yea, C’mon Ryder! When do you think the three of us will ever be able to get away with something like this again?” Peebee tipped the glass back against Lola’s mouth. “Down the hatch!”

By the third shot Lola was indeed feeling loose... and good. Really good actually. Suspiciously good.

The music changed suddenly from your normal thumping club beat, to something with a quicker tempo and slightly more bass. Something Lola recognized.

“Oh my goddess!” Peebee squealed, “I love this song!”

“Dance! Dance with me now!” She grabbed both Lola’s and Gil’s hand and dragged them to the middle of the crowded dace floor. Peebee immediately starting wriggling and twisting to the music, sporadically bumping her hips against Lola’s. Lola couldn’t help but laugh at Peebee’s enthusiasm. She followed suite, dancing between them.

The alcohol warmed, and loosened her all at once. She could feel the bass beat through her like a second heartbeat, and she put up no resistance when Gil took her and started spinning her around in the most ridiculous of circles.

“My turn!” Peebee had called grabbing her away from Gil to dance close to her. Lola threw her arms around her friend and gave completely in to the music and the moment.

It wasn’t until a few songs had passed that Lola felt the need to slow down. She patted her friends on their respective backs “I need a break!”, she shouted above the music.  They responded by shooing her away and clinging onto each other.

Lola wandered a bit, looking for a spot she could sit when she saw him.

Up on the balcony Reyes Vidal stood leaning against the railing.

Watching her.

How long had he been there? He showed no signs of budging. He’s such a creep, she thought. And she loved it.

He was backlit by the clubs harsh colored lighting so his face was shrouded in shadow, but she’d know that outline anywhere. The broad shoulders, narrow waist, his head cocked slightly to the side as though constantly listening out for something only he could hear.

She gazed back at him and though she couldn’t see it, she could feel it. His eyes once again roaming over her body. They were like invisible hands, searching.  When he was done he bared his teeth in a grin that could only be described as hungry.    Her head was floating. She held out her hand and curled her finger at him. Want me? She thought, tipsy on the alcohol, come and get me.

The alcohol was making her bold, and definitely careless. She had to work with him. Tomorrow she’d need to face him again to ask him all those questions she consistently forgot to ask whenever she was in his presence.

She looked back to where her friends danced wildly together on the dance floor. They saw her and gave her a quick wave. Lola smiled, I can be a little irresponsible for once, a little selfish.  When she looked back to the spot where Reyes had stood above her, he was gone.


 

 

Reyes could wait no longer. Her come hither look was all the invitation he needed.

Sexy minx, he thought as he descended the stairs to her.

You want to play, we can play.

He followed her from the shadows as she moved about the crowd. Her hips swaying with each step forward. She kept looking back and around as though she sensed his presence, but had yet to accurately place him.

Reyes quickly spoke to the DJ as he passed by the small caged booth on his way to her.

This music won’t do.

He needed an excuse to touch her, place his hands on her hips and draw her near, and the right music could provide that.

Just as the music he had requested began playing, he reached her.

 


 

Lola sensed him moving about the shadows, following her. She’d catch glimpses of his form stealthily slipping about here and there.

He likes games, she thought smiling to herself. He desired her to be the lamb being stalked by the lion. She could do that.

She hid from him as he prowled about her, and it wasn’t until the music changed once again to something more sensual, and slightly slower than before that he revealed himself.

“Lolita,” He whispered in her ear. He approached her from behind, and she felt his hands grab at her waist. Lola gasped at the suddenness of his touch, her biotics flaring as she instinctively shocked him. Alcohol always decreased the amount of control she maintained over them.

Reyes growled at the pain she had caused him. The sound was a deep, sensuous rumble that emanated straight from his chest. He held on fast to her waist as the wave of electricity passed from her to him, and she could feel his muscles spasm from the stimulation. He responded to her shocks by pulling her roughly back onto him, and holding her close against his chest as he awaited for the shock waves to cease.

“That’s one way to greet a man,” he growled with a deep chuckle. His chest vibrated against her back. It was a pleasant feeling and Lola found herself leaning further back onto him to feel more of it. His chest was solid, and broad, and reassuring.

In the past, the men she had accidentally shocked reacted as though she had suddenly slapped them in the face.

Liam included, she remembered with a frown. In fact, that should have been the first indicator that we weren’t compatible.

They all immediately pulled away, a look of distrust on their faces, like she was some feral animal that had just bit them.

But, clearly, Reyes was different. He held on faster, tighter. Rather than pulling away, he pulled closer.  He was utterly unbothered and even... turned on by the sudden sensation. Which both thrilled and frightened her.

Could one woman really satisfy a man like him?

Doesn't matter, she reminded herself,  you're not sleeping with him. 

“Mr. Vidal,” she purred turning toward him to look up at his face. The lids were low on his amber eyes, they gave off an almost palpable heat. They were smoldering embers focused solely on her.

“You finally came to me,” he crooned, his accent thick. She allowed him to lead her back to the dance floor, his hand never straying from her waist. She noticed they were bare of the pilot gloves he usually wore, leaving only a thin piece of silk between his hands and her skin. The thought sent shivers down her spine.

Once he reached his desired spot amongst the thicket of people, he drew her nearer, clasping one hand around hers as he led her into a gentle sway. His other hand slipped smoothly from her waist, to her hip, finally settling in on her bare lower back. His thumb intimately caressed the exposed skin there, Lola bit the inside of her lip enjoying the sensation of his light touches on her naked skin.

“Well, not many women could say no to a man like you.” Lola replied, repeating their ongoing joke. Her voice was breathy, and the words came out slow . She was unable to focus on anything more than the placement of his hands on her body, they hugged each spot they fell on like a glove, like they belonged on her body.

 "They could all say no, as long as you say yes.” His voice came out rough and low, and for a moment she wanted to believe him. 

Time seemed to slow as everyone around them moved swiftly and frantically, the club nothing more than a blur of flailing limbs surrounding them. Lola and Reyes swayed as one to the music, oblivious to the crowd's chaotic movements. Reyes moving her much slower than the music called for. 

“You wore the dress,” he said, his lips curling into wolfish grin. His hooded eyes slipped down to her body in admiration. He boldly allowed them to linger on her cleavage before returning back to her eyes. She arched an eyebrow at him, his lustful stares were becoming a habit. He was getting bolder, but she was still unwilling to make it too easy for him.

“Tell me, Mr. Vidal." She said, running her hand over the muscles that lined his shoulder. "Is it the dress you want? or me ?”

He tilted his head back to survey her, the dim lighting enhancing his chiseled jawline and sharp cheekbones. 

It isn't fair, how good he looks. 

And she shouldn’t be encouraging him. Why was she encouraging him?

The unmistakable look of desire filled his eyes as his lips parted slightly and he clenched his jaw. Lola felt him apply pressure to the hand he had on the small of her back, drawing her even nearer to him. He moved his thigh in between her legs with ease as their bodies met, leaving absolutely no space between them. She could feel the length of him against her stomach, and it was.. impressive .

With a sly grin, he unclasped the hand that held hers allowing her arm to fall to her side. He looked at her as he began tracing his fingers  s l o w l y  up her freed bare arm, his callouses tickling and lightly scratching at her skin. Her breath hitched as she followed the movement of his fingers. They flowed over her body, leaving a trail of goosebumps in their wake. His hand continued its way up her arm, tracing over her shoulder in the most sensual of touches. Without thinking she leaned her head back as he reached her neck. She was granting him better access, inviting his touch. She felt Reyes hum in approval at her submission to him, however small it was, and his hand continued up on to the delicate skin she had just exposed for him.

Her eyes fluttered closed. The music, his touch, the alcohol all mingled into a bliss she had never experienced before.

His hand reached the the base of her head. He opened it and allowed his fingers to become completely entangled in her hair before gripping at it and giving it a firm but gentle tug. The pull forced her head to fall further back. Lola gasped and opened her eyes at the sensation and the vulnerable position he had left her in, even so she found herself hoping he wouldn't stop. Reyes took his time moving in to the exposed flesh, his movements like a starved creature readying to feast. His lips hovered right above her skin, his whiskey tinged breath warming her neck .  Lola waited with anticipation for the feel of his lips on her but it never came. Instead, he suddenly released her curls from his grasp and shifted his lips to her ear. The scent of whiskey and cigars.. and earth simply enveloped him. On anyone else it might have been unpleasant, but on Reyes, it only added to his ample machisimo allure.

“I want you in the dress.” He said, finally answering her question, his voice nothing more than whisper as he spoke into her ear. A shiver ran down her spine as he ran his rough thumb over the top half of her ear.

“I want you out the dress.” He continued, before running the his hand back down her neck, and shoulder. He was torturing her, punishing her for making him wait, she was sure of it.  Electricity shot through her every time his skin connected to hers. More. She needed more. He stopped his hand's pilgrimage down her body, and she nearly groaned in protest when she felt him tug roughly at one of the extremely thin straps that held her dress in place. She heard him hiss at the near exposure of her breast. “Really... “ He said, his eyes returning to hers.  “I’d take you any and every way you’d let me,” he said finishing. Lola swallowed hard at his invitation, at the rawness of his voice. Every part of her desperately wanted to feel every part of him consequences be damned. I'm not going to sleep with him, she repeated to herself. She watched as his eyes strayed back down, this time to her lips. She let him bring his thumb to her mouth, where he ran it possessively over her bottom lip. Her deep red lipstick smudging as the color transferred from her to him. He grunted and applied more pressure forcing her lips to part. Lola fought the intense urge to bite down on the intruding finger as a slight moan escaped her lips.  

"Lolita," he groaned back, his voice smoke and ash, heavy and deep.

That look in his eyes. Has anyone ever looked at her like that? Like they’d die without her touch? No. She was almost certain no one ever had.  

She wrapped her arms around his neck resolving herself to the fact that he had won when SAM spoke up breaking the heated sexual tension between them. She was simultaneously relieved and irritated.

“Your absence has been noted, Pathfinder. Liam and Drak are en route to you as we speak.”

Shit. Shit Shit . That sobered her up quickly. Reyes peered down at her curiously.

“How close are they, SAM?” She asked.

“About 5 meters away.”

“Goddess damn it, SAM! Could you have not told me sooner??”

“You had given me strict orders to not speak unless it was absolutely necessary or spoken to.”

Yeah. That’s true. She had done that.  

FFfffuck.  She was in trouble.

 

 


 

It took Reyes a few moments before realizing she was speaking to her A.I.  The look on her face told him all he needed to know.

She wasn’t cleared to be there, and she had been found out.

Naughty Pathfinder.

He had to admit it was a huge boost to his ego knowing she not only dressed up for his pleasure, but had broken protocol just be here, right now, with him. He would have gladly made all that effort worth her time, if their time together wasn’t continuously being interrupted.

“I’m sorry, Reyes.” She said, pulling her warm, soft body away from his. “I have to go -”

“Of course,” he replied, not wanting to make things anymore difficult for her. His only regret being that he had to release her from his grasp.

“Ryder!” It was Peebee and the male she had entered with.  

“We’ve been found out.” Gil said as he cocked his head in the direction of the door. Reyes looked to see Kosta and an older looking Krogan entering the club.

They really have their Pathfinder on a short leash, he thought with a frown. Concern for her well being once again filling him.

How often did they allow her to just be? Allow her time to be someone or something other than their Pathfinder?

He got it, she was the key to saving humanity, but what good would she be to anyone broken? He’d seen it happen, pilots worked to the bone, forced into situations that forever altered them. They were used as a tool then discarded. While she took care of the needs of everyone, who the hell was taking caring of hers? But more importantly, why the hell was he concerning himself with it? Wasn't the goal to bed her and then move on?

She looked up at him, her lovely almond shaped eyes saying all the things she had no time to.

He brought his hand to her face, unsure of all the emotions he was feeling. It was best that she left now. “No worries, Lolita. We’ll be seeing each other again.” He said, certain of the truth of his words. He caressed her cheek with his thumb.

So soft.

“Ryder! What the hell?!” Kosta asked, grabbing her by the elbow and leading her away from Reyes. She stumbled slightly in her heels, her balance off from the alcohol.

“Oye!” Reyes called out, and before he could stop himself, he had reached out to steady her. He brought her to him, wanting to make sure she was ok before letting go.

“Hands off, Vidal. ” Kosta said stepping in between them, re-gripping her elbow. “Are you alright?” Kosta asked her taking in disheveled state, her lipstick was smudged and her hair was in a state of disarray.  Honestly, she looked properly ravished, and Reyes hadn’t even been able to get started with her.

Lola pulled her arm away from him. “The fuck, Liam? I don’t need a big brother. I already have one.”

 Reyes placed his hands in his pocket in an effort to contain the sudden urge he had to knock Kosta the fuck out.

“You’re drunk.” Reyes heard Kosta say, disgust in his voice.

“I’m fine.”

Lola clearly didn’t enjoy being policed, yet Kosta had taken it upon himself to be some sort of enforcer.

“Look, be happy it was me and Drak that came down here instead of Cora and Vetra. They were itching for a chance to drag you away from him.”

Kosta stared daggers at Reyes.

Reyes kept his face neutral, unbothered by Kosta’s dislike for him.

Kosta was nothing more than a yapping runt of a pup.

“You risked a lot coming down here," he continued. "You know what the punishment is for breaking protocol, and you risked it anyway.” Kosta shook his head at her in disbelief. "I'm on your side," he said when she didn't respond, she was avoiding Kosta's eye contact. "Lola, look at me." He grabbed her chin and lifted her face toward his. "I'm on your side. I am always on your side."

“Whatever, Liam.” Lola wrenched her chin away from his touch, she shoved  Kosta aside and walked away. Kosta was about to follow after when the Krogan reached out and stopped him. The Krogan shook his head at a dejected looking Kosta. Kosta nodded and followed after her, but his steps were much slower. He was giving her space. Reyes eyebrows knitted together in consternation, unsure of what he had just witnessed.

“C’mon kids, before you get yourselves into more trouble,” the Krogan said to Peebee and  Gil who had yet to budge.

“Yea. Yea. Yea.” Peebee said waving a hand dismissively at the old Krogan. Her movements were slow and sloppy, she was most definitely drunk.

“We’re going, old man,” the male slurred holding onto Peebee for balance. Together they stumbled out the club.

The only one to linger was the Krogan.

“She’s a good kid, you know.” The Krogan said to him after the others were gone.

Yes, Reyes was beginning to see that.

He no longer felt the intense need to corrupt her, instead it was slowly being replaced with the desire to preserve, protect. Which unnerved him. He wasn’t the hero of this story.

“You hurt her. You do anything she doesn’t consent to..you’ll be seeing me again. And then, you won’t be so pretty no more.”

“I wouldn’t dream of it.” Reyes replied, his voice smooth. It was true. As much as he enjoyed being so near her tonight, once he saw how intoxicated she was, all plans he had made of taking her back to his room fell to the wayside.

Reyes was not the type of man to take sexual advantage of a woman. He had to deal with such wrong doings amongst his own people. Male Collective soldiers forcing themselves upon their female counterparts. He didn’t take such matters lightly. In fact, it displeased him so much that The Charlatan always made sure that such men would never physically be able to commit such atrocities again.

Some would say his methods were barbaric. Reyes was unconcerned with such people.

The Krogan nodded. They seemed to have come to an understanding. The Krogan strode out the club, his large form forcing people to move out the way.

Reyes stood alone in the middle of Tartarus, wondering what Lola had done to him.

 

Chapter Text


And to think, he had once thought five days of her absence too long.

It had now been two weeks.

He was disheartened when he had received the message of her departure from Kadara the very morning after her late night visit.

The Tempest has departed.  The report had said, simply.

And like that she was gone, and the reports had stopped. She was no longer under The Charlatan’s watchful eye.

For the first time since his initial vie for control over the planet, he thought about officially expanding The Charlatan’s influence beyond Kadara’s borders.

“You like her,” Keema said after he had told her about his plans. A small smile played on her cerulean face.

“This has nothing to do with her, Keema,” he replied rising from his usual seat.

Didn’t it though? Wasn’t her absence the reason why having eyes on all human settlements suddenly became a priority.

He headed over to his terminal, ready to check it for the twelfth time that morning.

“Of course it does!” Keema replied, undeterred. “She’s left and now you have no way of keeping tabs on her. Save via the normal news articles available to all, and they lack so much detail, don’t they?”

Reyes’ gaze cut to her.

“Oh, don’t look at me like that,” She said waving a webbed hand at him.  “Of course I know!”

Reyes grunted in response not pleased with where this conversation was heading.

                   No New Messages.

He sighed, and began pacing the room.

“Even on Sloane, you’ve never kept such meticulous tabs.” She ran a large finger around the rim of her glass, a knowing look on her face. “But she isn’t as pretty to watch, I suppose.”

She certainly wasn’t, but that was beyond the point.

“I never had to.” he admitted. “Sloane isn’t capable of taking a shit without announcing it to the whole damn port. That woman loves attention. Perhaps even more than you do, Keema.”

Keema shrugged, unbothered.

“I have to say, I do look forward to meeting the extraordinary woman who settles human colonies in an unknown galaxy, battles the Kett, and is capable of keeping Reyes Vidal’s interest for more than a week after sleeping with him.”

“Nothing has happened.” He grumbled, shoving his hands into his pockets.

He hadn’t been this tense since right after the rebellion, his first night on Kadara. He shook his head not wanting to think of that now.

What was going on with him?

He leaned his back against the wall too anxious to sit.

“What was that?”

“Nothing has happened between us.” He repeated louder, the words sounding foreign to his ears.

Keema’s eyes widened, and she let out a loud, obnoxious cackle. “My, my! That explains so much!”

He growled from his place against the wall. “Yes, Keema laugh it up.” He was being petulant, he could feel it. He was brooding like a child denied an anticipated piece of candy.

“Darling, you’re pouting! It’s adorable!” She laughed again. “You have a gaggle of women swooning over you at any one time. All of whom would be more than happy to service you. Just pick one! “ She surveyed him from her seat. “Sexually frustrated is not a good look for you. You’re just plain... unpleasant.”

He wasn’t sure how often Keema believed he got laid, but he was sure she was grossly overestimating it. He worked. Yes, he flirted, but he worked. Either way, he didn’t want to be serviced . In truth, he wasn’t sure what he wanted anymore.

Her . He wanted Lola.

He pushed himself off the wall, ready to be done with this conversation.

Keema was one of the very few he trusted, one of the very few that knew his identity. She was also one of even fewer whom he considered a friend, even so her constant need to meddle aggravated him to no end. Though, perhaps he should have taken her unsolicited advice on Zia…

Mierda. I still have to deal with her. He thought running a hand through his hair.

“Getting eyes on The Nexus would make me more pleasant,” he said walking toward Keema. He meant it, it would certainly ease some of this incessant tension.

Maybe it was because of her. He just wanted to make sure she was ok, breathing . All the same, this was something he should’ve done long ago. “We need people working for The Charlatan on other planets.”

Sure, he had The Nexus’ system hacked on a regular basis. He was able get camera footage, and files delivered straight to his terminal, but it was tedious, cumbersome. Having someone actually hearing what was going on, seeing it in person, well, the closer to the source the better.

“You just want eyes on her again. You want to know if she is cozying up to that Liam character again.”

“This isn’t about her, Keema.” Reyes lied, his frustration mounting. And Kosta was the last man he had to worry about, Reyes was sure of it.

“Yes, Yes,” She said, waving a hand at him dismissively. “ Information is power ,” she said, repeating his earlier words. “Be that as it may, it would take time for The Collective to find people trust worthy enough to be our eyes on the other planets.” She paused and removed a cigar from his cigar box. “And you want men stationed on The Nexus? Impossible .” Keema scoffed, lighting her cigar.

Reyes closed his eyes and pinched the bridge of his nose. Impossible . Impossible is what Sloane had accomplished, what he had accomplished. This. This was not impossible. He could just do it all himself, but he had other pressing matters, he needed her to handle The Nexus.

“Keema, darling,” he began, making sure to keep his voice even, and pleasant, even with his rising tensions. He re took his spot beside her and shifted back onto the leather seat, the picture of calm and control. “All we do is the impossible.”

Reyes had learned long ago that women like Keema responded much better and swifter to honeyed words than direct commands, and their friendship was the only reason he took the time to humor her.

She took a drag of her cigar and considered his words. He watched as Keema relaxed and mimicked his body language. She exhaled a billow of smoke into his small private room. “We do, don’t we?” She looked at him. “Do the impossible.”

Reyes smiled. “Indeed, we do.”

She took another drag and nodded slowly. “Alright. I suppose I could see what I can do. Actually, now that I think about it, I did hear that the Angara were now being welcomed onto the Nexus. Not all, but a few, and some humans on Aya, like some odd species exchange program. Perhaps, with the help of Evfra, we could see that one of ours were among the chosen few.” She paused taking another drag of her cigar, looking into the distance, still in thought. “It’d have to be a double agent. Someone that is working for Evfra and, unbeknownst to him, is also working for us. Make it seem like it was his idea.” She put out her cigar seemingly satisfied. “Yes, yes, that could work.”

Reyes took a swig of his drink, satisfied with her response. There was still other matters that needed to be attended to. There always would be, but progress was being made. He moved his neck from side to side, stretching the muscles that laid there. He had to find a way to relieve some of this tension. His eyes flitted down to his omni tool, and he fought the urge to check it once more.

“But it will still take time.” She said, swatting at his arm. “And, please, don’t think my acquiescing has anything to do with your sweet talking.”

“Never even crossed my mind,” he lied.

“And as far as having agents of The Collective on the other human occupied planets…that will take me some time just to look into. Most of those planets don’t even harbor Angara-”

“Oh, don’t worry about that,” Reyes said, “I’ll activate the sleeper cells I have stationed there.”

Keema’s stunned face amused him to no end.

“Sleeper cells? Why am I just hearing about this?”

“You mean, I never told you?” He asked feigning innocence. “Hmm, must have slipped my mind.”

Keema rose from her seat, signaling the ending of their little meeting.

“You’re a deplorable human being, you know that?”

“And you love it.” He responded with a wink.

Keema rolled her eyes.

He checked again, No New Messages .

“Skut! Just message her already!” She yelled over her shoulder as she exited his room. “Humans, and their stupid games. Such a monumental waste of time.”

His omni tool beeped.

New Message:

Pathfinder was being held on The Nexus for a disciplinary meeting. Camera footage attached.  

Reyes wasted no time and tapped on it.

__________________________________________________________________

 

Lola was an invaluable asset to The Initiative.  She had proven herself capable despite all the doubt that had initially surrounded her inheritance of her father’s title, and though her methods were questionable at best, she had never once failed to deliver results.

But most importantly she was currently the Initiative’s only Pathfinder, and the only one with an A.I. so deeply interwoven into her that there was currently no explicable way to seperate the two.

So, while Tann had quickly learned that direct order or not, she would not outright yield to his command, he had found ways to sway her, to temper her, because the one thing The Initiative couldn’t stand to lose right now was their hold on their only Pathfinder.

So, at the disciplinary meeting held to discuss her ‘erratic and increasingly dangerous behavior’, Tann took the opportunity to gently remind her that anyone labeled a threat to The Initiative has been, and would continued to be, exiled. Rogue Pathfinders most definitely fell into that category.

“A Pathfinder not acting in the best interest of The Initiative is one who has gone rogue. A Pathfinder gone rogue is one whom would quickly find themselves to be an exiled civilian, and exiled civilians are not allowed back on Initiative owned ships. Such as the one your brother is currently resting on, in a coma.”

It was a threat. Clear and simple. She was to fall in line or be permanently separated from her only living relative. Lola’s blood boiled.

They claimed her behavior had been on a decline, and that the latest “stunt” pulled on Kadara was the last straw.

“You’ve punched the leader of The Angaran Resistance in the face.”

“Trust me, he deserved it,” she countered, completely unbothered by the board’s disapproval. It was true, that man was an ass.

“You have an unauthorized Krogan as a member of your crew.”

“I also have an ‘unauthorized’ Asari, and Angaran male on my ship but you seem unbothered by the knowledge of those two. Could it be because they are from a race you approve of?”

Tann rightfully received a dirty look from Kesh, prompting him, for once, to shut his mouth.

He cleared his throat before continuing. “You’re illegally altering official documents sent to us from the people of Angara -”

“Hey, if you want to read about how they think your obtusely large eyes are gross, and the fact that they think your leadership is weak, be my guest. I will cease overlooking it before sending them to you.”

Tann’s mouth opened and closed repeatedly, before he finally gave into his frustration. “Must you constantly be so difficult! Your juvenile antics are constantly putting The Initiative and all involved in danger!”

“Juvenile!” Lola scoffed, offended.

“You snuck off your ship,” Addison spoke up. “Unsupervised, and unarmed, while on duty, to one of the most dangerous areas of Kadara -”

“Well, when you say it like that -”

“I’m not done.” Addison said. Lola narrowed her eyes at Addison, but kept silent. “Why have SAM erase all record of your time there?” Addison rested her elbows on the table she sat at, and clasped her hands, waiting for Lola’s answer.

Lola didn’t respond, not wanting to implicate herself with a poorly drawn out lie.

In the end, Addison, Kesh and Tann couldn’t come to an agreement on what to do with her and her “poor behavior”, so, Tann, being the ever vigilant leader he was, had the last say: “Go to Aya, apologize to Evfra, and fix the vault there. Then you can proceed with your dealings on Kadara.”

“SAM,” Addison spoke up, “Is The Pathfinder’s pursuit of viability on Aya worth our time?”

SAM, please, Lola mentally screamed at him.

There was a long moment of silence before SAM spoke up.

“Yes, I believe Ryder has a high chance of succeeding on Kadara, and that it would, indeed, be worth the time it would take to make it viable.”

 


 

Lola immediately returned to The Tempest.

She could tell that her crew had been waiting for her return, wondering about what had occured. They stood scattered about the deck, in uniform, at attention, ready for any order, but she had no interest in divulging.

“Head to Aya.”

She then headed to her room, where she proceeded to scream madly into her pillow.


 

 

Lola spent most of the trip to Aya holed up in her quarters. Partially because she was too embarrassed to face her teammates, but also because she was too pissed. Gil and Peebee were the only two not on her shit list, but they were wise enough to know she needed some space.

So, when SAM had announced to her she had an incoming message, she was more than ready to ignore it, until he said who it was from.

 

Naughty Lolita. I hear you were called in for a scolding after your night of drunken debauchery.

-Reyes

 

Lola gaped at the message at her terminal, unable to believe it was really him. She could hear the purr in his voice with every word.  She brought her finger to her mouth, carefully considering how to reply.

 

how did you get my private terminal address??

scolded?  ha, that’s putting it lightly, more like chewed out. but, that’s what I get for not saying no to you. it’s entirely all your fault.

how did you know about my meeting?

- L

 

I think your friends Peebee and Gil like me.

Which is more than I can say about Kosta and the Krogan.

Private terminal, you say? They must really like me.

How about you, Lolita, would you like me to stop? Say the word.

My fault? You’re the one who showed up drunk, half naked, and intent on seducing me.

I’m entirely innocent.

-R

 

Lola laughed, she could  absolutely feel him winking from the other side. Innocent? That bastard.

 

Innocent? Mr. Vidal, I don’t think you’ve been innocent a single day since your birth.

The Krogan? Drak? Aw, no he’s all bark and ...well, yea, and bite. Can’t even lie, he fucks people up. Just don’t make him angry. Did he say something to you? Did Liam?

I think Liam’s more upset at me than anything. I don’t think he can handle the idea that there is real person behind the symbol of The Pathfinder, an imperfect one at that. Ignore him. He’ll get over it.

As for me, I believe you have information that could aid me with settling Kadara, and I’d like us to be able to work together. I give you what you need, you give me what I need. We’ll have a perfectly symbiotic work relationship. - That’s the official response.

-L

 

There was pause in his response. Lola found herself holding her breath. You’re a stupid girl, Lola Ryder. A stupid, stupid girl. You absolutely deserve all the trouble you find yourself in.

 

And, the unofficial?

-R

 

Lola exhaled. She was stupid, yes, but she just couldn’t let him go completely, not yet, but she also couldn’t allow things to continue the way they were.

 

Seems I’m one of the many women who are unable to say no to you.

So, you need to be on your best behavior, Mr. Vidal, because I can’t afford to get into trouble again, and since you don’t have all of Kadara bowing to you, I need to stay alert when I’m there.

-L

 

My best behavior, understood.

When you’re back on Kadara come visit me.

So, I can start giving you what you need.

But I’ll warn you, it’s a lot to take in, not many could manage.

-R

 

Lola sucked in her breath. Goddess, she’d need to get a leash for this man.

Then again, he’d probably like it.

 

Reyes.

-L

 

Your words, Lolita.  

What did you think I meant sex?  As in you and me?

I’m clearly speaking about information. Dios, get your head out of the gutter, we have to work together.

-R

 

Lola couldn’t help but grin at his insinuations. She was just willing to consider the fact that her head may indeed have been in the gutter when her terminal beeped again.

 

But tell me, do you think of sex often when you think of me?

-R

 

Lola groaned out loud. She wondered how she could possibly survive him when all it took was a few words from him to turn her on.  She should’ve known he wouldn’t make this easy.

 

Goodnight, Reyes.

-L

 

Dream of me, Lolita.

-R

 

Oh , she would, she most certainly would.

___________________________________________________________________________

 

Over the next week Reyes spent all his free time messaging her. He made sure to wish her a good morning and a good night, everyday without fail. He couldn’t have her forgetting about him, after all, but, most of all, he enjoyed the thought that he remained constantly on her mind.

How long now?

-R

 

A day. I’ll be there in a day.

-L

 

Good.

-R

 

“Mr. Vidal, Keema is here to see you.”

“Let her in,” he called, re-reading the messages she had sent him.

On Aya. Had punched Evfra. Being forced to apologize. Make me smile?

-L

Reyes remembered how hard he had laughed at that, unable to imagine such a tiny thing landing blows on someone as large as Evfra. He loved that, her fire. He had responded by sending her the dirtiest joke he knew.

“Reyes, really, having to travel to Kadara’s slums just to see you is a little too much.” Keema said upon entering his room. “I honestly do not understand the appeal.  How can you stand it?” She asked taking a seat across from him.

He smiled, not taking his attention of his omni-tool, her air of superiority always amused him

“It reminds me of home.” He shrugged.

“Leave it to a human to travel 600 years only to return to the same environment they left.”

“Keema..” He urged gently.

“Yes, fine. The Human Pathfinder.” She began.

“Lola Ryder” He injected. She was so much more than just The Human Pathfinder.

“Yes, Lola Ryder.” She paused. He could feel her eyeing him from across the table. He sighed. He didn’t even need to look at her to know what she was here to really talk about.

“Say what you came to say, Keema,” he responded, finally closing his omni-tool’s screen.

She sidled closer to him.

“You like her.” She said, a small smile on her face.

Reyes didn’t respond, instead he took a drink of his whiskey.

“We’ve already spoken about this, Keema.”

“You’ve been messaging her.”

Reyes kept his face neutral, “And what makes you say that?”

“That.” She said pointing a webbed finger at his face, “this”  she motioned toward his body.

He held his poker face. Keema sighed.

“You’ve been glued to the damn thing for the last week,” she said meaning his omni-tool. “And I know it isn’t all work. You never smile, truly smile, while working. You’re speaking to her, you don’t have to admit it, but you are.”

“Is that what you came to discuss?”

“Yes and no. I’m here about another female of yours.”

Reyes sat up in his seat. “Zia,” he said knowingly.

“Zia,” Keema nodded. “She’s causing us trouble. Stealing our goods, underselling us to our competitors.” Keema crossed her legs, “Did I not warn you about her, was I not correct?”

“You were, indeed,” Reyes sighed, completely exhausted by all the trouble one woman could cause. Like a damn gnat, he thought.

“Now you have to deal with her. And do it before her little scheming starts to take a noticeable piece of our income.”

Reyes rolled his neck, just thinking about being in the same room as Zia caused him to tense up. He wondered what he had ever seen in her. Then again he wasn’t sure he saw anything pass her ass.

“Perhaps, you should ask our little Pathfinder for help?”

“Lola?” He shook his head, “Absolutely not, out of the question.” He had a strict rule about past and present interests. It was simple really: he kept them the hell away from each other.

“Reyes, Zia just managed to hijack a large shipment of ammo and weapons that we had been waiting on for months ,” Keema picked at invisible lint on her clothing. “She isn’t working alone. She isn’t that clever. You have no choice, The Pathfinder might be your Lolita , but to everyone else she is still The Pathfinder, and that A.I of hers could have this wrapped up much quicker than we could alone.”

Reyes looked at his omni-tool, he had a slew of work and issues to deal with, a queue that seemed infinite.

“Alright.” he acquiesced, there was no reason for Lola to know that Zia was his ex.

“Alright,” he repeated. “I’ll ask her.”


Chapter Text

 

“She’s heading yer way. Kian’s voice crackled through Reyes’ omni-tool.

Finally, he thought, rolling his neck. He had had a rough day. In truth, every day was a rough day, but this one had been particularly wearing.

Keema had called him. Instead of her normal tone of superiority, he was met with panicked ramblings that better belonged to a mad woman.

It took him a moment to get her to focus, to stop switching back to her native tongue, a language he barely understood.

Someone had broke into her home to attack her, she had said. Her guards had caught the man. He was currently tied and gagged in her living room. She wanted him to come, immediately .

Reyes had failed to see why this warranted his immediate presence.

Was it important? Yes.

Did it need to be handled? Abso-fucking-lutely.

But did he need to be the one to handle it? Absolutely not.  

He had men that handled this. They had men that handled this. Those men seemed to already have things under control. They knew the protocol: Get information (by any means necessary). Execute. Leave no trail.

“He’s a friend, Reyes. Rather, was a friend…”

And Reyes knew. He had so few people he considered friends, he needn't even use one whole hand to count them. So, he knew, immediately, who she was referring to.

So, he went.

He asked Keema to leave the room, took off his jacket, rolled up his sleeves, and got to work.

It all ended with a bullet, a blood stained floor, and an extremely irritated Keema.

He looked down at his knuckles. He had refused medigel. Keema had done her best to clean him up, but there was no hiding the cuts and bruises.

He had brought a woman back with him, hoping to fuck the memory of his friend laying dead by his own hands away. But all he saw was her, and he couldn’t do it. That is to say, he could , physically he was ready and able, but mentally he was ruined. She had ruined him and she’d barely even laid a finger on him. He wasn’t even sure that bedding her would be the cure anymore. What if it just ruined him further?

“Two women in one day? You, stud, you,”   Reyes ignored him, and silenced his omni-tool.

He sighed leaning back into his seat. The kink in his neck tightening. Maybe Keema was right, he needed to be laid, but, further ruined or not, he only wanted one woman laid out naked on his seats.

And a second later said woman walked in, sans armor, in a new selectively revealing combat suit.

Her curls were piled up on top of her head in a messy bun, a dagger strapped to each of her thighs, and guns strapped to her back.

Reyes met her gaze. Her grey eyes were lined in a dark khol.  

She looked like the dangerous woman she was, just his type.  

“Hey,” she purred. A small smile played on her lovely red lips, reminding him of how he had smudged it, had ran his thumb right along those pretty fuck-me lips.

“Hey,” he said, leaning forward on his seat, resting his elbows on his knees.

Damn, he had missed the sight of her.

“A new distraction tactic?” He asked motioning to her suit.

She shrugged. “Had to do something to get The Collective and Outcasts off my ass."

The Collective? His eyebrows knitted together. Why were his people still firing at her, when he had explicitly ordered them to cease?  Someone wasn't doing their job. He'd remedy that.

"Think it'll work?" She gave him a little spin, and, goddamn. He wanted to shake the hand of the man that designed that suit. 

"I can tell you with absolute certainty, that that suit will only make people want to be on that ass."

She laughed, giving him a look at those dimples. He wondered if those were the only cheeks that had them.

“You wanted me?” She asked, sauntering toward him. His focus pulled away from his thoughts, to the way her hips swayed with each step forward.

Always,” he said, still watching her hips. He forced his eyes to her face. That black, skin-tight combat suit was making him think terribly dirty, filthy things.

Ven aqui,” he said, motioning for her to come nearer with his fingers. She was close, but not close enough, and he knew from reading her dossier that she understood Spanish. Her mother being from the Caribbean was to thank for that, that and her beautiful coffee skin.

“Where are your squadmates?” He asked, looking around the small room. He was calculating how much he could get away with.

“They had business to handle. I have some time,” she said walking up to him, and he wondered if she meant it in the way he was hoping, because in all honesty he didn’t need much time. He could have her crying out his name in five minutes flat. Of course, if she wanted the full experience...well, they’d need much longer than that.

He sat up as she neared him, opening his legs so she could stand between his thighs. The seat was just low enough, and she was stood just tall enough for… he shook the thought from his mind, and instead settled for running a hand over her outer thighs.

The leather was so supple and smooth. These are most definitely not made by The Initiative. So, who does she go to to have such a well made combat suit constructed? He thought back to her perfume, that specific scent. Who is her personal smuggler? And why was it not him? How was he not her personal everything by now?

His hand continued its journey up the outside of her thigh, his attention shifting from the quality of her combat suit to the swell of her ass. He was just about to give it some much needed attention when he felt a sharp sting.

He growled low at the pain, and removed his hand from her. She had shocked his hand with her own. He looked up at her, the blue glow of her biotics just dying down. She stood with her hand on her cocked hip, as if she was offering him what he couldn’t have. The room’s harsh overhead red lighting illuminated her every curve, as if desiring to further taunt him. She looked like a succubus come to visit him. Exactly what he needed. Images of her writhing naked under him, moaning his name filled his mind, and he knew she saw his need to devour her burning in his eyes.

“You promised,” she said, folding her arms. She stood before him, face stern, but she didn't move, she didn't step away from his reach.  She wanted him to continue.

He stood up to look her in those beautiful eyes. He could see she was fighting with herself. He stood before her challenging her to turn away, to move from him. She didn't, as he knew she wouldn’t. He brought his hand up and wrapped it gingerly around the nape of her neck, drawing her even nearer to him.

“Did I?” He asked, knowing damn well he had. And he’d keep that promise, he would, if she truly wanted him to, but neither of them wanted that. Why behave when misbehaving felt ssooo damn good?

She leaned into his touch but didn’t falter. “You did,” she responded, nodding, her voice soft, her grey eyes on him.

“And you believed me?” He asked caressing her cheek with the roughness of his thumb. Her soft, warm, smooth cheek .

Her eyes fluttered closed and she nuzzled his touch, not at all bothered by his callouses, which only drove his desire to touch her further.

“Not one bit,” she responded.

“Good,” he said unable to keep the husk from his voice. Her eyes opened at the sound of his response, and held his gaze, and he knew he could find respite there, in those big beautiful winter colored eyes.


 

 Reyes moved to cradle her neck between both of his hands. He held the base of her neck firmly but gently. She loved the feel of his bare hands anywhere on her body that he placed them. He always emited powerful energy, and she felt it whenever he touched her.

He held her head steady as they stared into one another. Heat radiated off of him as if he were the sun itself.  His face was so close, and lips so near that all it would take was one slight shift forward for them to meet. She held her inhale, watching as his heavy lidded amber eyes slipped down to her lips. He wet his own, and she knew he wanted exactly what she wanted, but couldn’t have, plus -

He promised, she thought.

If she gave in, and they found out, her position would be jeopardized and so would his. They'd look into him, follow him, study his movements, and whatever secrets he held (and she was sure he held plenty) would be found out. She didn't want that for him.

So, she sent a shock through to him, forcing him to release her.

He snarled at the pain. Shaking out his hand as though he had just touched something hot, but it didn’t deter him. No, if she had truly wanted him to stay away, she had chosen the wrong approach. But she didn’t want him stay away, of course she didn’t. She just wanted to protect him and herself, and that required distance.

His eyes snapped back up to hers, his pupils blown out wide. They stood locked on hers with an intensity that made her feel naked. An intensity that let her know she had already lost. Reyes would not be giving up easily today.

She took a step back, a little bit of space could clear both our heads, but he just followed after her.

Lola,” he called, his accent thick and voice honeyed, “ven aqui.” Despite its sweetness, his voice dripped with authority.

She shook her head, her curls bouncing around on top. You promised,” she said again.

He cocked his head. “Why do you keep coming back to me?” He took another step toward her, carefully, slowly as though tracking an easily spooked prey. "If it isn't because you want me the way I want you?"

“I need your intel -”

Mentirosa,” he growled. The pure rawness of his voice had her biting her lower lip, her stomach swimming. He caught the subtle movement, and a roguish grin bloomed on his handsome face. She had just given him the confirmation he needed. Goddess, screw him and his fucking sexy accent, and his sexy fuck-me face.

“You lie to me,” he repeated gruffly, now standing before her once more. He reached out to touch her only to be met with another shock. He recoiled, but recovered quicker than last time. He licked his full lips, leaving them glistening from his tongue, and looked back at her. She could tell he was planning his next move. Gauging what approach would work best, bring her to him.

“I guess that makes the two of us,” she said, referring to his broken promise.

He laughed at that, a devious rolling rumble.

He nodded and looked at his hands.“So it does,” he said, sounding tired. He went and collapsed back onto his seat. “Come. Sit,” he patted the spot beside him. “I’ll behave.”

Lola eyed him from where she stood across the room. She knew better than to trust that he’d truly keep his hands to himself. He was Reyes Vidal, charming, and convincing, and nothing if not persistent,  but all concern regarding his touch dissipated when she saw signs that something was amiss. He held his head low, his hair stood askew, falling into his face, even his shoulders sagged.

Something’s not right, she thought.

“Pathfinder, Reyes’ cortisol levels are dangerously high,” SAM said "I believe he has recently experienced an unusually high amount of stress." Lola gave a small, quick nod, not wanting to give away her A.I’s involvement, unsure of how Reyes would feel about it.

She walked over, and sat beside him. That’s when she saw it. His raw, bruised knuckles. They looked terrible. They were swollen, and red like someone had beat them with a hammer.

“Reyes,” she gasped taking one of his hands into her own. They felt heavy and were much larger than her’s. She couldn’t imagine how bad the other guy must be, if he were pounded by hands like these.

She turned his hand over, inspecting it. Nothing's broken, she exhaled, relieved. The rest looked painful, but would heal in time.

She looked at him, her heart growing heavy. She knew better than to ask what happened, or question why he hadn't used medigel. He wouldn’t tell her.

There was so much he wasn’t telling her.

So, instead of asking questions she wouldn’t get an answer to, she rested her head on his broad shoulder, and laced her fingers through his, letting him know he had her, if not anyone else, he had her.  After a moment she felt him relax onto her, as if he felt her reassurance that it’d be ok, and to her surprise, he gave the top of her head a small kiss before resting his head on her’s. And they stood like that, leaning on one another, for what felt like an eternity.

“Liam and Peebee are now en route,” SAM alerted her.

“Thanks SAM,” she said.

Overhearing, Reyes lifted his head from hers, and unlaced his hand.

“Thank you,” he said, lazily draping an arm around her shoulders, drawing her nearer and further back into the seat with him. “For what?” She asked, reaching up to smooth his hair back in place. It felt like an incredibly intimate gesture, but for whatever reason it felt ok, right, like she had been running her hands through his hair all her life.

“For you,” he replied, his gaze meeting hers. Like his eyes, his tone was incredibly soft, free of all sexual frustration.

Lola froze, sure she had never heard anything that sincere from him. His hooded, honeyed eyes held a tenderness she had never seen. A look that made her feel... precious. His face hung before hers, as sexy as ever, but with, a hint of vulnerability. A small peek of the man that laid behind the cocky smuggler. And as much as she wanted that man, she found she wanted this man more.

Without thinking she moved and placed her lips on his. She felt him immediately groan into her, a deep, pained sound, that said he had been waiting for this moment just as long as she had. He returned her kiss with tender touches. His full lips moved lightly on hers, getting acquainted with the territory, but it quickly shifted to something more hungry and desperate the moment she let out a small moan. He growled lowly and draped her legs over his lap, pressing his mouth harder onto hers. He urged her to grant him access into her mouth, and a fire in her ignited at the feel of his hot tongue grazing her lips. She parted them for him, moaning his name as he began messaging her tongue with his own. He pushed his body onto hers, forcing her to lean back into his arms as his tongue circled hers in a way that had her swooning and melting into him. “ MMmmm ,” she hummed repeatedly into his mouth while grasping and pulling at his jacket. She felt him chuckle at her eagerness, but she didn’t care. She pulled him nearer, needing to have more of him, but the angle was awkward, and as if reading her mind, he slid his hands down. Grasping her waist firmly, he lifted her over him as she moved to straddle his thighs with her own, her mouth never leaving his.

She felt his solid chest vibrate with a deep hum. He approved of her change of position.

She hovered right above his lap, not quite sitting on it, instead she teased him and pushed her body into his, further deepening their kiss. More, more, more, she chanted internally  as her hands wound their way into his smooth, black, hair.

Her head stood slightly above his, the angle forcing him to lean back into the seat and tilt his head up in order to keep his mouth on hers. His hands traveled from her waist, to grasp at her lower back, before moving over her rear. He rubbed it gingerly, groaning lowly into her. “Mierda,” he cursed, his voice low and rough. He tried to grab a handful of her rear through her bodysuit and she could hear him snarling with frustration, unable to get ahold. He growled another curse, and gave her ass a light smack. She moaned a desperate sound at the pleasurable sting of his broad hand striking her. He spanked her once more, and once more she moaned. He chuckled at her response, and she felt the vibrations of the rolling timbre through her body.

“I knew you’d like it rough,” he crooned, nipping at her throat. She gasped, and looked down at him. His warm, tawny eyes roamed her face as though he were afraid he might miss a detail. He reached up and caressed her face. “Mi Lolita” , he purred, his voice honeyed, her name rolling off his lips as if he had invented it. She felt something shift inside of her at the tenderness of his gaze, but no, she shook her head, he wasn’t the type that would love her back.

She nipped at his bottom lip, wanting to chase the idea of being with him, truly being with him, away. He moaned softly at the sensation of her teeth on his lips and she saw his gaze shift, as they darkened with renewed desire. That’s better, she thought .  She gripped at his hair, and gave it a tug the way he had once given her. He inhaled sharply through his clenched teeth creating a hissing sound, his eyes glazing over. She dipped her head closer to his, stopping right before their lips touched, forcing a frustrated growl from him. He moved to close the gap but she tugged once again pulling his head back.

“And I knew you’d like games,” she said holding firm to his thick hair.

“I’m far too shy for such games, Lolita” he said, even as a devilish grin appeared on his handsome face. His mouth was smeared with her lipstick and she couldn’t help herself. She broke out into stupid school girl giggles at the sight of that red all over him. It was like she had marked him.

Mine. It said. And maybe for a few nights, he would be.

He quirked an eyebrow at her in confusion, before running a thumb over his own lips. “Hmmm,” he smirked, surveying the lipstick on his thumb, he looked up at her, mischief filling those golden orbs.“C’mere,” he murmured. “You have more I can help you remove.”

He gave her ass a small pinch when she didn't immediately listen. “ Ow ,” she cried, releasing his hair. She reached down to rub the ache, but he swiftly grabbed both of her hands and pinned them behind her back with one firm grip of his own, that damned smug grin on his face. “I said, come here,” he growled and reached up to close the distance between her lips and his, his tongue immediately gaining entrance into her mouth. She sighed into him and lowered herself fully onto his lap, enjoying the feeling of his mouth on hers. He kissed her with abandon, and she could think no further than the sensation of his tongue sliding freely along hers, as though it had finally found home.

In one swift movement Reyes had reached up and set her hair free, and cascading over their faces, like a black curtain set to hide them from the world.

“Impressive,” She murmured.

“I try.” He looked her over, tightening his grip on her wrists as she wiggled to free them, she wanted to touch him. “Will you behave?” She flipped her hair to the side with flick of her neck, so she could better move into his. She planted light kisses along his neck starting from his ear moving slowly down to the crook of his neck, only to lick her way right back up the trail. She felt his pulse jump and speed up under her tongue, each rough suck and nibble on his warm skin, pulling out groans and grunts of pleasure from him.

“Do you really want me to?” She purred against his neck.

He released her hands only to pull her roughly closer to him. He growled and she moaned as he slid her closer, the motion causing her to grind along his lap. He brought her to him until her chest laid completely flushed against his, her breasts pushed up onto his firm, muscular chest. He knew how to move her so just the right spot was hit against his slightly lifted leg. And she knew he knew because he was wearing that smug look of his that she was beginning to adore.

“Liked that, Lolita?” He asked nipping at her bottom lip, his lids low over his eyes, his voice ladened with lust.  

Yes , she liked it. Fuck yes , she liked it.

She wanted him so desperately that all she could do was nod frantically, her forehead resting on his.

He shifted her so she sat more on his raised leg. Placing both of his hands on her hips, and with a firm grip, he rocked her body hard against him, the movement sending another wave of pleasure through her. She cried out and grasped at his shirt, only to have him slide her again and again, and she quickly felt it was no longer just his leg she was moving against. It wasn’t his leg that was hitting her clit just right. No, he had grown hard beneath her and for once she was thankful for the tightness of her combat suit. He sped up his movements working his arms to get her to move her body in just the right way. Small low groans escaped his lips, and goddess! , were they sexy. Gasping, she leaned into him, her chest on his, her face buried into the crook of his neck, she dug her nails into the leather that covered his muscular arms, feeling those muscles roll magnificently under his skin, stifling the curse words that each pleasurable slide of her body onto his elicited.

She felt his body stiffen beneath her as she took over grinding in the exact motion he had shown her. He exhaled and groaned her name into her neck, in a voice so husky that she nearly came right there.  She flipped her hair back to one side, and he took to nipping, and sucking at her exposed flesh between his many many kisses. His hot mouth moving languidly along her bare skin, taking its time tasting and playing. His teeth grazed her skin, and she was sure that a mark would be left,  but was too far gone to give damn. She moaned his name and tilted her head further to the side to give him better access. Her core heated up, the fire in her turning molten. “I want to taste you,” he groaned into her flesh, and Lola’s breath hitched at the thought of him between her legs.

“Goddess, yes” she moaned back in between her own panting, and she knew it wouldn’t take him long to finish the job.

She felt his lips curling against her skin in what she assumed was a smile, and before she knew it, those sly hands of his had found the zipper of her combat suit and began rolling it down.

She stopped moving and arched her back to aid him. She felt the zipper reach its end and stood up to better remove her arms from her suit. Reyes sat legs wide, and relaxed in his seat. His arms rested on his legs, he looked content to just sit and watch her. His eyes never strayed from her body, but instead of his usual cocky smirk, his face wore a serious expression, as though her undressing was the most important matter he had ever had to deal with.

Lola did her best not to shrink under his intense gaze and was thankful that the lights weren’t bright and white, and at the very least her hair would provide some coverage.

She rolled down the top half of her combat suit and heard a deep groan escape from him.

“Enjoy watching?”

His hooded eyes traveled down the upper half of her body, and slowly made their way back up, “most definitely.”

 


 

It was just the top half of her that was bared to him but Reyes knew, he already knew he was most definitely going to be further ruined. No longer did a succubus stand before him, all he saw was a golden goddess, a queen, and he couldn’t help but hum, and growl, and groan in appreciation at the sight in front of him.

He was a lucky man, a lucky, lucky, lucky man.

She bit at her lower lip and he could see that he had made her uncomfortable. Idiota, he thought to himself. Of course he was making her uncomfortable, he was acting like a complete boor gaping at her, how could he not have been making her uncomfortable.  

He stood up and moved to her. “You’re exquisite,” he murmured approaching her, hoping she could hear the sincerity behind all the lust that filled his voice, his body. Despite his desperate need to consume her, he hoped she could see and hear how he only wanted to worship her. Because she was exquisite, she truly was, and she should be made fully aware of it.

He swept her dark tresses behind her shoulder and cupped her cheek. He claimed her lips in a slow, deep kiss, and ran his free hand up the side of her body, over her ribcage and stopping just below the swell of her breast. Slowly he forced her to backup until her back bumped up against the wall on the far end of his private room with a soft thud.

She’d need some support for what he planned to do to her.

He moved his hand up the swell of her breast, stopping to caress it. He kneaded it with his hand, savoring their weight and softness. Each touch drew out a moan and each moan of hers he swallowed, inhaling them the way he’d soon inhale her.

He opened his eyes during their kiss. He wanted to see her. He wanted to see her moans, not just hear them (and fuck did he love to hear them), her sighs, her cries, he wanted to see it all on that beautiful, beautiful face of hers.  

His mouth traveled from her lips to her jaw, one hand squeezing at her soft, full breast, the other cradling the base of her neck, every sound she made just exciting him further, he felt so tight and aching, it hurt.

He felt her hands move to the back of his head, tangling in his hair, urging him on, as he worked his way down her neck, going over every mark he had left there, and he had left plenty

Mine , they said.

Fucking mine, he thought as he kissed his way down to her free breast.

He wanted to ruin her as she had ruined him. Make it so she only thought of him, of his touch, of his caresses, of his mouth. When she touched herself, he wanted it to be his touch she imagined. Even if she fucked another man, he wanted to make sure she was comparing that man to him.

He placed his mouth on her breast and she inhaled sharply. He sucked lightly on the nipple, flicking his tongue over it until it was hard and she was loudly moaning his name. He moved to the other, messaging the one he had just left his hand.

He gazed up. Her eyes were closed, her head thrown back, and she was biting her bottom lip in want. Her teeth grazing her own lip had quickly become his new favorite sight. Desire rage like wildfire within him. He left her breasts glistening from his kisses and licks and turned his attention to her combat suit. It was only half off. This won't do, he thought. He wanted to see every inch of her. He salivated at the thought of her standing completely bare and vulnerable before him.

Kneeling before her, he began unlacing her boots, despite their length he worked quickly, his hands working in unison to remove any and all obstacles that kept him from her dark honeyed skin.

She peeped down at him, those grey eyes practically glowed in the low light of the room. She ran her hands through his hair, her long nails lightly scratching his scalp as he successfully removed one boot and began to work her out of the second.

“Like having me kneel before you?” He asked looking up at her.

He wanted to hear it, but she just nodded.

No. “Say it,” he growled. “Tell me what you like,” his voice was deep with authority. Tell me, he thought. So I can do it, again, and again, and again...

She hesitated, and he saw she wasn’t used to voicing her desires. He wondered what kind of undeserving men she had slept with in the past that had left her feeling anything less than the center of the universe.  

He’d change that. She should feel confident having men worship her. No . Not men. Him .  

“Lola, dime . I want to hear you say it.”

“I like it.” She said, looking down at him. Her curls cascaded down her body like a dark waterfall.

“Like what?” He asked, urging her on.

“I like having you kneeling before me,” she said, her voice a little bolder than before.

“Good,” he said roughly, “because I’m just getting started.”

Tossing the other boot to the side, he reached for her combat suit and began peeling it off her, revealing inch after inch of that caramel toned skin he had been thirsting for until- his eyes widened, he cursed under his breath and he looked back up at her.  

She laughed knowing exactly what had caught his attention. “It’s hot in these damned suits,” she said as way of explanation. “And I have enough that I don’t need to re-wear them before having them cleaned.”

He shook his head in disbelief and helped her out of the combat suit, slipping out one leg and then the other. Had he known this whole time...well, good thing he didn't.

Fuck, he was hard.

“No bra, no underwear.” He tisked. “Lolita, you are truly trying to ruin me.”

She snorted, an adorable little inhale. “Like any one woman could ruin the great Reyes Vidal: Lady man extraordinaire.”

“I see my reputation precedes me,” he said, not entirely proud of it. It was never his intention to have women whisper about their sexual exploits with him when he wasn’t around.

“Oh, it certainly does, Shena .”

Well, shit.

It was also never his intention to have women speak about him so often that he’d end up with a code name that was Angaran for mouth .

Someone told her, because she had never questioned him about his code name. He wondered what else she had heard, about him, about The Charlata\

“What?” He asked feigning ignorance. “I’m good with my words, am I not?”

“Among other things ?”

“Never had a complaint,” he said, his voice deep with implication. At least that much was true.

He ran a hand up her bare thigh, enjoying the feeling of her soft, smooth skin on his overworked hands. He wanted to bite them. Mark them as he had done her neck, but the inner thighs were more fragile, more tender, so instead he licked them. Trailing hot kisses up that tender skin, he felt her tremble slightly and her knees buckle.

He wet his lips, and stood up gazing down at her. Without her heels she was even shorter than him. He ran his hands down her bare arms, clasping each of her hands in each of his, before bringing them above her head and pinning both of her small wrists against the wall with one firm hand. “But allow me to prove it to you, Lolita .”

She looked up at him, her pupils dilated, and lips parted with want. She nodded wordlessly, and he knew he had her back in the right mindset.

He turned his attention back to her body, taking in the sight of her nude form standing before him, her eyes below him, and realized he’d gladly relive the shit part of his day if it meant being able to stand here with her again like this.

Dipping his head he once again claimed her lips as his own. He’d never get enough of them. Never get used to the soft, fullness of them against his own. She nipped at his bottom lip, and he groaned her name in response utterly enjoying the pain with the pleasure. He wedged a knee between her legs, gently forcing them apart, and slowly ran a hand down the side of her body. She squirmed and writhed under his touch in the best way, just as he had imagined she would. He slid his hand in between them as he moved his mouth to the sensitive skin, right below her ear. He could feel the jump of her pulse on her neck when he cupped the warm, bare curve between her legs. She inhaled sharply, and leaned her hips into his touch. He pressed gently against the naked flesh there with his palm, and carajo she was wet, so unbelievably wet. He snarled and nipped at her skin, unprepared for how wet she was and how much it had turned him on.

Aye, Lolita,” he groaned, the words coming from deep within his throat.  “Ready for me, I see.”

She responded with a moan, her hips moving and gyrating in an effort to feel more of him against her, but he stood still.

“Tell me what you want,” he growled lustily into her ear.

Ugghh , you’re horrible!,” she gasped, and he couldn’t help but laugh at her response. He'd let it slide, this time. He slipped a finger inside her, and shit , she was warm and wet, and it was getting difficult for him to keep his own pants on but he wanted the first time he touched her to be about her , but mierda the way she was moving on his hand and moaning his name out loud….

He gently slipped another finger into her warmth, feeling her stretch slightly to accommodate him. Her breathing grew more shallow, and her hips bucked beneath him. Following her signals, he began to pump them slowly in and out. He reveled in all the sounds she made, the way her hands clenched into fists where he held them and the rising and falling of her breasts with each hitched breath. He did that, he thought with masculine pride. He slid his thumb gently over her clit, and she cried out.

Mmm , Do you like that, Lolita ?”

She nodded, “Yes! Goddess, yes!”. He placed his mouth on hers drowning out her cries of ecstasy as he increased his tempo.

He couldn’t go any longer, he needed to taste her.  He slowly removed his fingers from inside her and brought them to his mouth. With his eyes on hers, one by one, he sucked off the slickness from her arousal. And she tasted like the nectar of every sweet, exotic fruit he had ever consumed. “So good.”

He released her hands and trailing hot kisses down the front of her body, he kneeled before her. She buried her hands into his hair, holding her breath in anticipation, he felt her lean further into the wall as he brought her hips forward to him. He kissed his way up her inner thigh as he brought a leg up and draped it over his shoulder.

He was finally where he wanted to be.

He angled her hips toward him with his hands firmly planted on her ass, and damn she had a great ass, and brought his lips to hers and began caressing her folds with his tongue. A series of ‘yesses’ and ‘ oh, yesses ’, poured out of her mouth, and he wasted no time giving her what she wanted. He slid his tongue along her slit, slipping it within her as he done with his fingers. He gave her ass a squeeze and began rocking it to the motion of his tongue. He lapped at her wetness, taking in her sweetness.

Her grip on his hair tightened, and she began to beg him to continue. She was close, he could feel it. She was already so turned on it took no time at all to bring her to her peek.

He twirled his tongue around her clit, winding around it in tight circles. He slipped one finger within her as he continued to lick and suck at her clit. He curved his finger gently within her hitting a spot that had her crying out his name. He continued to gently massage her from within while he quickened the pace of his tongue until he felt her body tense. After a moment, and with a moan and cry of his name followed by every curse word she seemed to know, he felt her whole body shudder and buckle before relaxing completely  into him. He slowed his pace allowing her to ride out her orgasm, not quite ready to leave her sweet taste behind.

“Reyes,” she called her voice raspy, “Reyes!” she said again giving his hair a tug, she began begging and pleading with him when he wouldn’t release his mouth from her. He could make her come again, if she'd let him. “Stop!,” she cried between inhales. “Please, I’m too sensitive!”

“Fine,” he murmured into her. Next time, he thought. He rose to his feet licking her arousal of his lips, “Delicious,” he said with a sly smile, meaning it.

She smiled dreamily and wrapped her arms around his neck for support, resting her head on his chest with a heavy sigh. He ran a hand over her hair, and slipped an arm around her waist.

“But what about you?” she asked, he felt her small hand slid down the front of his shirt. “Next time,” he said, stopping her hand with his own.

She looked up at him. “How are you so sure there will be a next time?” Her grey eyes danced and he knew she was teasing him. He swept her legs out from her and carried her over to the seat, where her clothing stood.

“You better get dressed, before ‘next time’ becomes right now,” he said, doing his best not stare, lest he made her uncomfortable again.

She moved in to kiss him when her omni-tool chirped to life.

Ayo! Ryder, we’re on our way. Secured the rem-tech. Still time to take care of those Roekarr. Knock that off the list, yea ?”

It was Kosta, Reyes thought with a frown.

Lola hopped off his lap, and reached for her omni-tool and combat suit.

“Where do they think you are?” He asked, as he got up to retrieve her boots for her.

“With Kaetus.” She answered wriggling back into her combat suit. The sight of her bouncing around naked was enough to make him hard again, except...wait.. “Kaetus?” Sloane’s Kaetus?

She nodded. “He owed me a favor.”  She slipped her arms into her suit and turned for him to zip her. “Favor? For what?” He did his best to sound neutral, but his mind was working, How did Kaetus manage to swing getting help from The Pathfinder, his Pathfinder?  Was she beginning to trust Sloane? 

“I exterminated the remaining Kett that were causing problems, the ones he evidently missed. Now his little Sloaney Poo won’t get all angry with him.” He zipped her up, giving her bum a little slap to let her know he was done. Her little squeal of surprise music to his ears.

“So, you’re doing favors for Kaetus now?”

She rested her leg on the seating and began working on lacing back up her boots. She stopped lacing and flipped her curls to the otherside of her head to get a better look at him.

“Do I detect some jealousy, Mr. Vidal?”

He laughed, and sat on the seat behind her because honestly, there was no such thing as staring at her ass too much, and if he is staring at her from behind then she couldn’t see, which meant he wouldn’t be making her uncomfortable, or at least that’s how he justified it in his mind. She bent forward, and he sat back enjoying the view.

“No,” she answered when he hadn’t responded. “ Maybe?  I need to settle Kadara, and Sloane's aid could help me do that. Either way, it needed to be done. The Kett endanger everyone.”

 He was working on dethroning Sloane, once he gained control over the Port, she'd be able to settle without any push back. Until then, he needed to ensure that Sloane and Lola didn't become too acquainted, mistrust between the two needed to remain. Her doing favors for Kaetus, well, that was a step in the wrong direction.

She stood up now fully dressed and turned to face him.

“Were you staring at my ass?”

Reyes shrugged. “Can you blame me?”

“It’s not that great.”

He scoffed, “then you need a better mirror.”

“Hellllooo, Ryder?” Her omni-tool chirped again. This time with Peebee’s voice. “We have the Nomad. Where should we meet you?”

“Meet me there. I was just finishing up business with Reyes. I’ll ride with him,” she responded speaking into it.

Reyes arched an eyebrow at her, she shrugged. He was always planning to go, the Roekarr was his tip to her and he planned to see the problem through. But this, this he hadn’t expected.

“Oookkkaayy..” Peebee replied in that sing-song way of hers. Her voice dripping with suspicion. She knew, Reyes was sure Peebee already knew. “See you two there.”

“The best way to hide something is in plain sight,” Lola said to him, walking out of his room, oblivious to the stares the patrons outside his door was giving her.

The room was not soundproof.

She was right, though.  Wasn’t 'hiding in plain sight' his go-to tactic? Isn’t that how he was currently hiding being The Charlatan from her?

Guilt washed over him.

It doesn’t matter, he told himself, this is just a fling. A stupid fling, she means nothing to me.

And with that thought, he put on his jacket and followed her out of his room, smoothing his hair as he went.

 

Chapter Text

Lola did her best to ignore the stares from the other patrons.

Ffuckk, the room isn’t silent proof, she realized.

Of course the damn room wasn’t silent proof.

She covered the Pathfinder emblem with her hair, hoping that, without it, most would figure her to be just one of Reyes’ many clients.

One that he occasionally fucked ….shit.

She turned around to see Reyes adjusting his jacket and smoothing his hair which of course just implicated them further.

“Vidal,” a well dressed man called out from the corner of the room.

Reyes nodded to the man. “I’ll meet you at the Docks,” he said touching her elbow, his voice low.  “I won’t be long.”

Reyes joined the man in the dark corner of the room, his most charming smile on display. Hands were shaken, words were whispered, and credits were exchanged. Lola looked away, the less she saw, the better.

She descended Tartarus’ metal stairs, the sun was starting to set and the club was beginning to reach peak hour. Bodies were pouring, the music was playing louder, and the dancers made their way to their cages.

Lola made her way to Kian, having not said hello to him upon her initial entrance, she wanted to say a quick goodbye.

“Pathfinder!” He called as she approached.

She held her a finger to her lips and shook her head, “Lola.”

“Right, Lola,” he said, a knowing smile on his face.

“Kiiaannn,” she whined, “noo.” Did everyone in this club hear??

He held up his hands in defense. “Don’t look at me, Loverboy knows those walls aren’t sound proof.”

“Two shots, please,” a patron said sidling up to her. He looked her up and down with a sleazy smile. Lola scowled, and turned away.

“Comin’ up,” Kian replied disappearing into the back.

“Can I buy you a drink? I’m Eldrik, by the way,”  he said from behind her, his words slightly slurring together.

“No, thank you,” she said, giving her head a quick shake.

“Didn’t you just leave Vidal’s room?”

“Here you go,” Kian said returning with drinks.

“You know you’re the second one today right? I can’t afford a private room , but I spend all day here too, ya know, I ssseeee things.”

Lola felt her heart seize up. The second one?  She looked to Kian hoping he’d deny the accusation, explain it away somehow, but he didn’t.

“She pulled him into a kiss right outside his room as she left,” Eldrick continued, shaking his head. “That whore knew what she was doing. Wanted the attention, no class, I tell ya. None.”

The man’s voice faded into the background. All Lola could hear was the pounding of her heart in her ears. Her eyes stood on Kian, waiting for his to meet hers, but the cleanliness of his counter suddenly became of utmost priority to him.

“Women of all species entering and leaving that room at all hours. I’m not saying he’s fucking all them... But!” He held up a finger. “Who’s to say he’s not?” Eldrick leaned closer to her, his blue eyes studying her face. “Did you fuck him?   Yea , you did.” He smiled at her lewdly. “My girlfriend did too. Ex- girlfriend , fucking slut. What’d girls like you see in a guy like him. Hmmm?”

Kian’s eyes finally flicked to hers, and he didn’t need to say anything, the guilt, no, the pity, that flashed in his eyes before he turned back to scrubbing his counter was all the confirmation she needed.

“Hey, bitch. I’m talking to ya.”

Lola didn’t cry. She wanted to, but she didn’t, because, honestly, she had no right to cry. She knew what this was, she knew she was just one of many. Having someone confirm it changed nothing.

But having me just hours apart from being with someone else?

“I should go,” she said to no one, her voice a mere whisper.

She turned to leave. “I said, I’m talking to you,” the man repeated. He grabbed her shoulder, and she immediately released a biotic blast that sent the man sailing across the room. The room let out a collective gasp as his back slammed into a table and he crumpled to the floor.

But Lola wasn’t done, she stalked over to him and began kicking him. Taking all the anger she had toward Reyes and harnessing it right into the man on the floor through her boot. “Fucking slut,” he sputtered as he covered his head with his hands.

“If you ever -,” she yelled over the music, between kicks, “- call another woman -,” wham!

“- a bitch - ,” wham! “- or a slut, again -” wham!   “I will find you and slit your throat,” she finished, pulling his head up the floor by his blonde hair.

“Ok! Ok! Man!” He gasped, grasping at his bleeding nose.

“Lola!” Reyes’ voice boomed from above.

Seconds later she felt him grabbing her from behind, she fought against him, but he lifted her over his shoulder as though she weighed nothing.  She beat at his back, “Put me down, Reyes! I don’t need your help!” She should’ve shocked him, but she didn’t, for whatever reason, she didn’t. He turned to leave, carrying her with him.

“That’s right. Get your whore , Vidal!”, the man said getting to his feet.

“Don’t.” Kian, warned the man from behind his bar.

But Reyes had already stopped walking.

“What?!” The man yelled to all the onlookers, blood running from his nose and coloring his teeth. “I’m not afraid of this spic and his whore !” He looked around the club, clearly expecting someone to back him up. No one did.

Reyes placed Lola back on the ground. She turned ready to unleash another blast, but Reyes stopped her.

“No, Lola, it’s ok,” he said, the picture of calm. “I don’t believe I heard him. The music in here is just so loud.”

Reyes strolled up to the man, his ear angled toward him.“What was that you said?”

The man hesitated. He looked around. All eyes were on him. He puffed out his chest and leaned toward Reyes. “I said you and your whore-

Lola’s hands flew to her mouth as she watched Reyes bring his shoulder back, and then crack him square in his jaw.  The man flew back as a blue glow faded over Reyes’ body.


 

Reyes, sure that the matter had been settled, turned his back on the now unconscious man.

Seeing how Lola stood slack jawed at his newly revealed secret, he threw her wink, enjoying the surprised look she wore. It seemed more dramatic than it was, not at all anything like he had heard she was capable of.

And as if on queue, she disappeared.

In a blink of an eye she went from standing a few feet away from him to crouching beside him. Like a superhero that had just landed from the sky. He turned to see she had thrown up a barrier before them. Three men had opened fired. The bullets crashed soundlessly into the invisible force field before falling to the ground with a ‘ping !’

It was Reyes’ turned to be impressed. Damn, she was something else.

Reyes tisked at the men before them. “See now you went and made her angry,” he said cocking his head toward Lola. She stood beside him glaring at the men, awaiting their next move.

Despite the nervous look plastered on all their faces, they lifted their guns, readying to try again, but Lola beat them to it. With one raised hand she released a powerful energy field that engulfed the men. Reyes watched as they immediately began floating in the air as though their bodies had loss all sense of gravity.

Oh, yes, the world was damn lucky he was not capable of such feats.  He turned back to Lola. “ Vamanos ,” he said, draping an arm around her shoulders, and guiding her out of the club, “You don’t want to be late to meet your squadmates.”




 

Reyes offered his hand to her, she took and boarded his ship. She looked around, securing herself in the passenger seat. She was surprised by its size. Despite its compact appearance, the inside was roomy, spacious even. He kept it clean. Save for a bedroll in the cargo space, it was empty.

Has he slept here?

“That was mine,” he answered, following her gaze.

She looked at him surprised.

He placed a stretched arm on the back of her seat, turning to look back. “ Those first few weeks of being exiled were.... rough.” His eyes darkened. She had heard snippets of stories from her crewmates about the riot. How violent it was.

“Were you apart of the riots?”

“That shitshow?” He laughed. “No, I just felt I could do better on my own. I’ve still got a ways to go but-” his eyes shifted to hers, the brightness returning to them “here isn’t so bad.” He shifted his hand and place a stray lock behind her ear, and she let him, because she was a suker for him. Liar, womanizer...

He turned to the console before him. His fingers flew along the panel, flipping switches and pressing buttons with hesitation. She knew he was a pilot, but still, seeing him at work, was impressive.

He had been with someone right before he was with her.

No wonder he stopped me from touching him, he already been sated by another woman.

She looked out the window, watching dust clouds fly by.

You’re being childish, she told herself, stop behaving like a petulant child asked to share her toys. He was never going to be just yours.

“Lola, are you alright?” He asked shooting her a concerned look.

“Yes,” she lied. “I’m just...surprised by your... I mean to say thank you for...” her brain searched for something to say other than “ you fucking lying male whore .”

She sighed, “I just hate men like that.”

“Things tend to happen to men like that. Mark my words, they’ll no longer be a problem.” He placed a hand on her knee. She had allowed herself to be swept away by how dashing, and charming he was... things tend to happen… No, she realized, Reyes tends to happen to men like that.

She looked at the man before her. The raw knuckles of the hand on her knee, the bruises of the one on the wheel.

Anubis.

He made people disappear.

Either through direct doing of his own, or indirectly, through someone else. Either way, it was him, it all came back to him.  So, who was it? Was it Sloane or The Charlatan he was secretly working for? Both?

Lies on lies on lies...

“So, I’ve been meaning to asking you about The Charlatan,” she said, watching for movements that would give him away. “They feed the poor, aid Dr. Nakamoto. They even seem more organized than Sloane and her merry crew of fuck-ups. I don’t know, maybe they should be the ones in charge, but...”

She let the words hang in the air for a moment, he was silent waiting.  

“I’d like to find out more about them, but they’re making it so difficult.” She sighed, and pulled her hair to one side of her head, being sure to reveal her neck.” I should just keep trying to build a bridge between Sloane and me,” she pouted.  “Kaetus and I seem to get along at the very least.” She laughed to herself. “You know my very first crush was on a Turian? Kaetus kind of reminds me of him.”

Would he take the bait?

She heard him force breath loudly out his mouth. “Kaetus is Sloane’s pet. Nothing more than a lovesick puppy trailing behind his master. ” He opened and closed his hand over the ship’s wheel, his muscles flexing under the tension. “There is word that The Charlatan has a hideout somewhere in the caves of Dralluir.” He looked at her.  “But it is only rumors of course.”

“Of course,” she said. “I couldn’t very well just waltz right into their hideout, though.”

He tapped a finger on the wheel. “You might be able to.”

“How so?”

“You said they have been firing at you?” He asked, glancing at her.

“Non-stop,” she replied. It was true. Nearly everyone on this planet wanted her dead

He shook his head. “They shouldn’t. There were orders. Orders to not touch The Pathfinder.”  They began their descent, having reached their destination.

“How do you know this?”

“It’s my job, Lolita.”

“And you’re sure?” She asked looking at him. His fingers one again dancing over the dashboard, getting them down safely.

“My information is always good,” he responded.”Trust me.”  

Reyes landed them safely and exited the ship. Despite the small hold up at Tartarus, they were the first to reach the location of the Roekarr’s hideout.

“We’re here. Where the hell are you guys?” He overheard Lola speaking into her omni-tool form inside his ship.

“Freaking Liam doesn’t -” Peebee’s voice cracked through. “ Don’t blame me! You’re the one who needed to press every button on the Nomad! ” Kosta’s voice carried over Peebee’s. Reyes wondered how that group ever managed to accomplish anything.

“Liam, please. We finally have them. You need to get here so we can nullify the threat. Stop them from killing innocent people again. I let you drive The Nomad because I trust you. I know you know how important this is.”

Yea, for sure Pathfinder. No more screwing around, yea? We’ll be there in ten.”

“And Peebee, we can’t find any remtech without a working Nomad. We fuck it up when we’re are so close to finding all those pieces you want… it’ll be that much longer before you can get your hands on them.”

“Yea, yea, yea. Alright. Hands off. Got it.”

“Alright guys, see you in ten.”

That’s right. She’s how they got things accomplished. While he barked and forced orders, she coaxed her squadmates into behaving. Sweet words and gentle reminders lulled them into obedience, as though she was some sort of land siren. The name Shena might very well suit her just as well as himself. They were cut from similar cloth, she and him.   

He rounded the ship to her side, just as the door swung open. He extended his hand to her. He knew she was capable of getting in and out of a shuttle on her own, but he was more than a sex crazed brute and he wished to show that.  She looked down at him suspiciously, narrowing those cat- like eyes. Perhaps she only wants the brute, he thought, preparing to withdraw his hand when she had finally extended hers to his. “Thank you,” she murmured, a bit shyer than he had ever heard her.  Her slender hand nearly disappeared in his. She climbed out and moved to jump down with his help, but at the last minute he grabbed her waist and lowered her down gently. He held onto her, much longer than necessary, enjoying the way the Kadaran moon light set her skin aglow, and the night winds whipped her hair about. Her grey eyes settled on his and they appeared so much like tiny moons he had trouble looking away.

“Where’d you come from Lola Ryder?”

“I’m sure my dossier told you as much, Reyes Vidal.”

Yes, he had given away the fact that he had read her dossier the moment he started speaking to her in Spanish without hesitation, having never done it previously. And yes, it did mention that she grew up on The Citadel, that she had twin brother, that her mother was researched biotics , but these were all just facts, words on paper, and they may explain in a small way how she came to be, but she was more than a culmination of easily found facts and he wanted to say as much when The Nomad finally came tumbling at them from a distance and she was forced to pull away from his grasp just before its headlights settled on them


 

Reyes couldn’t take his eyes off her, she fought effortlessly. Using her jet pack to avoid harm, she was able to get close enough to slit throats. She didn’t need Reyes or Liam to protect her, but that wouldn’t stop them from doing it all the same.

He heard Lola yell commands to Liam and Peebee. They broke off in different directions to avoid becoming easy targets. He took to a covered spot and began focusing on sniping out men. He focused primarily on anyone that even tried to get close to her. Liam also seemed to be attempting to protect her, using his biotics to blast away anyone or anything that got past Reyes.

At least Liam’s protectiveness was useful for something.

 

They finished the job they set out to do.

 

Liam and Peebee went about checking the grounds for anything that could be salvaged, and settled into back to their bickering.

Lola walked up to Reyes, blood splattered over her and her combat suit.

“I suppose this is where we part ways.” He said, wishing he could take her home for the night.

She nodded, the left the cave together, each heading to their respective vehicles.

“Until next time, Vidal.” She said parting ways with him. The finality of that farewell made his chest tighten. Despite how intimate they had been earlier, he felt a sudden space growing between them. He snapped his fingers and called out to her. “I forgot to mention.” She turned back to him, a hand on her hip. “I need your help.” He quickly filled her in on the situation with Zia. She listened in silence, and she agreed to help him, and they parted ways without so much as a goodbye.  It wouldn’t be until much later when Kian filled him in on what had occured that Reyes would have realized how badly he had fucked up.