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Anwyn

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“If I have to see the inside of one more bar I’m gonna throw up, hoss.”

Holden laughed weakly. “You know what, Alex, I don’t think it’s the interior of them that’s making you sick.”

“Yeah, real funny.”

The crew was staggering their way down one of many of Tycho station’s corridors. Every single one of them doing their best to stay upright. Even Naomi, who usually was the best at holding her liquor – somehow – was leaning heavily on Amos, as much good as it did her with him slanting dangerously to the side.

“I’m serious though, cap,” Alex managed to bring out. “I want off this rock. There’s jack-all to do here.”

“You had fun tonight, didn’t you?” Amos piped up. “Don’t know what you’re complaining about. Cheap enough booze, and the crowd looks better here than it does on Ceres.”

Alex rolled his eyes. “I don’t really care so much for that as you do, pal,” he pointed out. Sure, he used to flirt heavily whenever they frequented the local watering holes, but ever since the whole debacle with the protomolecule, the crew saving humanity a couple of times and Alex calling his family, his heart had just not really been in it. That kind of stuff gave you a new perspective, and sure, his wife might have filed for a divorce, but he still felt a little too heavy-hearted to just go around and pick up women. Especially when they took one look at his Inner-set body and spat at his feet.

Yeah, Alex’s sex life had not been ideal of late. Not for a while, actually. But how could he explain that to the others? They would just tell him it would do him good. Or Amos would, anyway. Holden might clap him on the shoulder, do the whole empathy thing, being a gentleman and all that. Naomi might give him a look of pity. And Christ, he did not deserve pity.

But they’d been moored at Tycho station for a while now. The Roci was undergoing some serious repairs after their last endeavour, and now that the universe didn’t need as much saving as it used to, they didn’t have the same priority they used to. Being stuck in one place for so long, especially a place that was not as sympathetic to them as it used to, was giving Alex some serious cabin fever. He needed to do something, feel something, something more than just the cheap thrill of an alcohol buzz or meaningless sex. Alex wanted to have fun.

“Hey, hey Alex, I think I may have an idea,” came the ominous words from Amos’ mouth.

“I’m not joining you into another brothel again.”

“Nah, brother, I’ve learned my lesson from that.”

“We’re not hitting up the gambling corner either.”

“If you can take two seconds to look up from where you put your feet, you know where I’m fucking taking you, dumbass.”

Alex looked up at that, furious reply ready on his lips, but Amos’ eyes were shining with mirth, which was perhaps even more ominous. He realised the guy was leading them toward the docks.

“Amos, we can’t go to the Roci,” Holden reminded him, and Alex felt a twinge of mourning at hearing their captain say it out loud. “It’s one giant leaking mess with a compromised reactor core.”

“One more week,” Naomi muttered soothingly in Alex’s ear. Of course she got it, she was good like that. But Amos was undeterred, steaming ahead with only a slight wobble to his step. Alex tried his best to keep up, but even with his skewed inner ears, the seeming tilt of the floor beneath him was starting to become a serious obstacle.

“So what’s your plan then, genius?” he called out, trying to get Amos to realise the rest of them were starting to fall behind. But Amos just turned around and grinned, making Alex’s stomach flip nervously. He watched the engineer walk up to the dockmaster, who pointed him in the direction of one of the ships.

“Amos, hold up!” Naomi called out, but Amos just gestured for them to follow.

“Trust me guys, it’ll be fun,” he replied with a drawl that was emphasised by his drunk state. Alex raised his eyebrows to Naomi and Holden.

“You guys trust this?” he asked them. Holden opened his mouth, but Naomi was ahead of him.

“He seems pretty positive about this one… Can we just give him the benefit of the doubt? He’s been trying so hard.”

Holden groaned. “If this ends up biting us in the ass, I’m returning you to Drummer and I’m asking for a refund.”

He received a well-earned elbow in the ribs for that, but Alex had to agree with Naomi. Amos had been working hard to be better, and had even seemed to develop some sort of understanding of what his crew considered right and wrong without checking with them as much these days. What could possibly go wrong?

As they approached Amos, who had now started talking to another crew member in rock hopper overalls, they could overhear their conversation.

“…sure thing, mate. Those your friends? All four of you heading to Anwyn?” His accent was odd, bouncy and with heavy rolling r’s, but still laced with a hint of Belter creole. “I won’t have to expect any trouble, will I?”

Amos grinned and shook his head. “Just looking for a good time. Rates haven’t increased over the past few years, have they?”

“What do you take us for, opportunists?” the man replied, his hand on his heart. “Anwyn does not increase her rates, in peace nor war.”

“He said we weren’t heading for a brothel, didn’t he?” Alex muttered. “You hear of Anwyn, Naomi?” But she shook her head.

They watched Amos transfer the scrip, and before they fully realised what was happening in their drunken haze, the crew of the Rocinante was ushered into the hull of what looked like a straightforward cargo ship.

“Last call for Anwyn!” they heard behind them. Inside they found a few more people, some looking excited, others looking equally bemused as to how they had ended up here. To Alex’s relief, he spotted a couple of children as well. Not a brothel then. Even Amos had a better moral compass than that.

“Well come on, get strapped in,” the engineer told them. The hull had been modified to allow for passengers, Alex then noticed. Folding seats lined the walls, and they were even equipped with lines to inject juice when needed.

“Amos, you’re gonna have to explain at some point,” he told his friend. Amos laughed.

“Damn, I keep forgetting sometimes that you’ve not properly lived out here,” he replied. “Anwyn station is the closest thing the Belt has to clean, family-friendly tourism.”

Okay. That would explain the kids. But it didn’t quite explain why they weren’t on a traditional inter-station barge rather but were instead strapping themselves into sturdy but improvised passenger seats in a cargo bay of a transport vessel. On his left though, Naomi’s eyes lit up.

“Jim! Jim, I remember!” She tugged a little too excitedly on Holden’s arm, making both of them sway a little. “Damn, it’s been so long! I think I went to Anwyn when I was… Oh my god, I don’t even know, three? Amos, how did you…”

“Got good memories from Anwyn,” Amos replied with a shrug. “It’s small and niche, but that’s what makes it nice, you know? Beats the Rosse Buurt on Ceres, and that’s saying something.”

The mother across from them covered her son’s ears upon hearing that, but Amos just laughed and winked at her.

“Can anyone tell me what the hell it is that’s waiting for us?” Holden piped up, for which Alex silently thanked him. This time it was Naomi who spoke again.

“It’s a small station,” she told them. “It was claimed by the Celtic Corner back on Earth, I believe, because some guy from Scotland was the one to discover it. They all just banded up and united forces in an attempt to avoid colonial suppression. Carved out their own little paradise, as far as you can in the Belt.”

“Celtic Corner?” Alex asked.

“Scotland, Ireland and Northern-Ireland, the Northern and Western Isles, and Wales,” Holden explained. Of course he’d know – Earth geography.

“That’s the one,” Amos nodded. “You know Ganymede gin? These guys can beat that. They’ve got a unique trade route monopoly thing with Ganymede and Earth alike, getting their water and grain from both places, and they make whisky with it. Like, proper whisky.”

“That’s right, my friend!” The crewmember who had been waiting for stragglers now joined them inside. “Of course, with my Welsh blood I don’t have the same expertise as the others, so I’m naturally not allowed near the stuff.” He winked at the family across from Alex as well, and the mother seemed a little more reciprocal to him than to Amos. “But I do get to keep an eye on the brewing vats and their stability while we’re travelling,” he explained as he strapped himself in as well. “And I get to taste the finished product, of course.”

When he was strapped in properly and made sure everyone else was too, he pressed a button beside his chair. “Ready to go, cap!”

Alex felt a shiver go through him as the engine of the ship woke up and the floor beneath them vibrated. They were going to fly! Sure, it wasn’t the Roci and it probably wouldn’t be the smoothest ride out there, but goddamn he’d missed being in space, feeling the artificial Gs as they burned through the vastness.

When the docking clamps finally released with a clunk, Alex couldn’t help but grin madly. A couple of seats down, Amos beamed at him. Goddamn overgrown puppy sometimes. A mad dog at other times, but right now, Alex could kiss him on the mouth.

It was over a day’s flying, back out towards Ganymede. They only had to be strapped in for the first half hour or so as the ship gathered the appropriate speeds and settled. After that, the passengers were free to walk around the ship.

There were in fact gigantic metal processing apparatuses and brewing vats on board, where apparently the process of the whisky-making started. Amos and Holden happily tried a sample, but Alex and Naomi both decided they’d be in a better state to appreciate the substance when sober and fully aware of their senses.

“Hey, you said you went there, right?” he asked her as they watched Holden talk animatedly with their new Welsh friend. “What do you remember of it?”

Naomi’s face scrunched up a little as she thought. “Music,” she answered eventually. “And dancing. I think. And a lot of green. Not much else, if I’m honest. Just that I loved it.” She smiled absentmindedly.

“So you trust Amos on this?”

“Absolutely.”

They went to sleep not long after, having left Tycho late at night, and had breakfast with the other passengers the next morning. The kids were running around in circles excitedly while Holden and Naomi talked to some of the parents. Alex was just glad to have caffeine, even if it was tea rather than coffee.

As he waited for the energy to burst through his hangover, he watched Amos. The engineer showed little sign of his own hangover, instead watching the kids run around them in circles with an expression close to fondness. That was new. Maybe he was reliving his own memories of the station they were headed for.

Alex was fascinated by Amos’ excitement. The crew, apart from Naomi perhaps, still knew little of Amos’ background. They were certain of one thing though – it wasn’t pleasant. To see Amos relive any positive memories was a welcome change, softening the big brute of a man to something closer to an overgrown, rough teddy bear. He seemed more human, somehow, hugging his own mug of tea as he watched the kids with dark circles under his eyes, smiling through his exhaustion. Alex’s heart skipped a beat. Though he felt ecstatic to be on a ship again, he couldn’t wait to arrive at their destination. He had to see more of this fascinating new side to his crewmate.

~oO0OoO0OoO0Oo~

The Anwyn docks reminded Alex a little of Tycho in their modernity and relatively good upkeep, but other than that they were a different beast altogether. There were almost no OPA tattoos to be seen, but it wasn’t for a lack of people. The docks were bustling with activity; giant tubes sluiced away the liquid from some ships while vats and crates were rolled onto others. People were shouting, calling out prices and destinations in a rich array of what had to be different Celtic-originating accents. Families – families! – were walking along the shipyard, laughing and chatting and happy. There were rarely any families on Tycho, and the ones he saw on places like Ceres looked a lot shabbier most of the time, not to mention incomplete. Alex spotted one couple that swung their child between them, up higher and higher as the child squealed with joy, and he felt a pang of longing for his own son.

Naomi on the other hand was ecstatic. Her happy childhood memories seemed to flood back to her, and she laughed as she pointed out the paintings decorating the dockyard’s walls. There were dragons, fields and mountains, knights and fairies. Some ships had some less child-friendly decals, but that was only to be expected. She’d been right. There was a lot of green around the place.

If there was one thing Alex could conclude from his surroundings, it was that they did not seem like Amos’ regular hangout. At all.

They did however feel more up Alex’s street.

They followed the Welsh man from their ship for a bit as he directed them towards a good little inn, as he called it, where they could stay the night if they wanted. Alex grinned. He wasn’t about to say no to the prospect of a more prolonged stay on Anwyn.

“Son of a bitch – Amos?!”

They were stopped in their tracks by a woman’s voice, and Alex closed his eyes in defeat. Someone who recognised Amos did not feel like a good sign. The brute was good at making enemies all over the Belt. Of course someone would know him here, it was a given. He just hoped it wouldn’t ruin the trip.

“Fuck me… auntie Gwen?”

Alex’s eyes snapped open as he swirled around. A crowd of men roared in laughter, slapping a slightly older woman with sun-kissed skin and dirty blond hair on the shoulder, a chorus of “auntie, eh!” going around. The woman simply grinned and opened her arms.

“Amos fucking Burton.” And to the crew’s utter bafflement, Amos laughed and threw himself into her arms, hugging her tightly.

Auntie Gwen? Alex mouthed to Naomi, who shook her head. No clue, she mouthed back. Holden’s mouth simply hung open.

“Goddamn! You’ve grown real big, haven’t you?” the woman spoke, squeezing Amos’ biceps. She wasn’t old enough to be his mother, perhaps less than a decade between them. They seemed well-acquainted, though, sharing a feeling of intimacy Alex hadn’t even seen between Amos and Naomi. This trip into Amos’ past was getting more bizarre by the minute.

“Guys, come meet Gwen,” the engineer called out. “She looked out for me when I was little, back when I lived in Baltimore.”

“She try to keep you out of those bars you grew up in?” Naomi teased, reaching out to shake the woman’s hand.

“You think I was capable of that?” Gwen laughed. “I sadly had bigger fish to fry, but even if I hadn’t, you can’t put a leash on this one.” She elbowed Amos, and he smirked. There was something about the look though that punched Alex straight in the gut, and he swallowed.

“You here on business?” Amos asked Gwen, and she nodded.

“Sure am, kiddo. Headed straight for the Belt after leaving Baltimore.” Something sad crept into her eyes then. “I should’ve checked back on you sooner. You were gone by the time I returned.” She placed a gentle hand on his cheek, and he closed his eyes. “You been keeping my advice?”

“Not as often as I should,” Amos replied, earnest as always. “Didn’t always manage well after you left.”

“Hey,” Holden piped up, finally seeming to be shaken from his confused state, “we’re staying down in the Kerry district I think, if you wanna join us for a drink tonight?”

Alex narrowed his eyes at that. He wasn’t sure how to feel about this Gwen. She seemed alright, and it was clear she cared about Amos, but it just felt strange, seeing him happy with some strange woman from outside their dysfunctional little family. On the other hand, it would give him the chance to watch this strange version of Amos more. It wasn’t every day he got to see the guy smile about something that wasn’t sex-, booze- or violence-related. It was… nice. Weird, but nice.

Gwen lit up at the captain’s suggestion. “I’d be delighted,” she answered. “Any friend’s of Amos is a friend of mine – that is, you have been keeping the right company, haven’t you?” She gave Amos a look, but he broke out into another grin.

“Sure have.” Alex expected for him to grab Naomi, but instead he felt a muscular arm pull him in and wrap around his shoulders, squeezing him tightly against Amos’ side. He felt himself turn red, but straightened his back a little with pride. That’s right. He was Amos’ friend, and good company.

“Pleasure to meet you, ma’am,” he drawled, trying to put on his most winning smile. Gwen just laughed.

“And you. Though I suspect I’ll get to know you all a lot more intimately tonight. Anwyn doesn’t fuck about with its alcohol.” She winked, and Amos laughed, giving Alex a squeeze.

“No it does not.”

They parted after that, managing to find their Welsh friend to let themselves be guided to the smallest hotel Alex had ever come across. It came with a pub though, painted in warm colours of dark wood and mossy green, so he wasn’t gonna complain. The crew was given two rooms, one with a double bed for Holden and Naomi and one with two twins for Alex and Amos. They dropped off their stuff and headed back out into the station’s district, trying to find one of its many markets or storytelling centres.

As they made their way out, Amos clapped Alex and Holden on the back. “You guys go ahead and see the sights,” he told them with a glint in his eye. “I’ll meet you guys back at the inn, yeah?” and with that, he was off.

Alex frowned. “Any idea what that was about?”

The others shook their heads. “I’m just glad he’s in a good mood,” Holden admitted. “We’ve all been going a bit loopy over at Tycho. This’ll do us good. Hell, it’s already doing me good.”

“Yeah, but surely you must find some of this weird?” Alex asked Naomi. “I mean, you know the guy better than we do. Where the hell do you think all this came from? And who the hell is ‘auntie’ Gwen?”

Naomi shook her head. “Hey, I might know the guy pretty well, but I don’t go digging, and Amos doesn’t share unless he wants to. You heard the woman, she hasn’t seen him since she up and left, back when he was still a kid in Baltimore. I’m surprised he was even glad to see her.”

“I wonder if he thought she was dead,” Alex mused.

“Well, it’s none of our business, in any case,” Holden piped up. “I guess we’ll learn more tonight. Can we shut up about Amos’ depressing childhood now? I wanna know what the hell a kelpie is. I’ve seen like three shops named after it so far.”

They visited two markets and a story-telling centre that day. Naomi loved the market, picking up and playing with all kinds of trinkets, but Holden and Alex both fell in love with the story-telling centre. It had been a Scottish-Irish one, combining some of their ancient legends the two old countries had in common as well as telling some unique ones. Tales of kelpies, giants and changelings still echoed in Alex’s ears as they walked back to the inn. The rolling hills painted on the station’s metal walls seemed to come to life now; a sense of myth and magic starting to permeate the corridors. His son would love this place. Any child would. How could they not?

They found Amos at the inn, a few large bags by his feet as he was talking animatedly to the barman.

“You’ve gone… shopping,” Naomi stated incredulously. Amos whirled around, his bushy beard emphasising his happy grin.

“Yeah! Well, sort of. They’re rentals.”

“Them being…?” Holden asked, but Amos shook his head.

“Ain’t gonna tell you yet, cap,” he replied. “I’ll show you tonight.”

“You really have plans, don’t you?” Alex realised.

“Yeah, are you kidding? You guys all looked miserable on Tycho. We needed a change of scenery, and I thought, ‘you know what, I bet Alex has never seen something like Anwyn.”

“What about me?” Holden asked.

“I mean, you’re actually from Earth,” Amos pointed out. “And Naomi grew up in the Belt, so I assumed she might’ve visited. I mean, it’s cheap to get here and cheap to stay here, so the upstanding citizens of the Belt tend to love it.”

Naomi was trying to hold back laughter, Alex could tell. But he himself felt flattered. “You wanted me specifically to experience this?”

Amos shrugged. “Well, you ain’t the brothel type. Then I remembered you got a kid, and I thought, you know, Anwyn has always been popular with the parents.”

Alex smiled. Amos actually thought of him. He strode over and pulled the engineer into a strong hug.

“You’re a fucking gem sometimes, you know that partner?”

Amos froze for a second before hugging back tightly, making Alex’s ribs protest a little. “Glad you’re liking it, brother,” he replied into Alex’s shoulder, and just for a second, the moment felt surprisingly intimate. Alex cleared his throat.

“Well, um, let us know when your auntie’s planning on being here, I’d like to grab a shower. Anwyn’s got water supply, right?”

Amos laughed at that, letting the pilot go. “Most of their water goes to the whisky production,” he admitted, “but the showers don’t suffer too bad for it. We’re around the corner from Ganymede, you know. It ain’t Ceres.”

~oO0OoO0OoO0Oo~

“So, Gwen, what’s the business you’re here for?” They were sitting in one of the booths, all of them on their second drinks: a pint of Guinness that Holden hated, Alex was uncertain about and Amos and Naomi loved. Gwen, who had been wise enough to go for a Welsh cider instead, laughed boisterously, a flush already creeping into her cheeks.

“You’re gonna have to feed them more drink before I can answer that,” she told Amos, who laughed.

“She trains sex workers,” he told them.

The table fell silent.

“Right, I see your sense of tact hasn’t improved,” Gwen chuckled, seeing the disapproval in everyone’s eyes. “I’m more like a life coach.”

“To prostitutes,” Holden deadpanned.

“Oldest profession in the world,” Gwen retorted casually. “They’re always gonna be around, the least I can do is teach ‘em how to look after themselves in mind and body.”

“She also looks for better alternatives for them if she can,” Amos added helpfully. “She just wants what’s best for these kids.”

“Kids!?” Naomi exclaimed.

“Christ, no – well, yeah, there’s kids out there and I try to do what I can for them,” Gwen explained, elbowing Amos in the ribs, “but I don’t coach minors on how to please clients. I’m not a monster.”

“You did give me the talk though,” Amos reminded her, amusement in his voice. “Way back when, remember? That was a weird fucking day.”

“Well it was me or the rent boy down the corridor, and he could barely keep a woman’s holes apart,” Gwen laughed. “God, now he was a tough one to work with.”

Alex knocked back his beer.

“But what’s the benefit?” Naomi asked. “How is that even a working business model?”

“Brothel owners hire me sometimes,” Gwen replied with a shrug. “Other times, I scout out the talent on places like Ceres. Or Anwyn.” She gestured around her. “People who are stuck in that life and need guidance on how to survive it, how to climb out of the hole they’re in on the long term. Or I find people who are just really suited to this life, you know? High energy, love for pleasing people, or just for getting off, or finding the art in getting others off. It’s a wild fuckin’ universe out there, I tell you. I guide them. And we sign a contract stating I get five percent of their earnings, which is a stipend compared to some pimps out there. I don’t want to bleed ‘em dry, I want them to succeed.”

“And you earn good money off that?” Naomi scoffed.

“Sure do. I make sure my clients can be the best they can be, and maybe even enjoy themselves in some of the sadder cases. That alone increases their income. It’s like I say, an unwilling whore is dead inside. And no-”

“ – no-one wants to fuck a corpse,” Amos chimed in, clinking their glasses together. “I remember that.”

This time it was Holden and Naomi downing their drinks, Alex wishing he had another one. Gwen had been right. More alcohol was needed to survive this conversation.

“Christ,” he muttered, signalling one of the waitresses. “We’ll take four whisky’s,” he told her. She took one look at Gwen, then laughed and nodded, noting down the order.

“You’re known around these parts, then?” Holden muttered, noting the waitress’s reaction. Gwen’s eyes shone.

“I mean, I’ve cleaned up half the Rosse Buurt,” she admitted, taking a swig of her cider. “Cleaned up some of Anwyn’s streets too, made its brothels nice and happy.” She nodded to the waitress. “Trained her myself a few years back, and look at her. Made enough money to buy her way out. Still not made her way to the height of society, but she’s doin’ well. Doesn’t look broken, doesn’t look unhealthy. In fact, looks like she’s pretty happy to see me.”

Amos snorted. “Maybe it helps that you’re some kind of sex guru.”

The waitress, who had returned with her service platter full of drinks, burst into laughter, nearly spilling the liquid everywhere. Gwen winked at her.

“How’s it going, Tara?”

“Aye, can’t complain,” the waitress replied, desperately trying to pull herself together. “You?”

Gwen grinned. “You know me.”

Holden shook his head into his newly acquired drink, while Naomi was starting to snigger as well now. The mood was lightening, thankfully. Something was nagging Alex, though.

“So, you ever fuck him?”

This time it was Amos who broke, nearly choking on his whisky. “You kidding? She gave me pointers, that’s all. I was definitely too young back then.”

“God, that would’ve made the ‘auntie’ thing so much more awkward,” Naomi laughed.

“Can’t say it’s not appealing now though,” Gwen mused, and Holden turned just a little grey. The woman laughed. “’Auntie’ was a joke, even then,” she informed them. “We were never really like family. I just made sure he didn’t grow up all fucked up. Had to beat him off me, though.”

“Hey, you were like the hottest babysitter,” Amos pointed out. “And I was going into puberty. What do you expect?”

They chatted more, and as the whisky started to flow freely – which was mind-blowingly good, Alex had to admit – so did the stories. Gwen was given a treatment to the Roci’s greatest hits and how the crew became as close as they were now, and they managed to weasel some fantastic stories out of Gwen and Amos as well. Sex workers saw the wildest shit, it turned out.

“I shit you not, a full corn cob!” Amos cried. “None of it eaten. He just refused to take it out of his mouth. Didn’t talk or nothing. Just sucked on his cob.”

“Wouldn’t you these days?” Gwen pointed out. “Ain’t got no corn cobs on Ceres.”

“Not gonna lie, if I got my hands on rhubarb out here, I would treasure that stuff too,” Holden laughed.

“Rhubarb, really?” That was Naomi.

“I still think it was some weird oral fixation meeting a size kink,” Amos spoke. “I mean, you should’ve seen him when I stripped, that cob nearly dropped out of his mouth.”

Alex watched them all, feeling the heat of the alcohol spread through his limbs, a content buzz in his veins. He could stay here and drag up memories all night. Listen to Amos talk about his past for once. Even the stories of his days as a rent boy in the bars, which clashed so much with Alex’s mental image of the guy – he just didn’t seem like those Alex had seen on Ceres, seductive but not quite willing, subdued, wanting to please. These stories were starting to create a whole new image of the guy, though, and Alex was happy to listen all night.

Sadly, Amos seemed to have other plans.

“Hey Gwen, you wanna join us? I was gonna take the guys to a ceilidh.”

“A what now?” Holden asked, but Gwen’s eyes shone. “You’re treating me too well tonight, kiddo.”

“Yeah well, I’m just glad you ain’t dead.” That answered that question. “So what do you say?”

Gwen laughed and pecked Amos on the cheek, and to Alex’s bafflement, the guy actually blushed. He’d thought nothing could faze Amos. She seemed to be a childhood crush, though, which put all this in a very different light.

“Course I’m joining. I might nip over to my hotel to grab an outfit –”

“I got you one,” he replied, and the whole team, including Gwen, did a double-take. “Got all of you one. I had to guess some of your sizes, but I like to think I have a good eye.”

Before any of them could protest, Amos had dragged them out of their little booth. Alex quickly grabbed his glass and tossed back the dregs of his drink before being led up the stairs, back to their room. Amos tossed them all a piece of fabric; Gwen received a beautiful teal dress that seemed straight out of another century, with extra layers to fluff up the skirt a little and emphasise her curves. Naomi received a dress that, like Gwen’s, ended just below the knee, but was a burgundy red instead with a faint pattern sewn into the bodice, reminding Alex of some of the OPA’s tattoo patterns. It didn’t have the layers or volume, but flared up high when she did a quick spin for Holden.

Alex was given something looking semi-formal; not a tux, but still with some semblance of a suit. The trousers were deep black and almost skin-tight, while the shirt was nice and loose, if a little thin.

Amos and Holden had similar shirts, but when it came to the lower half…

“Amos, these are skirts.”

Holden kept up a chequered piece of cloth that looked like one of his plaid shirts, if sturdier. Amos had a matching chequered skirt, though its pattern was differently coloured.

“It’s a kilt, cap,” he told them earnestly as Naomi lay in stitches in the corner. “Traditional Scottish male clothing. From what I hear, they didn’t wear nothing underneath either.”

“Trust me,” Gwen told them mirthfully, “you’re gonna want swishy clothes at a ceilidh.”

Alex was just glad Amos hadn’t given him a skirt.

He joined Naomi at laughing himself to tears when seeing Holden in the damn thing, but when Amos came out of the bathroom wearing his, he faltered. Thick calves were emphasised by high socks, which would’ve looked silly on anyone but Amos. Goddamn, the amount of leg on display felt almost obscene after seeing the guy in a jumpsuit for most of the time. Which was ridiculous, since the kilt came down pretty low too, hiding most of Amos’ skin. The jumpsuits just seemed to hide most of his physical form usually.

They were given their shoes lastly; Amos and Holden had normal low ones, while Alex, Naomi and Gwen were given knee-high, heavy, tight boots.

“They planning on bringing in other folk music too?” Gwen asked as she did up the clasps. “These are better for stompin’. I’ve seen that shit in Eastern Europe, but it’s not exactly ceilidh material.”

Amos shrugged. “The guy in the shop recommended them,” he told her. “He said if there’s fiddle music, the boots are the popular choice. You just shouldn’t wear them under a kilt, it’ll look too dumb. Come on, we’re late already.”

When they stepped out into the streets again, Alex had expected for them to stand out like a sore thumb, but instead he found more people in evening outfits, getting ready for parties all over the station. Music was spilling from the pubs and inns, acoustic music. Alex couldn’t remember the last time he’d heard actual real live instruments being played in person.

Lights that were strung along and across the streets were lit up, giving the station a golden glow. With the alcohol buzzing in Alex’s veins, the magic was only heightened. He looked around at his fellow crewmembers and saw a childlike glow in Naomi’s eyes, a fierce longing – likely for Earth – in Holden’s, and clear-minded joy in Amos’. He smiled. A little paradise, Naomi had called it. She’d been right. He never imagined the Belt having places like this. Sure, the murals were painted on rusty walls, the bars were as sticky as anywhere, the ventilated air stale as shit and smelling vaguely of alcohol in most places, and even the clothes Amos had rented for them were threadbare, but goddamn. This place was… quaint.

They approached on one of the storytelling centres that advertised ‘mixed culture’, and Alex could already hear the noise from inside. Drum, guitar and fiddle, voices singing in a language unlike he’d ever heard, but above all the laughter and delight of a crowd dancing to the beat. He could feel the floor vibrate faintly under his boots, rhythmic dance steps echoing out into the night. He smiled. Dancing wasn’t something he’d ever been good at, but he’d never cared back when he still did it on Mars, with his wife. Though he remembered those moments fondly now, he found that he didn’t miss her so much as he did on Tycho. Instead, he felt a thrill at getting to dance with his new little family.

There was a man on the stage explaining the steps of each dance, and before long, the crew paired up and started moving.

It was confusing at first, but luckily they started slow to get into the swing of things. Once the guests seemed to have a grip on the rhythm and movements, the music started to speed up, and the party really started.

“Forward, forward, flip and switch!” he cried out along with the crowd, reminding himself of the steps as they went. “Backward, backward, flip and switch!” Naomi switched for Gwen, and he spun her around to the fiddle, her skirt flaring up. Goddamn, he could see what Amos saw in her. She oozed charisma, and she knew how to move.

“Link your elbows, spin ‘em round!”

“Clap, clap, stomp stomp stomp!”

“Down the line, guide the chain!”

“Faster, faster!”

He laughed, the world spinning around him at a dizzying pace. Naomi’s laughter sounded above the music as Holden fumbled his way through the steps, and he swore they’d tampered with the gravity a little as he lifted Gwen and nearly tossed her into the air. Amos was roaring along to the steps beside him, behind him, from across the room – the dances scattered the crew across the space and paired them up with strangers, but they never seemed to lose track of each other, always coming back together.

It was a good hour later that Alex was standing by the drinks table, another whisky in his hand – this one definitely beating the Ganymede gin with its rich, smoky undertones – desperately trying to catch his breath. He was glad for the thinness of his shirt now, sweat pouring down his back. But he swore, bar from rolling the Roci through a high-risk combat manoeuvre and coming out of a fight unscathed, he’d never felt this light.

Gwen joined beside him, her face and chest flushed. “Enjoying yourself?” she asked, smiling while he scanned the crowd for his friends.

“Having the time of my life,” he told her earnestly. He’d found Amos, and now he was watching as the engineer got spun by a bulky Belter woman, his kilt flaring up around his thighs. Goddamn.

Gwen laughed beside him. “I’ve noticed you staring,” she told him, and for a second, Alex’s heart stopped.

“Sorry,” he told her.

“Oh by all means,” she replied. “Can’t say I don’t agree with you.”

He frowned, turning to her, only to see she was looking in the same direction he’d been staring.

Oh.

“Wait, you got it all wrong –”

But Gwen just cackled. “Relax, handsome. Don’t break your pretty head over it. Just go out there and have fun.” She pushed him back into the crowd, taking his now empty glass from his hands as he was spun into another dance. He could feel her laugh follow him as he went.

The energy of the room swept him up again, but his mind was elsewhere. Staring, at Amos? Sure, the guy looked like a weapon personified, it was hard not to sometimes. He was just a lot. A bulking presence, full of contradictions. Alex liked to read him like he read the vectors and trajectories of the Roci, trying to predict which way the guy was gonna move. He had to. Amos was a loose cannon, keeping an eye on him was a given.

Except he felt feverish. The words echoed in his ears, and he remembered fitful nights of sleep after times Amos had gone on another near-massacre, “I could kiss you on the mouth”, “No shame in needing protection”, those days followed by half-forgotten dreams that had him waking up rutting into his mattress. He’d considered it excess energy, a left-over of an adrenaline rush and a desperate need to get laid for once. He still considered it that.

So how come his mouth watered at the sight of Amos’ biceps bulging as he swung another guy around?

And suddenly Amos was beside him, swinging a seemingly-having-come-out-of-nowhere Naomi. Holden had made his way back as well, and Alex found himself swinging the captain around as his new partner, the two laughing at the ridiculousness of it, filled with sheer joy. There was no protomolecule here, none of the Earther-Belter-Duster shit that stirred up the rest of the solar system like an angry hornet’s nest. Just music, drink and dancing.

And from across the room, he could see Gwen’s piercing gaze, her eyes shimmering with mischief as she watched him. Or perhaps she was watching Amos. Maybe all of them. But Alex felt like that look cut through him like a knife.

He was swung around, away from that all-knowing gaze and into Naomi’s arms.

“Backward, backward, lift and spin!” Naomi squealed as Alex lifted her high, and he watched her throw her head back above him. The fiddle sped up, the tune turned darker, and Alex felt his blood sing.

“Right!” the singer called out as the instruments behind him kept up their tune. “We know none of yous speak any Welsh and you’re all busy keeping track of the dance, but we’re gonna keep it the same as before so you can sing along! Just listen to us do the first verse, and you’ll get the hang of it!”

“I picked up the dance moves, a dead language shouldn’t be a problem after that!” Holden shouted, and the crowd laughed.

“Cheeky bugger, we’ll show you dead,” the fiddler smirked. The tune picked up again, and the singer led the crowd.

None of the words made sense to Alex, but the musicians kept repeating something every other line that was easy to pick up, and soon he and the crowd roared along.

“Ai-ô, Santiana!” he cried out as he lifted Naomi again and spun her round. It was hypnotising, how everyone moved in unison, how they all came together singing along to a song none of them knew. He heard Holden sing along beside him.

“Ai-ô, Santiana!” They switched partners, and he was back on Holden. “Switch lead!” the singer cried out, and this time it was the captain throwing him up into the air. He landed with a deafening bang thanks to his stomping boots, and let out a startled bark of a laugh.

Another spin, another swing. “Ai-ô, Santiana!” Back to Naomi, and he was leading again, getting to lift her high.

“Ai-ô, Santiana!”

And suddenly he was in Amos’ arms, spinning the man around, making his kilt flare up. He felt hyper-focused, the sensation of strong, warm, coarse hands gripping his waist.

Oh, fuck.

“Ai-ô, Santiana!” Amos roared, and lifted him high into the air. Alex felt his eyes widen, scrambling to hold on to the fabric on Amos’ shirt as the velocity and strength with which he’d been tossed actually caused him to be airborne for a split second. He landed less gracefully this time, keeling over a little and landing against the solid shape that was Amos. To his relief, that was where the song ended, so he didn’t have to be stable and spinning again, choosing this moment to take a break instead.

The crowd applauded, and Alex made his way back over to the drinks table, where Gwen – fucking Gwen – was waiting. She handed him a cup of tea instead of the whisky he’d been going for, and he scowled at her.

“Just trying to prevent a hangover,” she told him, and he rolled his eyes, drinking the tea anyway. Though he was feeling like he was overheating, it felt more refreshing than the smoky, burning alcohol, and he secretly thanked her as he sipped from his mug.

“Fuck me, it’s been to long,” Amos declared as he joined them. “You weren’t bad out there, brother. You dance before?”

Alex looked up and grinned. “A bit, yeah,” he told Amos. “I trained hard for my wedding.”

“Oh, you a married man?” Gwen asked. Nosy.

“Freshly divorced,” Amos quipped, and Gwen’s eyes shone. “Sorry to hear that,” she said without a hint of remorse. Alex snorted.

“I’m not,” he muttered. It had been a relief. Things were gonna get easier now, he knew.

Amos moved to clasp his shoulder, but wobbled drunkenly and missed a little, placing his hand at the nape of Alex’s neck instead. “Don’t think about it, brother,” he said earnestly. “None of that shit matters here.”

“Right, I think it’s time to get you back to your room,” Gwen told him. “Can’t have you goin’ sentimental, it just ain’t natural. We’ll sober you up a bit, and chat on the way. We still have a lot of catching up to do.” She looked at Alex. “You don’t mind if I take him off your hands?”

Alex dismissed them with a little wave. “You guys go, go take care of him or whatever. I’m gonna stay for a while longer.”

She smiled, and there was something in her smile that Alex didn’t quite like. He decided to ignore it, though, instead focusing on the swirling skirts and kilts out on the dance floor. Naomi and Holden were still on their feet, losing themselves to the rhythm. Naomi especially seemed delighted with how strongly she could stamp out a beat with her heavy-duty boots.

He slowly let the tea and some snacks from the table beside him sober him up as he mulled over his thoughts, or even just the sensations in his body.

Amos… Christ. What had that woman put into his head? It was her fault. He never looked at his crewmate like that. They were comfortable around each other, joking and helping each other get picked up at the bar, cooking for each other, patching each other up. But right now the thoughts made Alex’s ears burn, made him feel like his skin was too tight for his body. He remembered Amos’ grip on his waist, and a violent shiver ran down his spine.

This was ridiculous. Alex wasn’t into men. Amos might be, he’d picked up one or two at the bars they’d frequented together… And there was a mental image. Amos with a guy. What would Amos even be like in the sack? Alex thought of the rent boys again, and how Amos was so decidedly not like them. Would he screw like a cheap hooker though? What did rent boys even do for guys?

He dragged a hand down his face. He needed to get these thoughts out of his head.

“Think I’m gonna head back too, hoss,” he called out over the heads of the other dancers. He received a thumbs up and quickly left the building.

The air outside was stale, but it was better than the heady smell of sweat and people, and he welcomed the almost unnoticeable breeze coming out of one of the air vents, breathing in deeply. A sense of that cabin fever from yesterday was creeping up on him again. He started walking in the hope to shake it off. Amos and Gwen had left just under half an hour ago, so they’d probably be back at the inn by now, if Gwen even stayed. Alex suddenly hoped for her to be gone. She’d been nice, in a strange way, but there was something about her he didn’t like. As if she wasn’t quite honest, or had some ulterior motive. It contrasted Amos’ blatant honesty, which could be disconcerting, but was at least reliable.

A few drunk but happy couples were making their way back to their sleeping arrangements around Alex, leaning on each other contentedly, chatting amicably or even attempting to make out while on the move in one case. Alex kind of envied them. Why did he have to tie himself into knots like this?

The pub area of the inn was practically empty. No Amos, no Gwen. With any hope, Amos would be in his bed, asleep. That way, Alex didn’t have to face the guy.

When he entered the bedroom, he indeed found Amos in bed. Just not quite in the way he’d hoped.

Gwen was spread out on the mattress. The top of her dress had been pulled down to reveal her breasts. Some of the layers of her skirt had been removed and the remaining fabric was hiked up to around her waist. Amos was lying on the mattress too, as best as he could fit, his face buried between her legs.

Alex froze in his tracks. Amos didn’t seem to have noticed anything, but Gwen’s eyes snapped up to meet his, and his mind went blank.

Fuck. Shit. Of course this would happen. She’d expressed interest, and Amos had been lusting after her since he was a fucking teen. He should’ve known.

But he didn’t even… like Amos in that way. So how come his blood was rushing in his ears, anger and betrayal tasting acrid on his tongue?

“Amos,” Gwen muttered, and Alex wanted to run as his crewmate retreated, his eyes a little hazy and something wet glistening in his beard. “We have a guest.”

“Oh, shit,” Amos spoke in that infuriating, almost casual tone of his as he leaned back. “Sorry brother, didn’t expect you to be back for another hour or two.”

“It’s fine, partner,” Alex managed to croak out hoarsely. His eyes fell on the bulge between Amos’ legs, and he quickly looked away. “None of my business. You just… enjoy yourself.”

He turned around to leave, but Gwen – fucking Gwen, fucking infuriating woman – called out his name, and against better judgement, he looked back to see her whisper something in Amos’ ear.

“Come here,” she then commanded Alex softly. His navy instincts kicked in, as they tended to do around people who oozed higher ranking, and he found his feet betraying him, taking him to stand by the bed.

“How long’s it been since you fucked someone?”

He wanted to tell her it was none of her goddamn business, but Amos spoke for him.

“Too damn long.” The man’s gaze was indecipherable, seemingly searching Alex’s face for something. Alex just started to feel more and more exposed.

“Seen you look at me, too,” she told him. “Don’t you want a taste, at least?”

She didn’t have to let her hands wander down her body. She just had to hold his gaze, and fuck, these trousers really were too damn tight.

“He’s all yours, ma’am,” he told her.

And then Amos had to pipe up, of course.

“Why don’t you just watch?”

Holy fucking shit. Alex let out a shaky breath, dragging a hand down his face. He wasn’t gonna get out of this, was he?

Amos put his hands under Gwen’s thighs, carefully manipulating her over so that there was room for Alex to sit on the bed, but he shook his head. He was not getting that close. Instead he sank down against the wall opposite them, one leg flat on the floor, the other drawn up. He let out another shaky breath as Amos held his gaze for a split second longer, then returned to the heat buried between Gwen’s legs. She tilted her head back at that, revealing her throat as her eyes fluttered shut and a soft moan escaped her.

Okay, Alex’s trousers were definitely too tight – it was starting to hurt. He carefully unzipped the front, and let out a breath of relief as his dick was finally detained by only his boxers. He didn’t dare touch himself, scared of how quickly he’d fall down the rabbit hole then. Instead, he preferred not to think about what he was doing at all.

He could see drops of sweat pool at the nape of Amos’ neck as the man tilted his head for a better angle, could hear the soft, slick sounds of him lapping away. Alex watched as Amos removed a hand from under Gwen’s thigh and brought it to her core instead, couldn’t quite see what he was doing, but Gwen sucked in a breath, and Amos let out a low sound that shot straight to Alex’s dick. Jesus fuck. From the woman’s face he could gather that whatever it was that Amos was doing exactly, he was doing it well.

Alex swallowed. He wasn’t… He couldn’t just…

In a haze, he managed to get up, undone trousers hanging low on his hips and his erection straining very visibly against the cotton fabric of his boxers as he made his way over. He shakily reached out to her face, to familiar territory, and she smiled understandingly, leaning up to meet his mouth in a careful kiss.

Alex sighed, a knot in his chest loosening a little, and he allowed her to deepen the kiss. She nipped at his lip, and his surprised gasp drew a low chuckle from Amos. Gwen pulled back and studied his face.

“I can make this as exciting and experimental as you want, but it’s not gonna give you that bone-deep satisfaction,” she concluded with a sad little smile.

“Then what?” Alex asked hoarsely, suspecting the answer.

“You know what.”

His eyes flitted down to Amos, who had retreated from Gwen again.

“You’ve never been with another man before, have you?” the woman asked. He didn’t answer, but he didn’t have to. She gently raked her nails down his back, and he shivered. “It’s different,” she told him earnestly. “Real different. Probably not even something that crossed your mind before as an option.”

“What if I don’t like it?”

Amos’ mouth curled up into a faint smile at that, and Gwen’s voice came softly in Alex’s ear:

“The least you can do is try.”

She shifted back, pulling her skirt back down and her bodice back over her breasts. Alex was starting to panic again, but her hand was in his neck, knowing, soothing, guiding, and for the slightest moment, she reminded Alex of the Roci.

Amos sat up a little straighter, not making a move as not to spook Alex.

“Touch him,” Gwen whispered. “Don’t be scared.”

And Alex brought his hands up, uncertainly placing them around Amos’ neck, just below his jaw. Amos gave him a tiny nod, his beard brushing against Alex’s thumbs, and he sucked in a breath. Right then. Might as well take the plunge.

He finally bridged the gap, putting one knee on the bed as he ever-so-lightly brushed his lips against Amos’.

He was vaguely aware of Gwen’s hand disappearing from his neck, but the most overwhelming feeling he got was one of pure adrenaline being injected into his veins. The jolt hit him as he felt Amos’ beard tickle his mouth, felt his low hum reverberate in his own chest, tasted Gwen’s slick on Amos’ lips. Sweet fucking Jesus. It was like he’d taken a bite of the forbidden fruit, and he wanted more. He wanted it all.

“Yeah?” Amos breathed against him, and that was all it took. He grabbed on tight, pressing, sucking and licking his way into Amos’ mouth. Somewhere behind him the door closed, and he knew Gwen had left, but he was fine now. He could do this. He just had to let his dick do the thinking.

“You good?” Amos muttered between kisses, and Alex let out a slightly high-pitched laugh.

“You kidding?” He somehow managed to push Amos, the most immovable object he knew, down on his back, throwing his leg over and oh fuck. He felt Amos’ hard-on press against his own. His brain short-circuited.

“Yeah, that’s what I thought,” Amos chuckled against his mouth. He flipped them round, putting Alex below him because of course he would, and rolled his hip filthily, dragging the length of his erection against the outline of Alex’s. The Martian couldn’t help himself; the threw back his head and groaned loudly.

“Jesus, Amos,” and just uttering a guy’s name, Amos’ name, that was just something so foreign to him, but it was like he was scratching a bone-deep itch, and he started to understand what Gwen had meant when she’d said she wouldn’t be able to satisfy him. He’d wanted Amos. Needed Amos.

“What do you want me to do?” the engineer asked, and Alex huffed.

“Fuck, I don’t know – anything –”

Which was all the encouragement Amos needed. He moved back a little, giving Alex the space to take off his shirt and pull down his trousers and boxers further, finally releasing his cock properly. He hissed softly as the cold air of the room hit his naked skin, sweat still drying from the dancing. Amos looked down at his cock like a parched man seeing water again, and Alex let out another soft groan.

“You look at all your clients like that?” he breathed. Amos huffed.

“Hell fucking no,” was his reply. Amos looked up again, meeting Alex’s gaze. “You’re fucking beautiful, you know that?”

Alex actually blushed at that. He’d let himself go since being in the navy, his body having turned a little soft; it was a stark contrast against Amos’ bulk. But fuck, Amos was anything if not honest, and the directness with which he said it left no doubt in Alex’s mind that he’d meant it wholeheartedly.

He must’ve taken Alex’s silence for denial, for he returned to capture the pilot’s mouth in a deep, slow, filthy kiss, making Alex’s head spin. He then started working his way down; worrying the skin at the nape of Alex’s neck with his teeth, lapping and sucking surprisingly gently before moving on down to Alex’s chest. It was careful and sloppy at the same time; Amos kissed like a whore, hungry but giving. Alex moaned again as his left nipple disappeared into Amos’ mouth, the skin of his pectoral around it thoroughly lavished as well.

“Jesus, fuck Amos, slow down,” he panted. Amos looked up at that, a small tendril of spit connecting his lower lip to Alex’s skin still, and the pilot felt his cock weep at the sight.

“Just lie back and enjoy yourself,” came the reply. “This holiday’s for you, remember?”

Alex had never pinned Amos for the selfless, giving type, but he figured it was something he’d picked up in his rent boy days. Or perhaps it was an extension of his protective instincts. Whatever it was, Alex really couldn’t care less as he felt a hint of teeth scrape down the happy trail that covered half his stomach. His hips bucked a little, and he felt Amos’ amused huff cool the trail of spit left behind on his skin, making him shiver.

He felt rough hands push down his clothes even further, only hindered by his knee-high boots – fuck, he was still wearing those, he forgot – and then a breath ghosting his cock, causing nothing but white noise behind his eyes.

“Is this okay?” he seemed to hear, and he let out a desperate little laugh.

“Are you kidding?” he replied. “Fuck, yes, just, touch me, get your hands on me, please.”

Amos let out another chuckle at that. “Knew you’d be a talker, you charismatic fuck,” he muttered. But instead of hands circling his cock, he felt Amos’ beard brush against his thighs, followed by a featherlight kiss against his erection. His hips bucked again.

“Fuck,” he hissed. “Did you just –”

“Gonna put my mouth on you now,” Amos replied, and if that wasn’t the hottest goddamn thing Alex had heard in years. “Suck you off nice ‘n good. God, your cock is as pretty as the rest of you…”

“Didn’t pin you for a talker,” Alex managed to bring out, swiftly followed by a deep “oh” as Amos licked a stripe up the side of his dick.

“I’m not,” came the reply. “But you don’t get nearly enough praise, am I right?”

“Boy, you really know how to treat a date.”

And he fucking did. Amos practically worshipped Alex’s dick; going up and down the length of his shaft with lips, tongue and teeth alike, burying his nose in the thick curls that adorned the base, before finally, oh sweet Jesus fucking finally taking the tip into his mouth and sucking.

Alex’s hips bucked like crazy at that, and he swore loudly, hoping Holden and Naomi hadn’t returned to hear them from just next-door, but Amos had his hands on Alex’s thighs, keeping him pressed into the mattress. Alex felt himself flush at that, at the thought of Amos’ strength keeping him pinned in place, pressing him down like a hard burn, and he had no idea how much that turned him on until now. Flying the Roci was not gonna be the same after this, he realised.

Amos pulled off with a soft pop. “You enjoy that, don’t you? Gonna remember that.” A promise. Alex could practically weep as Amos took his cock back into his mouth again. He was hot and slick, just on the good side of rough, and sucked cock like a pro. Alex watched Amos’ head bob up and down, profanities spilling from his lips, Mariner valley drawl increasing until he was sure he was practically unintelligible.

“Jesus, fuck, Amos, Amos, not yet, don’t wanna come yet…”

Amos pulled off at that, his eyes shining feverishly. “Say that again.”

“Want to prolong it,” Alex told him, gripping onto his bicep to steady himself. “Don’t make me come just yet.”

“Fuck, I love it when you talk dirty,” Amos breathed, capturing his mouth in a searing kiss again. To Alex’s grim satisfaction, the taste of Gwen’s slick had largely been replaced with the bitterness of his own precum.

“Yeah?” he breathed against Amos’ lips. He was getting better at this, growing bolder each minute. “Like tasting myself on you,” he whispered. He didn’t even talk this dirty to his wife back in the day. But then, Amos was most definitively not his wife. “Could have you suck my dick for hours, Amos, Jesus, I need so much more of that, so good at that you filthy –”

He froze before he could call Amos a whore, but the engineer just laughed. “Glad you like it, ‘cause I intend to do more of it,” he replied, leaning in to lick a stripe up Alex’s neck. “A lot more,” he breathed across the shell of his ear, and oh fuck, Alex was discovering a whole new set of turn-ons.

“So what next, brother?” he asked. “Wanna give it a go yourself? What do you want?”

Alex licked his lips. “Wanna see your dick,” he breathed. Oh Jesus, there’s a new one. Hungry for dick. He’d been converted real fucking fast. But he’d been feeling the guy’s hard-on press against him for the past twenty minutes, and Amos hadn’t even whipped it out yet. Then again, he didn’t have any tight trousers restricting him, instead wearing the loose kilt and honestly, of all the fucking things to turn Alex on, a man-skirt was not one he’d expected in a million years. Amos gave him a crooked smile that undid several of the knots in Alex’s stomach before pulling up the kilt, and of course the bastard wasn’t wearing anything underneath it.

His cock was thick, matching the rest of his muscular body, red and weeping, and Alex had a sudden need to try and put his mouth on it. “Yeah,” he said almost to himself, “wanna try, wanna taste you.”

“Fuck,” Amos swore. “Course you do. Upstanding citizen of Mars, complete gentleman, but you’re a slut when it boils down to it, aren’t you? Who would’ve thought.” He chuckled, and just to get him to shut up, Alex shuffled down beneath him and closed his lips around the side of Amos’ shaft, causing him to swear loudly.

“Shit, take it easy brother, barely even touched myself yet…” So he eased off a little, exploring instead. He lapped at a bead of precum that was drizzling down the shaft, his face contorting at the taste. Not his favourite, but not horrendous. He started going to town in earnest, getting spit everywhere. Amos managed to be less messy, but then, Alex was learning. And he was revelling in the sounds Amos made, how his hips twitched as he took the big guy inside of his mouth. Maybe cock in general wasn’t really his thing, but Amos was.

“Alex, fuck, that’s nice…” he heard above him, and he glowed with pride and satisfaction. He did that.

“Wanna fuck you.”

That stilled him in his tracks. He could barely fit Amos’ girth in his mouth, how was getting fucked by him gonna work? He understood the basics of course, or he did in theory, but having the thing in his face, angry red and glistening, he felt just a little intimidated.

“You okay down there?”

“Yeah, eh, I just…”

“You trust me, Alex?”

He swallowed. Before this little trip he might not always have felt entirely sure how to answer that, but right now?

“With my life.”

“Then trust me with this.” He was pulled up to meet Amos’ gaze. “Gonna take my time with you, brother. Open you up nice ‘n good. Press you down, fill you up.”

If asked, Alex did not whimper upon hearing that. “Okay,” he breathed. “Yeah. Fuck. Fuck me, I guess.”

Amos let out a huff of laughter at that, reaching under the bed for his bag with one hand. “Might wanna turn around,” he told Alex. “Gonna be an easier angle.”

Alex did what he was told, trusting Amos to know what he was doing. He had experience in this, after all. He could hear the snick of a bottle of lube being opened, and then a cool, slick finger circled his entrance.

“Oh, shit,” he muttered.

“You holding it together there, brother?”

“Yeah, just, weird is all.”

“Breathe through it,” Amos advised. “Gonna be real good once I get going. Trust me.”

Trust me. Amos kept muttering praises as he slowly started to finger Alex, and oh god, that was just a whole new sensation altogether. He was almost starting to feel too old for this shit, until Amos hit what seemed to be the fucking jackpot.

“Amos!” he cried out, panting as his dick jumped and his hole spasmed around the intrusion. “Fuck, right there, you got it right there, don’t fucking stop, keep fucking fingering me –”

More profanities spilled from his lips as Amos took care of him, and he really was too good at that, a side of him that Alex just didn’t know, wanted to know better, fucking loved right now.

Before he knew it, Amos retreated, and Alex keened, chasing the feeling of him.

“You ready?”

“Fucking hit me.”

Amos chuckled at that. Then Alex felt it – something thick and blunt, radiating heat. Amos’ cock pressed against his entrance, and that was just… Once more, his brain short-circuited. It was thicker than the fingers that had filled him a moment ago. But he fucking wanted it. Oh god, he wanted it. And he was relatively sure he was begging out loud too.

“I’ve got you,” Amos muttered, pressing in inch by excruciating inch. It was slow, and Alex felt so full, and there was still more.

When Amos finally bottomed out, balls pressed flush against Alex’s perineum, he stilled.

“Holy shit,” Alex breathed. “Your dick’s inside me.”

“Yeah.”

He looked up to find Amos grinning at him.

“You like it?”

“Fucking move already, you sadistic prick.”

Amos barked out a laugh at that, pulling back and pistoning his hips forward again, slamming Alex into the mattress.

“Jesus fuck!”

“God, you’re good,” Amos breathed, and then he started fucking Alex in earnest, and that was Amos as he knew him – intense, strong, just slightly deranged. Alex had to scramble to hold on to the sheets, to Amos’ hands boxing him in, Amos’ ass, anything as the pace increased. Just like in the dance room, the blood rushed in his ears and he lost himself into the rhythm, but now he was crying out a string of filth, his cock leaking into the sheets and throbbing with each thrust.

“Fuck, Amos, fuck, me, oh god, your dick, hell…” He couldn’t stop, each word punctuated by a thrust. Amos only stilled briefly to flip Alex on his back so that they could face each other. He put his hand under Alex’s thigh, lifting up his leg to deepen the angle, and returned to set a punishing pace again. The breath was knocked out of Alex, and he craned his neck to steal Amos’ too with another filthy kiss.

“Fuck, think I’m gonna come,” Amos muttered against his mouth, “gonna make you come, brother, fuck you’re so good, gonna make you come…” He pressed his body down on Alex’s, weighing them down, trapping the pilot’s cock between them, and put his mouth on Alex’s throat for good measure as well, his beard scratching Alex’s skin and oh fuck, he was gonna come, not from the friction on his dick but from the pressure, from the mouth on his neck, from the pounding against his prostate, from everything…

“Fuck – Amos!”

He came hard, his hips bucking and his dick shooting cum all the way up to his chin. His vision whited out and he felt himself clamping down like a vice on Amos, who let out a hoarse cry, fucking once, twice more before he too came, with Alex’s name on his lips.

When Alex finally came to his senses again, he realised he was drawing his hand across Amos’ sweaty back, mimicking the movements he performed when running a flight simulation on one of the Roci’s many screens. He lazily drew out vectors and flight paths into Amos’ twitching back muscles, loving how they relaxed under his touch until they no longer seemed like steel cables and he could gently press into them. He felt Amos’ breath slow down on top of him and smiled.

“Hey,” Amos muttered.

“Hi.”

“That good?”

Alex huffed. “Think you fucked my brains out.”

“So definitely worth repeating.”

Alex nodded wordlessly.

They remained on the bed for a little while longer, until Alex couldn’t stand the stickiness anymore and dragged himself and Amos into the shower. As the water beat down on them, Amos wouldn’t stop pressing lazy, open-mouthed kisses against his shoulders and back, and Alex shuddered under the loving touches.

“This wasn’t just a spur-of-the-moment fuck orchestrated by your teenage crush, was it?” he managed to ask later, when they’d shoved the two single beds together and had crawled under the blankets. Amos was lying behind him, fingers playing absently with his happy trail.

“Nope,” the engineer answered simply. Alex was gonna ask further, but frankly, he was too happy and sleepy to do so. Right now, it didn’t matter anyway. He sighed, and fell into the best sleep he’d had in perhaps years.

~oO0OoO0OoO0Oo~

When they arrived at breakfast the next morning, Naomi gave them an amused look. Holden looked broken on the other hand, avoiding their gazes altogether.

Whoops.

Naturally, Amos just laughed, and Alex sent him a secret little smile.

Anwyn station had definitely grown on him, and with Holden and Naomi moving their room down the corridor that evening, they were all more than happy to stay another few days.