“What’s your problem, pal?” The little miner man spat at him like the venom in his words would affect D’avin at all. His fair brows were drawn over blue eyes, mouth set in a half-sneer. It might have been enough to make D’avin bashful, had he not been able to stare almost directly over the man’s head.
“I don’t have a problem,” he said, eyes flicking away from his PDD for a brief moment. A yell dragged the miner’s attention over his shoulder, to a woman who must have been his wife, holding a lunch canister by just her index finger. D’avin turned to look at her. A stunning woman, really, far too gorgeous in an emerald green dress with a sheer black shift over top to be the wife of a miner. She looked like she belonged on Qresh, rather than in the shithole Westerlyn locals liked to call Old Town. He gave her his best lopsided grin.
She rolled her eyes and looked away, only drawing her eyes back to D’avin when the miner shuffled closer, mumbling apologies and pressing a kiss to her cheek. D’av tuned out to the rest of his conversation as the miner turned back, and clapped him on the shoulder hard enough to startle him.
“Relax, friend, have a drink. Bar’s there.” He jerked a thumb back toward his wife, with a tight smile. “Welcome to Old Town.” And then he was gone, and when D’avin looked back toward the woman, so was she. He snorted, shaking his head softly. He turned his PDD up again to check the details of his warrant for what must have been the millionth time since he and Lucy had re-docked on Westerly. Nothing had changed. He wasn’t sure why he supposed it would have.
“What a shithole,” he said to himself, turning to look back down the street in the direction he’d come. Westerly’s plasma towers rose in the distance, billowing plumes of green smoke making them nigh impossible to miss. They didn’t do anything for Westerly’s visage, but somehow D’avin thought that Westerly wouldn’t be particularly pretty anyway. Still, it was preferable to Telen.
Then again, literally anywhere was.
D’avin shook off the image of the towers and turned the other way, back toward Lucy, ignoring the nagging feeling in his brain. Old Town always felt familiar to him, the miner’s welcome had not been necessary. D’avin told himself that living on a planet for almost seven years would do that to a person, but the familiarity he felt for Old Town was odd. Hazy, in a way, like he was experiencing it from behind a fog. The towers always seemed to give him clarity in that fog, but then Old Town no longer felt familiar. It felt vast and empty, like everything he knew about it that made it Old Town just wasn’t there.
He was still contemplating that feeling when he rounded the corner to Lucy’s berth and saw that the cargo bay door was down. D’avin gave a harsh sigh, eyes scanning this way and that for any sign of trouble. His stint in the military, albeit brief, had left him with some valuable life lessons that had transferred well to being a Killjoy. He took the gun from its holster at his hip, and held it low but ready. Best case scenario, Hills was just being fucking annoying and had volunteered him for another escort warrant, in which case he’d simply be waiting for D’avin to return. Worst case scenario, the Westerlyns of dubious moral fibre who’d been his last lead had decided they were mad at him after all, and were waiting to pull his intestines out through his nose.
“Hills?” He called tentatively as he stepped into Lucy’s cargo hold, hugging the wall tightly to avoid being backlit and giving any potential attacker an opportunity.
“Hills Oonan, Jaqobis? I have to say, I’m offended,” D’avin swung to his left, but he was already relaxing as he did so. He’d know the voice of Fancy Lee anywhere. He shoved his gun into the holster again, hand resting on his hip as he stepped around one of his RAVs and cocked his head at the other man. Fancy Lee was sitting upon one of the stainless steel benchtops bolted to the floor. Today, his coat was emerald green with an intricate gold design over the right shoulder, and a black leather shoulder-pad strapped to his left. He had a gold and mahogany wood pin in his bun, and a splatter of blood still caught in his beard.
“You have a visitor, D’avin,” said Lucy.
“Thank you Lucy,” said D’avin, amusement palpable in his voice.
“Could have called,” said Fancy, sounding less amused. D’avin took a meandering step closer, and then another, until Fancy’s knees were knocking against his thighs as D’av innocently clasped his hands behind his back.
“How was Leith?”
“Eh, you know the old joke. Scratch a Leithian and you get…”
“A Qreshi ancestor who’s embarrassed to be there.” D’avin nodded, admiring the way Fancy’s lip curled up in the corner. He decided he wanted to kiss him, but it would be rude to not let him finish after he’d asked.
“Martel wasn’t happy about me busting his whole jakk growing operation, of course, but The Company was even less happy about so many of their able-bodied workers just going flat-out missing like that. But I got the job done, and I even pilfered some good bottles of hokk. You know, as a consolation prize.” Fancy smirked. D’avin smiled back, sweetly.
“Of course you did.”
“Of course I did.”
“Sounds like you were too busy for me to call.”
“But not too busy to break into my ship and offer me your hard-earned hokk?”
“What can I say? I’m a charitable guy. I figured you could use it after you got your ass kicked in that street brawl last week.” Now it was D’avin’s turn to sneer, as Fancy smiled sweetly. D’avin lifted a hand and settled it against Fancy’s neck, sliding his fingers back to tangle in what precious few strands of hair Fancy had left free of the bun. He pulled him into a kiss, and Fancy came willingly, soft lips slotting against D’avin’s own. He knew Fancy would complain about them being chapped, but the Westerly air didn’t do them any favours. He felt Fancy’s fingers curl around his bandoliers, and he stepped closer.
He and Fancy Lee had a complicated relationship. Fancy was a year younger than him, had been working at the RAC longer, and was objectively better at his job than D’avin was. D’av had joined the RAC the same year Fancy had, about eight months apart. They’d both ranked Level Four on entrance. Fancy had jumped to Level Five two years later, and D’avin three. For the majority of their careers, Fancy and D’avin had butted heads. They were constantly vying for warrants, for best barstool privileges at The Kingpin- a bar on the nicer side of Old Town- for new fringe tech first at the Leith Bazaar, and then at Utopia. Roughly two years ago, they’d added another dosage of complexity to their already frazzled relationship.
They’d started sleeping together.
The sex was good. Really good. It helped take the edge off of most of their rivalries. D’avin had found himself discussing his warrants with Fancy. Sometimes they helped each other out, drank together at the Kingpin, even met up between warrants to just… talk. At some point, they’d become friends. Of course, that had been the stupidest thing they could have done, because friends who fucked always made things complicated, and the last thing D’avin and Fancy needed was whatever they had getting more complex. And yet it had. Now, D’avin wasn’t so sure what they were. There was a feeling teetering on the tip of his tongue, just waiting to roll off, but he knew Fancy. As soon as he said he loved him, it would all be over.
“Qresh to Jaqobis,” Fancy was mumbling against his lips, “you froze like the dead there.” He placed a kiss to the corner of D’avin’s mouth, combed his fingers through his hair. Come back to me . D’avin blew out a sigh, gently dragged his thumb over Fancy’s jawline.
“Just thinking,” he said by way of apology.
“I’d ask if you could do that when we weren’t kissing, but I know it might take another twenty years for your brain cell to come back into orbit,” D’avin rolled his eyes, free hand snaking out to pinch Fancy’s outer thigh. To his credit, the other killjoy only scowled, before he pulled his legs up criss-cross, forcing D’avin to step away from him. D’av retracted his hands, folding them against his chest briefly, before he blew out a sigh.
“Want to pop a bottle of that hokk?”
D’avin’s bed on Lucy wasn’t quite big enough for two people. Fancy bitched and griped about it incessantly, but Fancy also bitched and griped about everything D’avin did when they were on Fancy’s ship. Plus, Fancy’s bed wasn’t nearly so comfortable, so they made do. Their clothes littered the floor, Fancy’s face pressed against D’avin’s shoulder and his arms thrown around him while D’av cradled him with one of his own. The air inside the room felt oppressively muggy, but D’avin still felt good. Comfortable.
“We’re still awesome at this sex thing, by the way,” he said, lifting a hand. Fancy grunted against his shoulder, lifting his head slightly to brush his lips over D’avin’s collar, before pressing a kiss there and settling back down.
“I’m not naked high-fiving you.” D’avin lowered his hand.
“Got any idea what you’re doing for your next warrant?” He asked instead, fingers tracing shapes against Fancy’s spine.
“You could help me work on mine,” D’avin suggested. He felt the way Fancy tensed, before he blew out a sigh. Fancy’s fingers trailed down D’av’s bicep, before they slipped into the gap between his arm and his chest, hand braced against the bed as Fancy hauled himself into sitting up. His long, black hair was wild about his face, his lips pressed in a flat line. Fancy was mad at him, because of course he was. Fancy was mad whenever they had this conversation. D’avin couldn’t help but think that Fancy was the most beautiful man he’d ever seen.
“D’avin, we’ve had this conversation. We’re not a team,” Fancy warned, hardly looking placated as D’avin turned his hands palms-up in surrender.
“I know,” he said, “Fancy, I know . I’m just… come on! We haven’t worked a warrant in forever, and I feel like you’ll like this one.” Fancy eyed him sternly for all of a second, before he relaxed, rolling his eyes a bit as he settled down, folding his hands across D’avin’s chest and resting his chin on them. D’av stroked his fingers through Fancy’s hair, pushing it back from his face.
“What’s the warrant.”
“Jaq Kin Rit. Level two escort.” Fancy’s hands pressed down so hard against D’avin’s abdomen as he sat up that D’av was sure a rib broke. He wheezed in pain, struggling to grapple Fancy’s wrists away from his stomach to ease the pressure.
“Jaq Kin Rit. As in Land Kin Rit?”
“The very same, Jaq Seyon Kin Rit, heir to Land Kin Rit. Weird, right?”
“I suppose… but a level two escort isn’t exactly unheard of for a member of the Ten.”
“That’s what I thought,” D’av said, “but I didn’t get any collection point details, only the drop off: Land Kin Rit. The Ten didn’t issue the warrant for me to take Jaq Seyon anywhere, they issued it for me to bring him back. The only problem is… I don’t know where he is.”
“The plot thickens,” Fancy said, but D’avin could see the little sparkle in his eye that he always got when a good challenge presented itself, “he must be really good at hiding. A Qreshi noble, and a child at that, and the Ten can’t find him on Qresh or the three moons.”
“So you see why I could use your help,” D’avin said, stretching a hand out to cup Fancy’s hip, massaging his thumb over the bone. Fancy narrowed his eyes at him, leaning in so that his hair tickled D’avin’s cheek, falling like a curtain around the pair of them and cocooning them in their own private world.
“What’s in it for me?”
“I’ll do that thing you like with my tongue,” D’avin stuck his tongue out, and Fancy rolled his eyes so hard D’avin was sure he must have hurt himself.
“I’m serious, Jaqobis. My name’s not on the warrant. I won’t get any of the credit, and I don’t need the joy.”
“Well… what do you want?” Fancy hesitated.
“A bottle of hokk. Good hokk, probably an elder shiro, upwards of ten years aged, and a visit to Scrimshaw and an allowance for his custom blend augmentations.”
“Pricey,” D’avin whistled, but it didn’t even take him a second to think about it, “deal. And you know what? I’ll throw in that thing with my tongue for free.” Fancy was laughing as D’avin pulled him in for another kiss.
The trip to Qresh to meet with Aneela Seyah and Seyah Kendry was spent in comfortable silence, interjected briefly by Lucy’s status reports. Fancy seemed at home in Lucy, seated easily at the workstation as he picked and prodded at his latest gadget. D’avin sat forward a bit, at Lucy’s ‘helm’, as much as it could be called that when the AI ran the ship pretty much on autopilot.
D’avin was fiddling with all the information that they had for the Kin Rit warrant. It had taken a while to get Delle Seyah and Aneela Seyah to agree to meet with him, since the basic information they’d provided for the warrant had turned out to be useless. Bring him back to Land Kin Rit. We don’t know where he is. Check Old Town, it’s full of crime. Old Town was full of crime, and D’avin had almost suffered a broken rib for it, and he was still no closer to finding Jaq Kin Rit.
“Jaq’s an odd name, right?”
“For a Qreshi?” Fancy looked up, pushing the magnifying lens away from his face so that it snapped directly upward on his glasses-looking contraption. “Sure.”
“I wonder why he chose it,” D’avin said. Fancy didn’t say anything, so D’avin turned to look at him, imploringly. He liked when Fancy bounced ideas off of him, and he would feel put out if he’d elected to simply go back to his work. To his surprise, Fancy was looking at him with a mixture of confusion and concern, and something else that D’avin couldn’t quite place.
“Chose it?” Fancy asked, after a tentative minute. “I think he probably didn’t chose it. Aneela Seyah or Delle Seyah probably chose it for him.”
“Right,” said D’avin. His brain felt foggy again, like when he looked at the towers in Old Town. But this time, there was a sharp tugging sensation somewhere among the fog. It was like an electricity of sorts, buzzing low beneath his skin. D’avin pushed away the sensation, shooting Fancy a lopsided smile. “That’s what I meant. Used to Killjoys picking nicknames, is all.”
“Okay,” said Fancy, but he didn’t sound entirely convinced, “if that was a lead-in to getting my real name, it was a piss poor attempt and you’re still not getting it.”
“It wasn’t, but I’m still disappointed. I bet it’s cute.”
“Fancy’s cute enough, thanks.”
“You’re no fun.”
“I guess that’s why they call me a Killjoy.”
The estate of Land Kin Rit was impressive. Every time D’avin was on Qresh, he was amazed by what he saw. Growing up on Telen, and then living on Westerly, D’av had always thought such opulence only existed in the comics that his little brother, Johnny liked to read. D’av didn’t like to think of Johnny, for the sharp tang of pain that zapped through his heart whenever he did. He pushed those thoughts away, squared his shoulders, and marched after Fancy and the Kin Rit butler deeper into the estate.
Delle Seyah and Aneela Seyah made quite a formidable couple. If D’avin’s Quad history served him right, the former was the matriarch of House Kendry, while her wife was simply the heiress to Land Kin Rit, after her mother, Yalena. Nonetheless, both women seemed on equal footing with each other. Aneela Seyah was a tall woman with long, dark hair she wore in an immaculate braided updo, with a sharp glint behind her eye and a half-smirk on her lips. Her wife was a tad shorter, with wider eyes that should have made her seem innocent, if not for the crease of her brow that denoted alertness, and the tone of her voice that made D’avin want to shit himself in fear.
“We haven’t had any luck finding Jaq with the information supplied with the warrant,” D’avin said, “the Westerly connection was bust, and the lead was a dead end. We’d appreciate any other information you have that would go toward finding him.”
“Isn’t it the job of a Killjoy to find that information themselves?” Delle Seyah asked, brow knitting. Aneela Seyah’s hand slipped across to press over her wife’s, as her pronounced mouth curved into a cutting smile. D’avin realized, quite suddenly, that she reminded him of the emerald-dress girl from Lowtown.
“We mean no offense, Seyah Kendry,” Fancy was saying, “perhaps if we knew a bit more about Jaq, we might be able to understand his line of thinking, figure out where he could have gone. If not, I have a few gadgets we can use to track him, but most are chemoreceptors or otherwise similar, and we’ll need personal items from Jaq to lock onto his signal.” Delle Seyah tensed, and shot a look at her wife, before she sighed in an irritated fashion and pushed herself to her feet.
“Very well, Killjoy. Come with me, I’ll show you to his room. Ask any questions you may have on the way.” Fancy and D’avin exchanged a split second look. D’av nodded, and Fancy followed after Delle Seyah out of the room, carrying his briefcase of gadgets with him. Their voices faded quickly despite the elevated ceilings and cool marble walls. D’avin watched Aneela Seyah. She watched him. Finally, her head tilted, and she giggled. She had a childish quality to her that made D’avin’s skin crawl.
“It’s nothing, Aneela Seyah,” D’avin looked away. The woman’s curious eyes remained on him, and when he hazarded a look back, she had propped her chin on her hand, staring at him intently. He hesitated a moment. “Do you have a sister?”
“No,” Aneela Seyah said, brow crinkling.
“Ah, didn’t think so. You just remind me of someone,” he shook his head, “dumb question, I know it’s just you and your mother- and Khlyen of course.”
“Papa,” Aneela Seyah said fondly, lips curving into that same smile, “he and mother fight over his involvement in the RAC all the time. She thinks it imprudent for a Qreshi royal to head a supposedly nonpartisan entity, even if his relationship is by marriage.”
“Your mother- uh,” he struggled to recall the Kin Rit matriarch’s name. His brain felt foggy again, the name on the tip of his tongue, but he couldn’t bring himself to say it. D’avin’s chest felt dull, empty. He could swear he had known it just seconds before.
“Yalena Seyah Kin Rit,” Aneela Seyah supplied, with her disjointed smile. Suddenly, her eyes widened a little, with the same soft quality, and her lips curved even further, teeth revealing themselves, just. “Yala.”
“My good wolf. My bad wolf.”
“Yala,” D’avin repeated, before he hissed as a sharp pain snapped at the fringes of his brain. He dropped to his knees, clutching his temples. He heard the surprised clack of Aneela’s heels as she shot to her feet. He lifted a hand, holding it out to her, a placating gesture. “It’s fine, Seyah. I uh- I must have taken a knock to the head on my last warrant.” His head felt heavy with the fog again, as he pushed himself to standing again. Aneela Seyah was watching him, but her own eyes seemed cloudy. She seemed confused.
“Yala,” she said again, before she shook her head.
“Who’s Yala, dear?” Delle Seyah’s heels clicked against the cool floor as she crossed to Aneela Seyah and placed her hand in the small of her wife’s back, leaning across to kiss her cheek. Aneela Seyah’s lips curled into that smile of hers, but her face remained confused. Fancy fell into step next to D’avin, raising the briefcase as a silent indication they’d gotten what they needed.
“I don’t know,” said Aneela Seyah. Delle Seyah looked confused. So did Fancy. D’avin got the sudden feeling that they needed to leave.
“Thank you for your help, Seyahs,” D’avin said, putting his fist to his chest politely, “we’ll have Jaq Seyon back as soon as possible.” D’av hooked a hand around Fancy’s bicep, shooting the women the politest smile he could muster, before he tugged his friend away, and back out of the estate and onto Lucy. Fancy was silent for the most part as D’avin got Lucy back into orbit. Once they had loaded coordinates for a lead in remote Leith, Fancy finally spoke.
“Do you know who Yala is?” It seemed the right question to ask.
“No,” said D’avin, “but I feel like I should.”
“I don’t know how to explain it,” D’avin frowned, looking up as Fancy’s hand landed on his shoulder. His eyes were worried, as he sank into the seat next to D’avin, extending him a glass of hokk. D’avin took a sip, worrying his lower lip between his teeth. He could feel Fancy’s gaze heating the side of his face. It was intense. Waiting. After a long moment, he spoke.
“Do you ever look at the towers in Old Town, the Hullen towers, and think that it’s somehow familiar and wrong at the same time? I always feel like I know Old Town, which doesn’t seem odd to me, but when I see the towers, Old Town feels empty, like I don’t know it at all,” he paused, “the name Yala means the same kind of thing. Every time I try to think about it, there’s this sharp pain in my head, like it’s a thread I’m meant to follow, but trying to connect it to anything hurts.”
“I told you thinking would be the death of you, Jaqobis,” Fancy’s tone was duller than it ought to have been, for such a familiar quip. D’avin shot him a watery smile, watching as he got up from his seat and crossed to D’av, settling one leg either side of his own and easing into his lap. D’av’s free hand came around to hold Fancy steady at his hip.
“Ahem,” said Lucy. D’avin rolled his eyes.
“Come on, Luce, you’re all-seeing, you’ve seen us fuck in literally every other place we’ve ever fucked on this ship.”
“There is something to be said for the sanctity of the cockpit, D’avin,” said Lucy chidingly.
“Electing to ignore that,” he said, yelping in protest as Fancy stole the glass of hokk, and knocked it back. He set the empty glass down at the base of the chair, and lifted his hands to cup D’avin’s cheeks, forcing him to meet his eyes. It always amazed D’avin how dark Fancy’s eyes were; how dark and how beautiful, with their keen intelligence glittering behind them like the stars that peppered deep space.
“D’av,” he said, voice serious, “you’re not fucking with me, right?”
“I promise I’m not,” D’avin said, lifting a hand to tap two fingers against his chest, “tap my heart. Sometimes I think I’m losing my mind.”
“You’re not,” Fancy whispered, pressing a kiss to his forehead. D’avin snaked an arm around his waist, pulling him into a hug and pressing his face against the joint of his shoulder and his neck. They sat like that for a long while, Fancy threading his fingers through D’avin’s cropped hair, until Lucy announced that they were coming up on their coordinates.
If D’avin had been wishfully thinking, he would have called the manner that Fancy pulled away ‘reluctant’. Of course, Fancy’s comfort was meant in only the friendliest of terms. They were friends, after all, no matter how dysfunctional their friendship was, and more importantly, they were working a warrant together. Fancy needed D’avin on the top of his game. That was all there was to it. Still, D’avin supposed it didn’t hurt to pretend that Fancy’s lingering touch was due to how much he’d miss the attention once they were out in the field again.
The coordinates took them to the Leithian woods, beyond the last dregs of civilisation on the green moon. It meant, unless anyone else was out here either looking for or defending Jaq, that they would likely be alone. However, the uncertainty of confrontation had Fancy and D’avin leaving Lucy fully armed, following the dull light of Fancy’s bloodhound.
“That doesn’t look promising,” D’avin remarked, sweeping the treetops with the barrel of his rifle, and taking care to step over a fallen branch. Fancy hummed his tense hum, the one that meant ‘you’re right but I hate admitting that you’re right because it doesn’t bode well for the results of the mission’. D’avin liked that hum, because he thought that the way Fancy’s brow scrunched was rather handsome. D’avin also hated that hum, because it meant they were no closer to a job well done.
“He’s definitely been here,” Fancy said, “not too long ago, but long enough for the trail to be getting cold. We’ll see if we can find some clues as to where he went, or else we’re back to square one, and I don’t enjoy the concept of going back to the Ten empty handed.”
“That outcome is best when avoided, I think.”
“Most intellectual thought you’ve had in a while, D’av.”
“Do you have to be so mean about it?” D’avin pouted at Fancy, but the expression didn’t last long when Fancy pressed his tongue into his cheek to wrestle away the smile that threatened to spring onto his features. Suddenly, Fancy’s hand went to his waist, and D’avin’s rifle tracked the shorter man’s gaze.
In the middle of a clearing, there was a box.
A box was not quite the right word for it, but D’avin couldn’t think of anything else to describe it. It was big enough to be a room, with reflective surfaces on all sides. It was cuboid in shape, and seemed to be balanced on one corner. D’avin got the nagging feeling he’d seen something like this before, but that he also wasn’t supposed to be there. He felt a chill run up his spine, and he shivered, turning away from the box to try and quell the feeling.
“D’av?” He felt Fancy’s hand on his shoulder, and he turned his eyes back to his face. Fancy looked concerned, dark brows pulled tight over his dark, dark eyes.
“I’m fine,” he said, “just a bit of windchill, I guess.” Fancy’s look said he didn’t believe him, but he didn’t press it further. Fancy advanced first, with D’avin no more than half a pace behind him, gun raised. Fancy circled the box once, then twice, then a third time.
“No obvious way to enter,” Fancy said, tilting his head slightly, “no keypads, no biometric locks, no nothing. If it wasn’t way out in the middle of buttfuck Leith, I’d say it was modern art- or something.” D’avin hummed, pressing his tongue against the outside of his teeth. The nagging feeling in his brain persisted, but Fancy smiled, almost wryly, and it drew his attention.
“Khlyen wouldn’t want us here,” he said. D’avin frowned.
“What does Khlyen have to do with it? Pretty sure he’d want us to finish the warrant. Failures don’t look good on him either.” Fancy blinked, bewildered.
“I… know. I don’t know why I said that.” He shook his head, frowning. He took a step forward, reached a hand out to touch the box. The surface of it wavered, and D’avin suddenly had a vivid flash. A pool of green. Ripples cast outwards from fingertips descending toward it. A low chuckle, lips tugged upward in an elated grin, crystalline eyes sparkling-
“Whoa,” said Fancy, stepping back. D’avin placed a placating hand in between his shoulderblades, sliding his hand higher to rub his thumb over the nape of his neck, through the fabric of his thick, woolen black coat. Fancy turned his head to look at him.
“I think I’m starting to see things,” D’av said.
“Like Johnny,” D’avin said.
“Your brother? The one you haven’t seen in almost nine years?”
“That one. With Hullen green. It rippled like this. It felt so… it felt so real. Like it was a memory .” D’avin let his rifle hang by its strap over his shoulder so that he could scrub his hand across his face with a frustrated grunt. “Maybe I took a few too many knocks to the head in that street brawl. Or maybe it’s the hokk. Yeah, definitely the hokk.”
“That’s your shitty bottom-shelf hokk, that couldn’t even get a ten year old drunk,” Fancy insisted. He grabbed at D’avin’s hand, slowly turning to face him. His other hand circled around D’avin’s other wrist, and he held both of his hands in front of his face, kissed his palms through his leather gloves. “D’av,” he said, low and serious, “think. What else do you remember.” D’avin closed his eyes and stretched his mind out.
Your fleet , says the emerald-dress girl from Old Town, lips curled up in the smile. We ex-Hullen can fly the Black Root ships says Fancy, arms folded across his chest and gaze guarded. It pains D’avin, makes his heart clench because he feels it. Fancy doesn’t trust him. What did he do to hurt Fancy? How does he fix it? The emerald-dress girl in red. She lifts a hand. The surface ripples. She steps inside .
“It’s for Yala,” D’avin says suddenly, eyes snapping open, “I don’t know who she is, or what it means but- but it’s for her. The girl from the Royale.”
“Yardeen?” Fancy asks, flicking his eyes toward the cube, “what does she have to do with this?”
“I don’t know ,” D’avin gritted out from beyond his teeth, “and fuck am I getting sick of saying that. I just- I just saw it. It was her, I know it was her. But there were other things too that I didn’t understand. You were there, something about being ex-Hullen and being able to fly Black Root ships, whatever those were. Apparently they belonged to me and also you hated me, and that sucked --”
“D’av,” Fancy’s hands squeezed around his wrists, dragging D’avin’s attention to him, “you’re going to have a panic attack again. Breathe.” D’avin sucked in a huge breath. “Good. Something really strange is happening, but we have to keep a level head if we’re going to figure it out. You have me here with you. I don’t hate you. I could never hate you.”
“Okay, that’s a lie, you hated me a pretty decent amount for at least the first four years I knew you. And on that first night, in East Bank.”
“You’re never going to shut up about East Bank, are you?”
“You looked so pretty in my shirt,” D’avin chuckled as Fancy punched his chest, rubbing the spot tenderly as his shoulders relaxed. He still didn’t quite understand the visions, but Fancy was right. They needed to keep a level head. Jaq was still out there, and there was still this whole Yardeen from the Royale issue to solve. Fancy let his other hand slide lower and lace loosely with D’avin’s, as he turned to look at the box.
“How did Yala get into the box when you saw her?”
“She just… walked into it,” he gestured vaguely with his free hand, “I’m not sure if it’ll work for us. I got the impression it was… hers, somehow, like it was tied to her. I don’t think we’re meant to be here at all.”
“Well, there’s only one way to find out,” Fancy performed a sweeping bow, “morons first.”
“Short man, short straw,” D’avin nudged Fancy forward. Fancy glowered at him, and yanked his hand away, causing D’avin to laugh lightly as he took a few cautious steps after Fancy. He drew up close to the cube, evaluating it, before he lifted a hand to it again. The surface rippled, like a pond with a stone dropped into it, as Fancy reached forward and pushed his hand into it.
“You’re right,” he said, “I feel like this shouldn’t be working.”
Nonetheless, he and D’avin stepped inside the strange cube, and found themselves in a room. The room had a stone podium in the middle of it, and shelves lining most of the walls, containing various knicknacks.
“Is that a dreadnaught?” D’avin asked, nodding toward it. Fancy moved closer, picking it up and turning it over in his hands.
“Damn, I didn’t think I’d ever see one in the flesh like this. What is it doing here?”
“Apparently someone didn’t get the memo about them being outlawed,” D’avin muttered, feeling a prickling feeling trace his spine again. He hunched his shoulders. “What does the Bloodhound say about Jaq being here?” Fancy dragged the device out of his coat, evaluated the light.
“More recent than the tracks outside. Hold on, strong signal from… here.” Fancy moved across to a velveteen red box. It really was quite beautiful, the edges lined with a smooth black wood, gold hinges, and a matching filigree on the buckle. D’avin stepped close to Fancy, and the pair exchanged a look. Fancy opened the box. Settled in the velveteen was a slip of paper, written in the handwriting of a child. A string of numbers, and a name.
THE LADY .
“I’m getting really tired of having to ask every single person in the Quad is,” D’avin said, with a sigh. Fancy nodded, humming his distinctive hum again.
“Yeah, but the signal is stronger than anywhere else, so one of us is going to have to ask it.”
“Who’s The Lady?”
“Well, D’avin, I just have no fucking clue.” Fancy snickered as D’avin shouldered his back, before he closed the box and tucked it under his arm. “I think he wrote the note, and those are coordinates. We should get them back to Lucy, before Yala shows up or something.”
“Do you think Yala is The Lady?”
“No, no I do not.”
“Maybe it’s her PDD number.”
“D’avin,” Fancy stopped, two steps into the snow outside. He turned, placed a hand on D’av’s cheek and stretched up to kiss his lips, “you’re really sexy, but if you say something that dumb again I’m going to develop too much self-respect to keep sleeping with you.”
D’avin shut up the whole way back to Lucy.
Lucy’s scan of the box didn’t turn up much of interest, neither did any scans relative to ‘The Lady’. Mostly, the latter search turned up dominatrix porn, which D’avin and Fancy were both thoroughly disinterested in. Even the coordinates seemed a little off, as they weren’t coordinates for Qresh, or Leith, or Westerly, or even Arkyn. They were just in space. There was nothing nearby.
“Lucy, are we sure this is right?”
“Yes, D’avin. According to my coordinates that you gave me, this is an approximate representation of the exact point indicated and the surrounding area. Is there any reason you thought it might be wrong?”
“Sorry, Luce,” D’avin said, holding his hands up in surrender, “this mission has just been weirding me out. Guess coordinates to the middle of nowhere shouldn’t be that weird. Set a course, okay?”
“Of course D’avin. I’ll let you know when we are close.” D’avin turned to see Fancy smiling at him, lips curled upwards in a smug little grin. He didn’t right himself as he was caught, instead, he cocked his head more to the side with a light chuckle.
“Your AI has you by the balls.” D’avin gave him the finger.
The trip was a long one, and after two glasses of hokk that Fancy would actually drink, exhaustion hit D’avin like a train. Fancy helped him stumble into his room and kick off his shoes. He helped him out of his clothes, tucked him beneath the covers, and then crawled in next to him after he’d stripped down to just his underwear. D’avin yawned, keeping his arms outstretched for Fancy to settle down. Fancy chose to rest his back against D’avin’s chest, pulling at D’avin’s far arm to drag it over his side. D’av shifted, dragging Fancy closer against him and burying his nose against his hair.
“You okay, after everything today?”
“Why wouldn’t I be?”
“Been a weird day,” Fancy said, fingers tracing over D’avin’s forearms. In the dim light of D’avin’s bunk, he could vaguely make out that he was biting his lip. “I know we dance around it a lot but… you are my friend. And you… mean a lot to me. I just wanted to make sure you were doing alright.”
“Fancy,” D’avin said with a small smile, “the sentimentality is going to make me cry.” Fancy slammed the meaty part of his fist against D’av’s thigh.
“Asshole,” he muttered, as D’avin chuckled and pulled him closer. He used his nose to nudge Fancy’s hair out of the way, so that he could press a kiss to his neck.
“Thank you,” he said gently, “I’m glad you care.”
“Of course I do,” Fancy whispered. He was silent after that, so D’avin settled in again, curled protectively around Fancy like a blanket. As sleep finally took over, and cleared the haze from his head, a treacherous part of his brain dedicated to wishful thinking imagined that he heard Fancy whisper ‘I love you’.
Lucy gave D’avin the alert the next ‘morning’. Time in deep space was a little more abstract than that, but D’avin’s alarm clock, still set to Old Town time, told him that he and Fancy had slept for roughly six hours, and that would be more than enough for both of them, considering D’avin ran mostly on two or three, and Fancy usually on less. They didn’t have much to do, so Fancy bit D’avin’s shoulder when he tried to rouse him, and D’avin let him be, face down in D’avin’s pillows, to have some beauty sleep.
D’avin was sat on the couch stationed against the far wall on the bridge when Lucy told him that they were approaching their destination. D’avin took another sip of his coffee, placing his tablet to the side as he stood and wandered closer to the windshield to look out at what they were approaching. In the far distance, there appeared to be some sort of space station. A smooth motion near his hand had him jumping.
He pouted at Fancy as the man took a sip of his pilfered coffee, but all genuine anger dissipated upon seeing him. His hair was tied in a messy bun, and he was wearing one of D’avin’s shirts, his underwear from last night, and nothing else. He glanced at D’avin, and then back out the windshield again.
“What do you think?”
“I think you look really good in my shirt.”
“I am focused,” he cleared his throat, “Lucy, keep us out of sight for now. I don’t like the idea of approaching an unfamiliar station, could be hostile. See if you can pick up on any kind of beacon, or signal, a transmission coming from the station. Fancy and I will suit up.”
“Understood. Let me know when you’re ready to make a full approach, D’avin.”
The Killjoy pair wandered back to D’avin’s berth for a fresh change of clothes. They dressed in silence, and then headed downstairs to the cargo bay to pick out weapons. D’avin and Fancy squabbled over who got to use the gun with the enhanced X49 Plasma rounds, but eventually Fancy yanked it free of D’avin’s hand and tucked it into a holster at the small of his back, underneath his coat, and that was the end of that argument. They returned to the bridge, kitted properly, and stared out at the space station.
“I am not receiving any kind of transmission, D’avin. I cannot read the station for planet of origin, or affiliation.”
“I thought as much. It doesn’t matter, though. Make our approach, Lucy.”
Fancy and D’avin stayed on the bridge as Lucy cruised closer to the space station. No transmission, no docking message, no nothing. Even after Lucy had settled herself into a berth, neither of them moved. Finally, after a long moment, D’avin turned for the stairs to the cargo hold. Fancy was no more than half a pace behind them.
“Okay Lucy,” D’avin said, “you can drop the cargo hold door. Once we’re out, enhanced security measures until we get back. Fancy… eyes on. This is almost definitely a trap.”
“Wait,” Fancy grabbed his wrist, “D’avin. If we don’t-”
“We will,” D’avin slid his hand down further to lace his fingers with Fancy’s and squeeze, “open up, Lucy.” There was a hesitant pause, before the door began to drop.
“Come home safe, D’avin,” she said. D’avin didn’t bother to repeat his assurance. Fancy had heard. Lucy had heard. They were too important for him to die today. He would come home safe, they both knew this of him. There was no need for him to say it again.
D’avin and Fancy exited Lucy with guns drawn. D’avin took point, sweeping the docking back with his rifle as Fancy crept along behind him, blaster poised and ready. The entire room was empty, the other berths showing no signs of life. A symbol on the wall caught D’avin’s eye.
“Fancy,” he said. Fancy turned, sucked in a breath.
“A RAC base?” D’avin and Fancy swung at the same time, levelling their guns at Jaq Kin Rit. The boy smiled. “It is. Your RAC base, Dad. Don’t you remember?”
I swore I wouldn’t cry, Johnny says, grinning at him like he hung the stars in the sky. Titanium stitches, he says; annoyed, and D’avin feels guilt clench his stomach as he lifts his shirt to reveal them. A red haired man jabs an electric rod against his thigh and he screams through gritted teeth, feeling his blood boil. D’avin wants to hurt him. He wants to, but he can’t, because he has to protect Johnny and Dutch -
D’avin stumbled backward from the force of the memory. He did remember.
“D’avin?” Fancy’s voice was far away, like he was underwater and Fancy was standing at the precipice of a cliff far above the crashing waves. “D’avin, why is Jaq Kin Rit calling you Dad ?”
“Yes,” he said, and Fancy took a step back. D’avin put a hand on his shoulder.
“Fancy. I remember. Do you?” Fancy’s eyes widened, and he too stumbled, hard enough to send him clattering to the floor, and D’avin after him. He wasn’t really sure why, as he slid to the floor beside him, dragging him half-upright into his arms. Jaq watched them, quietly, not saying a word.
Jaq. His son. Aneela’s son, and somehow his at the same time. Aneela, who was the good wolf and the bad wolf all at once, and Yala, who was the same good wolf and the same bad wolf and his - his Duchess, his Dutch. He was in love with Dutch. Not with Fancy. And Johnny, his little brother, who Aneela called Johnny Favourite. The Green. The Lady.
And Fancy did too, if the way his eyes were downcast meant anything. He wrenched himself away from D’avin, stumbling to his feet. D’avin rose after him, throwing his gun down and surging forward to envelop Jaq in a tight hug. Jaq let out a breathy laugh, wrapped his arms around him and buried his small fingers in D’avin’s jacket.
“I knew you’d remember,” he said, breathlessly, “you promised me you’d never forget.”
“I know,” D’avin said, “and I didn’t. I’m here.”
“She’s out,” Jaq said, “the Lady is out. She’s trying to get you to bring me to her.”
“I know,” D’avin said, cradling Jaq tighter, “I know.”
“You have to go now, Dad, Fancy,” Jaq tilted his head then, his expression sad, “I’m sorry that she used this against you. You didn’t deserve it, not after how you helped my Dad, and Uncle Johnny, and Aunty Dutch. I hope that when you go back, you find the happiness you seek.”
D’avin’s eyes raised to meet Fancy’s. Fancy held his gaze for a mere second, and then he looked away. D’avin understood then, suddenly. The Green was a big memory, and The Lady was made of memories. Memories included the fantasies, the things you dreamed about, as well as the things you feared. Dutch and Johnny was a fear, a fear of the mundane, a fear of a life where they did not mean so much to each other. But Fancy… this alternate reality had been a fantasy.
“You felt this?” He said, stepping away from Jaq. Fancy refused to look at him. “Fancy.”
“It’s okay,” he said, “I always knew you’d choose her.” D’avin paused, hesitated. Then he reached out, cupped Fancy’s face in his hands, and dragged him in for a kiss. Fancy’s hands found his own, squeezing tightly as D’avin poured a goodbye from his lips to Fancy’s own.
“I’m sorry,” he whispered, “in another world, another life, another time, we’re happy, I know it. I was happy, being with you in this dream. I was going to tell you I loved you.” Fancy let out a choked laugh.
“Don’t tell me that, or I’ll want to stay here,” he said, with a smile that didn’t quite reach his eyes, “but we have to go back now, don’t we? To find Jaq, and to stop The Lady.”
“Yes,” D’avin said, biting his lip, “I love you… but I love my son more. He needs me more.”
“I know,” Fancy’s hand reached across to gently wipe away a tear that had gathered on D’avin’s lower lashes, “that’s why I love you.” He pressed a kiss to the inside of D’avin’s wrist, before he stepped back, and took a deep breath, looking at Jaq.
“How do we get out? She must know we know by now.”
“She knows,” Jaq said, “she wants you to stay. You have to get out before she figures out how to trap you again.”
“How?” D’avin asked again, furrowing his brow. Jaq shrugged.
“How did you get out last time?”
D’avin paused, looked at Fancy. Fancy stepped closer, taking D’avin’s hands in his, and squeezed them. D’avin nodded, turned, and looked at Jaq with a reassuring smile.
“I’ll see you soon, okay? Be strong.” Jaq nodded, smiling back. D’avin closed his eyes, and cast his mind out.
The thing, on the table in Lucy. My mother, Dutch says, our mother. Mine and Aneela’s. I can’t kill her. I must save her. Dutch closes her eyes. Her hair is so strange blonde, so strange but so pretty. Her hands are empty. And then they are not. His hands are empty.
And then they are not.
D’avin was holding the spore, and Fancy looked at him as if he had hung the stars in the sky. D’avin stumbled, feeling the ground of the ship start to shake. He turned to look at Jaq, brow creasing. His son’s eyes said to hurry. He turned back to Fancy, evaluating his face. Fancy would not hold this against him, but still it hurt to leave. He hoped that somehow, his thoughts would reach him: in another time, another place, he would have loved Fancy with all his heart. As it was, they were like the moon and the sun: they dance around each other, but they would never meet to make their eclipse.
D’avin closed his eyes, and smashed the spore against the ground. The world went blindingly white.
He woke up on the floor.
“What the fuck was that?” Johnny groaned, from somewhere to D’avin’s right. Dutch was crouched near the pool of green, now just water, cradling a trembling Aneela in her arms, hair streaked blonde as she clutched at Dutch’s forearms, soaking her red leather jacket.
“Was I married… to Dutch ?” Johnny asked, forcing himself to sit up, “D’av, what were you even doing ? How were you still a Killjoy?”
There were boots from down the hall. Turin hit the room first, disbelief smacked across his features. Fancy was just steps behind him, eyes wide. From across the room, his gaze met D’avin’s. A flicker of acknowledgement passed behind his eyes, but it was gone as Aneela spoke, voice small and meek.
“It’s the lady,” she whispered, so quietly D’avin almost missed it, “she’s out.”