Ryder stared at him. Reyes couldn't help the shiver that ran down his spine. Her eyes were fire. They never failed to drive heat to inconvenient places. He shifted his weight from one leg to another, hoping that she hadn’t notice.
"What the fuck is that?"
Reyes blinked. "What?"
She rose to her feet like she was water made woman. Her eyes ran from his booted feet to his perfectly coiffed hair, then back to his torso. He couldn't help but brush his hands over his trusty jacket. It had seen him through the uprising, the initial days of Kadara and more back in the Milky Way. He flicked non-existent dust from his shoulders and flashed her his best come hither smile.
"This?" He pointed at his chest. "This is the most comfortable pillow you will ever lay your head on."
Reyes cleared his throat, feeling heat traveling downwards. Jesus this woman will be the undoing of me. Just a single word, it was all it took.
She walked, no strutted over. A hand pressed against his chest. He could feel her warmth through his jacket.
"I should take it for a test drive then," she purred, her palms running down his torso.
The ends of her hair that curled upwards bounced a little as she stepped towards him. Her eyes twinkled with mischief as she pinched the hidden zipper between her fingers. Reyes bit back a gasp as the zipper was ran downwards. This woman, god.
It didn't take much effort before his jacket was undone, revealing a swathe of bare olive skin. She ran a hand down his bare skin, fingers teasing his chest while the other worked his arm free from one of the sleeves. "Are you sure?" he asked, ready to pull the brakes on things.
Ryder smiled, it was small but it promised so much. "Are you sure?" she countered.
With a hard shove, she pushed him onto the bed. Reyes allowed himself to fall, an anticipatory grin on his face. He expected Ryder to follow right after, instead she laughed. His jacket was in her hands as she pulled the pistol strapped to her thigh and fired.
Reyes stared, unblinking and uncomprehending.
When reality hit him, he couldn't help the wail that burst from his throat. "Why?"
Ryder let the jacket go. It was slowly going up in flames sparked by an incendiary round. "I fucking hate this thing."
Reyes mourned the loss of the jacket like it was family. He toasted its death at Tartarus with Kian, though it made the barkeeper very confused. However, he drew the line at weeping openly into his cup. It was after all just a garment.
But it was my lucky jacket!
“What’s is the problem?” Kian asked eventually.
“You wouldn’t understand,” Reyes slurred, tapping his finger next to his empty glass.
Reyes lifted his head and their eyes met. Tartarus’ booming baseline was pounding a drill into his head. The dark red lights hid the flush that rose up his cheeks. “You wouldn’t understand,” he repeated sullenly and rose to his feet. “I’m going up to my room.”
Kian shrugged. “You do you, Reyes.”
Reyes sank into the sofa and sighed. He picked up a datapad and tried to work. Before he could power it up, he caught sight of himself in its reflection. In it he was wearing an unfamiliar jacket, an inferior one. It’s scratchy and uncomfortable. It was tight in the wrong spots and loose in others. He bent and the material creaked like an old chair. He ran his fingers over the stiff material and it left much to be desired.
His mouth twisted as he exhaled. “I hate shopping.”
“I like shopping,” a voice replied.
His hand instantly going for his pistol as Reyes looked up. Surprise, shock and anger surged. It was Ryder. He slumped back down onto his sofa in relief. “It’s you.”
“Is that how you greet a friend?” Ryder asked as she closed the distance between them. She had a bag in her hand.
“I don’t know if we can still be friends,” Reyes said ruefully.
“Really?” she asked, an eyebrow arched.
Reyes rubbed his hands over his face in an attempt to sober up in lieu of a reply. He needed to if he was going to deal with Kate Ryder, the human Pathfinder.
“Here,” she said as she tossed something at him.
He pulled his hands from his face in time to get a faceful of fabric. In the tens of seconds it took to extricate it off his face, lest it messed up his neatly arranged hair, Ryder had sank into sofa next to him. Her feet were propped up on one of the datapads he was working on. He bit back a sigh and looked at the fabric he was holding.
It was white and blue. These are Initiative colours. “No, you did not,” he exclaimed as he stared at the Initiative styled jacket in his hands. “You fucking did not just do this.”
“Do what?” she asked innocently.
“This!” he shook the offensive garment in her direction.
Instead of anger or indignation he expected from the fiery Pathfinder, she laughed. Reyes huffed and shook his head. I’ll never be able to read her, ever.
“It’s a joke, Reyes,” she chuckled. “Here.”
This time, she thrusted the entire bag at him. He narrowed his eyes suspiciously. He wouldn’t be taken twice in a single day. What would that do to my reputation? He took the bag and was surprised by the weight. Cautiously he tipped it over. Out came something folded, something brown.
Reyes looked at her warily. She tilted her head and jerked her chin at it. “I trust you will find this acceptable.”
“That remains to be seen,” he countered.
He ran his hand over the material. It was soft and pliable, almost like it was-. “Leather?” he asked.
She nodded. “One of the first cured adhi leather jacket in Andromeda. Dyed brown and lined with ballistic kevlar material,” she explained, “so it will protect you some if someone wants to shoot you in the back.”
Reyes’ eyes widened and he lifted the jacket. His eyes took in the double zipper pockets and tight stitching. “May I?” he asked.
She spread her fingers in a flourish at him. “It’s yours.”
Reyes couldn’t rip the shitty replacement jacket off his shoulders fast enough. He stood and pulled the adhi leather jacket on. The material glided over his skin and it fit him like a glove. He couldn’t stop his hands from running over the material. The collar was low, just like his old one. The shoulders and sleeves sat perfectly, the workmanship was impeccable.
“I took measurements.”
He frowned. “When?”
Ryder stood and pressed him back onto the sofa, all the while running her hands over his chest.
“When I did this,” she explained, she didn’t press her advantage, instead she straightened. “I trust the replacement is satisfactory?”
Reyes could only nod mutedly.
“Good.” With just a single word, Kate Ryder, the human Pathfinder breezed out of the room like the wind she was.
Later when his brain caught up with his eyes, he realised Ryder had SAM took measurements and it wasn’t a breach in his security. Then he stared at the Initiative jacket in his hands.
“What the hell am I supposed to do with this?”