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No Victory, No Defeat

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She stands rapt at attention, ignoring the way the muscles in her legs and back are beginning to quiver and twitch with exhaustion. The rest of the Cobra Unit had been dismissed earlier, but as their leader she’s required to stay for the debriefing, her every action, her every choice subject to analysis and critique. She listens intently as her superior continues before her, absorbing the information and direction with the learned stoicism of a soldier. 

 

The Cobra Unit is renowned for their results, their strategy as well as their discipline, but debriefings entail only the information at play. There are never any kind words, nor does she expect any, merely the instructions for the next mission. After her superior is satisfied, she’s dismissed. She cuts a sharp salute before departing into the cool nighttime air.

 

They have a few days before their next endeavour, a ‘snatch’ operation of a renowned German officer out of the small town of Saint-Germain-En Laye just outside of Paris. It’s almost reassuring in its simplicity. Joy walks along the encampment, studying the action around her, searching. They won’t be in Europe long, there are rumours of a mission across the ocean. Her feet cut a careful path to her tent, nodding her regards to the soldiers bustling around her.

 

When she pulls back the tent flap, she spots her quarry.

 

“You shouldn’t be in here, you know,” she murmurs conversationally, as she carefully shuts the tent door.

 

There are few excuses for such a late night visit between comrades, particularly after a mission, yet he’d never been one to heed caution. They were of different natures in that respect. Joy, mindful of the precipitous nature of their position, closes the tent door behind her.

 

Sorrow doesn’t startle at her appearance, merely turns a thoughtful eye away from the thinly worn maps he’d been examining tacked up against the wall. He moves through the camp like an apparition, more felt than seen, regarded with superstitious disbelief rather than warmth. She knows better than to worry he’d been seen on the way to her tent. 

 

A wicked humour teases his expression, “I can leave if you’d prefer.”

 

She shakes her head with mild exasperation, but her eyes flicker up at his with a smile, “You may as well stay, now that you’re here.”

 

He’s surprisingly daring, always kissing her the second the world falls into the hazy ambiguity of dusk only a few feet away from dangers of both military and personal natures, but Joy isn’t one to be outdone once the first light is extinguished. If she was going to be honest, she’d missed their easy intimacy more than she thought possible. It was a welcome respite after weeks of the bracing civility between soldiers in arms.

 

She steps past him, moving to relinquish her weaponry, strip herself of the day’s tools. Even in her youth she’s never been one to shirk her responsibilities despite temptation. Still, her neck burns with weight of his glance. It had brought high colour to her cheeks at their first introduction, the combination of his soft voice and sharp eyes setting her heart pounding. Thankfully, over time she’d been able to conceal her feelings, despite their intensity.

 

“How was the debriefing?” Sorrow inquires, his voice warm and deep. He’s genuinely interested, if slightly distracted. 

 

“It was thorough. Overall, the operation was a success. Though, there are some areas we need to work on, weaknesses to address.” Joy disassembles her gun with deliberate care and takes an inventory of her ammunition. Satisfied with her work, she presses her palms flat against the table shifting to stretch the growing ache in her back, “There are rumours of an American mission on the horizon, but it’s too soon to tell.”

 

“America…that’s an interesting development,” he muses, “Do you want to go back?” Sorrow asks, sidling up behind her. He isn’t talking about the mission, but a life that had been cut short less than a decade ago. The wound isn’t healed enough to be forgotten, but not fresh enough to merit special consideration. It exists in a limbo between the two, so sensitive that every time words so much as graze it the pain awakes her with a jolt.

 

Joy glances up a him over her shoulder, her expression a little worn around the edges. Her brow furrows the way it does when she sits in private disagreement, when they’re alone in her quarters or walking the carefully cut routes to their destination, when the soldier’s neutrality gives way to pain, anger, and fear associated with following the chain of command. It’s not something he likes to provoke in her. 

 

“There isn’t anything to go back to. It’s a just another mission.”

 

“It would be nice to see the ocean again, though,” she adds, an afterthought.

 

“I agree,” he murmurs. Sorrow rests reassuring hands around her hips. Joy leans back into his embrace. Relaxing her weight against him, she feels boneless, her body’s protests momentarily muffled by a greater sense of contentment. The furrow disappears and they are both content to let the issue drop.

 

Sorrow dips down to kiss her throat and Joy hums peacefully under his attention.

 

“You’re tense,” he frowns, noting the knots in her back, the quiver of tightly wound muscles. She nods in agreement, her eyes closed, a weary smile tugging the corner of her mouth. 

 

“It was a longer debriefing than usual. I didn’t have a chance to sit down.” She sighs. It’s so comfortable leaning against him, resting her feet for a moment against the breadth of his figure. She doesn’t notice Sorrow’s disapproval behind her.

 

Sorrow shakes his head. Due to her rank, Joy is often debriefed moments after her return to headquarters without being given even the chance to change out of her sneaking suit, let alone set down her weapon. Long-winded and thorough, the operations analysis are followed by briefings on considered future operations. Joy is asked for her opinions, though whether or not her advice is considered or discarded seldom comes back to her.

 

The proceedings often drag out to an hour or more of standing at attention, all the while the aches and pains of the mission behind her flare and twist inside her, aggravated by her inability to rest. Joy never complains about these debriefings, but her body is practically limp with exhaustion when she returns to camp.

 

Sorrow holds her close, savouring the rare privacy afforded to them. He’s seldom able to hold her, the barriers of decorum keep them far away, a deniable distance.

 

“They could have at least given you a chair,” he murmurs into her neck, a concern he can’t be bothered to hide seeping into his words. Joy covers his hands with her her own, her eyes opening to catch his. They are filled with playful remonstration that feels a touch forced.

 

“I can handle it,” Joy reminds him, not unkindly.

 

“I know.” He sighs, then smiles, resigned. If there was anything he’d been convinced off since the formation of the Cobra Unit, it was the exceptional capabilities of their leader. She left no room for doubt, effectively silencing those would critique her based on her gender and youth from the very beginning. There had been little doubt that she was born for her position.

 

“Let me take care of you,” he murmurs, his hand sliding up to unzip her sneaking suit. The slow drag of the zipper teeth parting is surprisingly loud in the canvas tent, the cool night air rushing to touch exposed skin. 

 

Joy chuckles softly, allowing Sorrow to slide the sneaking suit from her shoulders. It’s a relief to feel the thick and constrictive materials slough from her skin, to be allowed to breathe. She turns around to face him, naked without any self consciousness. Her body’s relatively unmarred from military life, only a shoulder injury sustained during firearms training bothers her from time to time. Run of the mill scarring from various combat wounds litters her body along the usual places, her fingers, arms, and legs. But considering her position she remains almost pristine.

 

Joy tugs his jacket playfully, the dark fabric coarse against her fingers, beckoning him closer. 

 

“This hardly seems fair,” she teases, tugging his fully clothed figure. 

 

He grins wickedly, carding a hand through her dark blonde hair, “And since when have I ever played fair?”

 

Her eyes light up, a smirk on her mouth.

 

“Never, I suppose,” She replies, pulling him down into a kiss, wrapping a hand around his neck, fingernails skimming against his skin with the slightest of pressure. Joy kisses Sorrow as though it’s the first time, like her excitement can barely be contained. She feels him smile against her, his hands squeezing her tight. He’s more reserved, but she can always feel her energy reciprocated in the smallest of motions.

 

He guides her back to her bed, easing her back down gently. Military issue bedding leaves a lot to desired, but after the day she’s had, the rough cotton feels as plush as fur against her body. Her legs dangle off the edge, to be off her feet finally is intoxicating. She entertains the idea of succumbing to sleep for only a moment, before remembering their rare opportunity. She smiles up at Sorrow as she leans up on her elbows.

 

“Come here,” she beckons, patting the bed at her side.

 

“Rest, my dear,” Sorrow murmurs, his hand skimming her firm stomach, he leans down to press tender kisses along the crest of her hips, the firm muscle of her thigh. Joy watches him bemused for a moment, before listening to him. She relaxes back into the sheets, her mouth parting involuntarily as Sorrow moves between her legs.

 

A hand reflexively moves to cover her face as Sorrow begins his ministrations. Joy’s breathing grows shallow above him, her free hand tangling in his silver hair. He doesn’t need any further encouragement, kissing and licking at her in teasing turn. Slowly building his motions to higher intensity. It’s everything Joy can do to keep silent.

 

Groaning with pleasure, Sorrow holds her hips tight as he sucks and lathes her clit, enjoying the way her hips quake at the sensation.

 

Her orgasm grows quickly, low and heavy in her gut. Her body goes tense as he pushes her off the brink and pleasure envelops her in a wave. Peaking out from between splayed fingers, she glances up at the tent ceiling, content to feel Sorrow’s farewell kisses peppered along her thigh. 

 

“Now come here,” she says, her voice low, but insistent.

 

Sorrow smirks, he can never deny her a second time. He moves onto the bed beside her and Joy wastes no time catching his mouth in her own. Her taste lingers on his tongue as she pulls him closer. Pinning him to the bed, Joy scales him easily, without breaking their embrace. He’s hard against her, but Joy takes her time, nipping at his lip with careful teeth.

 

She only breaks their embrace to retrieve a condom from her satchel, carefully stored in a hidden compartment. 

 

“I’d be curious to know how you got that,” Sorrow asks, tucking a few loose strands of her hair behind her ear. 

 

“Wouldn’t you like to know,” Joy murmurs, before tearing the wrapper between her teeth.

 

The sex is languid, gentle. Both of them are too exhausted from the day’s trials to endeavour a passionate embrace. No, they take advantage of the good fortune afforded to them. Unlike the fleeting opportunity afforded to them while out on a mission, within this temporary home base they have the rare gift of time and privacy. There is no need to rush. 

 

Afterwards, they lie entwined on the cot for as long as Joy allows, weighing the risks of discovery against the pleasure of Sorrow’s chests rising and falling against her own. He only leaves as the sun begins to tease through the material of the tent, the faintest olive glow. They are a badly kept secret, but as far as the world knows they are a secret.

 

It is September 15th, 1943 and she is happy.