Chapter 1: I Really Hope Vaughn Knows What He's Doing
He whispered, “What do you need me to do?”
She let out a huff, eyes roving over the ceiling tiles above them. The wires she needed to reach were in there, possibly all jumbled and messy. Looking down at him, she paused a moment, considered the options, then shrugged.
“How much can you hold?”
Vaughn’s shoulders rolled beneath his jacket as he thought.
“Depends on what you need held.”
“Can you be a foothold to get me up there for bit?”
Looking above them, his lips twisted into a worried frown. His eyes met hers briefly.
“If that’s the best you can give, I’ll take it.”
Fiona pressed a hand to his shoulder, pushing him down gently into place, leaving him kneeling before her with his fingers interlocked as a step. He watched the skirt of her dress lift as she tugged it up to allow her shoe to rest in his hands. With a grunt, and a hand used to steady herself on his head, she was up.
“Okay. A little higher. Little more. Aaaaand there. Now hold it, and I’ll get this done.”
She heard him take deep measured breaths, felt the light touch of her skirt against her legs as he exhaled through his mouth. Lifting the ceiling panel, she set to work connecting the device Felix had created to read data transfers throughout her target’s network, namely their bank account information. If all went well, they’d be set for years, and she could take her time with the vault hunting business.
Wires were spliced and rearranged in order by color, and finally attached to the little metal box that had been given a wireless transmitter. The readouts would start appearing on her computer, and Vaughn, brilliant, educated man he was, would find the codes she needed. Their agreement had been 33/67: Vaughn helped read the information faster, while her skills and Felix’s hardware got what they needed away from the mayor in charge.
“Fiona, hurry it up. This carpet isn’t as plush as it looks.”
She grunted and screwed a wire cap over where her wires met with the originals, stopping to cock her head. Quickly, she lowered the tile back in place after flipping the power switch on her transmitter.
“I hear something. Someone’s coming, let me down!”
He let her down as quickly as he could, but as he moved to stand, her hand clamped on his shoulder, keeping him kneeled at her feet. Frantically, she lifted the edge of her dress.
“No time, get under here and make it convincing.”
“Just do it, Vaughn!”
He scooted forward on his knee until she could drape her skirt over his head, and place a thigh on his shoulder. She tugged him closer with her heel, and mussed her hair with her fingers, leaning back against the wall. She fisted her hand in the fabric of her skirt behind his head, and felt his hands come to rest on the very outside of her thighs, his thumb rubbing circles where it rested. He rested his head against the inside of the leg draped over him.
“What am I supposed to do?”
“Oh my God, Vaughn, have you never done this before?”
“Of course I have! I just don’t pay much attention to what I’m doing so much as what noises I’m hearing!”
His breath was pushing against her panties, and she groaned, eyes sliding shut as she pulled him closer. She heard him sigh and grunt, crying out as his beard scraped along her skin, her hips jerking at the sensation.
The steps drew closer and rounded the corner, and through heavily lidded eyes, she spotted the guards she’d known would make an appearance. Fiona rolled her hips, choking on a gasp when his fingers tightened onto her skin. Her fingers tried to grasp as much of his hair as they could through the dress. Vaughn grunted, and leaned closer. She could feel his nose press low against her belly.
“Oh, God,” she murmured, hips moving on their own against his face.
His hand moved her thigh a bit higher as he scooted closer. Why did his palm cup her thigh so perfectly? Why was this even something she was focusing on?!
“Hey! You guys shouldn’t be here!”
Fiona played the part of the terribly embarrassed lover, gasping in shock, and holding her body rigidly still. She felt Vaughn come to a stop beneath her.
“I’m…I am…so sorry. Um. You see…we uh…”
“Wanted some…private time?”
“Okay, so like, we just started dating, and, well. You know how it is.”
The guard on the left pointed to the hunched figure beneath her dress.
“Tell him to get out from under there.”
Fiona looked down and tapped on his shoulder.
“Um, babe, the uhh. The nice men wanna see you up and moving.”
Fiona drew back, worried. Had he gotten hairs stuck in the stitching of her dress, or something?
“What? Why not?”
His hands moved from her thighs, resting on his lap.
“I…I can’t stand up right now, especially with people watching me.”
Her mouth fell open as she realized his problem, eyes darting down as though she could see the issue through her skirt. She could barely make out his hands covering the crotch of his pants. She looked up to the guards.
“I won’t ask you guys to leave us here, but…maybe you could, I don’t know. Turn your backs or something?”
Left guard looked suspicious while right guard gave her a lecherous grin. Thumping his coworker’s chest, he nodded and turned, tugging the other’s arm until he did the same.
Once they had as much privacy as they could get, she gently lifted the hem of her dress to reveal a very red faced Vaughn. A Vaughn who seemed to refuse to meet her eyes. A Vaughn who looked about two seconds away from hyperventilating. She slowly eased to her knees in front of him, letting her hand come to a rest against his neck.
“You okay?” She whispered.
He gulped and nodded, eyes flitting all over the carpet beneath them.
“Just…just…gimme a minute. I’m really sorry.”
Fiona nodded and stood, making her way to to the guards. She wrapped an arm through theirs, and leaned close.
“We’re…we’re still…new. To this us thing.”
Right guard, an older man with graying hair, grinned down at her, patting her hand kindly.
“Are you at least training him right?”
Fiona bit her lip, thinking about his breath against her panties, his beard scratching the inside of her thigh. How his fingers had latched on, and dug in to bury himself closer under her. She felt her eyes slowly close when she thought of his nose against the thin cotton covering her lower belly. With a shudder, she looked over her shoulder. He was standing with his back to her, face hidden in the palms of his hands.
“Yeah, I don’t think he’s got much further to go before he graduates.”
She watched him take a few steadying breaths before he pulled the hair tie from his hair, and tugged it back into its low bun. He ran his hands down the front of his jacket, straightening things as needed, (and possibly taking more time to prepare himself) before he turned.
Blue eyes hesitated to meet hers, but he smiled in relief when she grinned and nodded.
He nodded, walking towards her when she turned and crooked her finger to him. His hand met hers, and she tugged him close, pressing a kiss to his temple for show.
“The nice men here seem to agree that we’re okay to leave as long as we do no more potentially risqué things in their boss’s hall.”
“C’mon, you two. We’ve got other places to be.”
Fiona turned to look at them over her shoulder.
“Lead the way, fellas.”
Her fingers slipped between his, the other hand coming up to rub her lipstick from his face. His fingers tightened around hers in gratitude, eyes still having trouble finding hers. He walked on behind the men, daring to toss a glance over to her every so often. Her eyes were watching him with a sudden interest she’d not really felt before. Each glance he gave, she made sure to smile kindly at him, even leaning over to bump her arm against his.
Vaughn let the guards gain a little distance, then spoke in in a low tone.
“Are we okay?”
She smiled at him.
Fiona chuckled, clutching his fingers tighter, biting her lip when he reciprocated the squeeze.
“Honestly, I’m not even a little bit mad. Are you?”
She watched him shake his head as he watched the two men ahead of them.
Chapter 2: He Met a Sad End
Vaughn makes a rash decision and then regrets it.
Vaughn kept his eyes to the doors they passed, dropping her hand when he saw the one he needed. Further ahead, he could see the gala in full swing, candles and chandeliers lit, couples mingling and more than a few dancing to the music being played by the hired musicians. He pointed to the door behind him when Fiona looked at him curiously. The sign ‘Mens’ was hung above it, and she gave a nod, making her way back to their table. He entered, pleased to see it was a single occupant room.
With a hollow click, the door locked behind him as he made his way to the counter and sink ahead of him. He leaned forward on his elbows, head hung close to the faucet as he turned it on. Even just hearing the running water was soothing to his frazzled nerves. He tugged at his jacket, tossing it to rest on a chair a few feet away, and rolled the cuffs of his shirt sleeves up. A few deep breaths later, and he looked up, eyes meeting in the mirror provided. His blood rushed to his face once more, and he gave a low curse, using his cupped palms to splash cool water over his heated skin.
Fiona doing what...she did…It didn’t mean anything. They had needed a quick cover; a reason to be out there at all, and what other reason does a couple use when they want alone time, but they’re in public? They generally meet in whatever privacy they can for sexual encounters.
‘Or so you hear. S’not like that’s actually ever happened to you, to be honest. Although, considering what you were doing prior to getting caught…’
That was right. He’d never, not in a million years, have thought he’d have been helping a Pandora native steal several millions of dollars from wealthy businessmen.
‘You also never thought you’d be anything more than a sidekick. Never more than a mindless Hyperion tool. Never more than a disappointing son. But now you have people that look up to you. They look to you for help, for guidance, for teaching. You’re a leader of few, but they’re your few.’
Vaughn groaned. He was still the disappointing son, but he was also the leader of a group of bandits. A generally peaceful bunch who just wanted to survive, and feel alive, like him.
Oh yeah, he’d been alive earlier. Very alive. Perhaps a little too alive. Vaughn glared down at his pants. The image of her thigh lifting to wrap itself over his shoulder slammed into his mind, and he gave a shudder, eyes sliding shut. He felt his dick twitch, confined as it was in his slacks, and groaned, looking at the door with no small amount of guilt. He bit his lower lip before he slid his palm down to massage himself through his pants. He turned away from the door, giving himself a boost up to sit on the counter beside the sink. Leaning back, he felt his breath leave him in a rush.
Slowly he continued to massage himself through his pants, letting fantastical images fly through his mind like a roll of film.
He was driving into her while she laid back on the desk he used while working on Helios
He was on his knees before her, hands tied behind his back as he looked up at her.
She pushed at him roughly until he fell to the floor, climbing on top of him to ride him for all he was worth.
With hardly a conscious thought, he’d tugged at his belt until it fell open, swiftly followed by the button and zipper of his pants. His fingers pushed at the waistband of his briefs until he had himself in hand. With a hiss, he rubbed his thumb along the head of his cock, making sweeping motions along the ridge. His eyes looked to the other side of the counter for anything he could use to make the process go a bit easier, and landed on a bottle of lotion with a pump. With some in the palm of his free hand, he traded it to his right, wrapping it around his cock once more. With a low moan, he spread the lotion over his erection. Eyes shut, his mind continued flipping through mental films.
She had a finger inside him, while her other hand closed around his shaft, pumping as he cried out.
He looked down to see her on her knees in the shower, his calloused hand clinging to her hair as she sucked him off.
He settled on one that he felt he could put as many details into as possible.
Vaughn was standing before her form, spread open on the edge of his bed. Her heels were digging into his mattress, legs wide open as she crooked a finger to him. He stepped closer, licking his lips as she winked and pushed her bangs behind her ear. He dropped to his knees before her, eyeing her glistening cunt. He licked his lips again.
His eyes glanced up to her once more, a quiet “May I,” on his lips. Fiona nodded as she ran a hand down her torso, and slowly traced it back up to cup her breast. His fingers traced around the outside of her lips before he used his thumbs to spread her open for the feast. She was pink and swollen, and shiny in the neon lights shining through the window. He leaned close, letting his nose pick up every piece of her scent on the way down. The tanginess melted together with the sweet and clean scent of her perfume that evening, making his mouth water.
Vaughn nosed through her curls, running his lips over her gently, listening to her breathing above him, and let a puff of air roll against her. He heard her take a deep breath as the feeling settled, and copied the movement, this time making a pointed effort to blow harder. She hissed, her nails catching in his sheets. Finally, he darted forward, kissing her clit softly before his tongue darted out to tap it. A sigh was his answer, so he used the flat of his tongue on her, licking her from her slit up. The moisture that gathered on his tongue was salty, and with a groan, he dove in, lips encircling her pink button. She cried out, one hand flying down to grab his hair. His eyes opened slowly to see her mouth open, and breathing raggedly while she fondled one breast. He groaned again, sucking and laving her clit in turns.
He dipped down to lick at her opening once more, moaning when her fingers tightened in his hair, before licking up as he had done before. Fiona’s thighs clamped shut around his ears, forcing his hands out to cup her thighs. He tilted her hips up, mouth working furiously over her soaked flesh as he slid one roughened hand up to her breast. He gave it a gentle squeeze, and rolled the nipple between his thumb and forefinger. She grunted “Harder”, and he complied, fingers digging into the skin around her tit, massaging it roughly. The hand on her thigh inched back to her sex, working between her legs once more. She moaned as he spread her legs again, the cool air finding her wet, heated mound.
Slowly, his fingers slipped up to her cunt, taking small dips inside her, making her squirm beneath him. Vaughn moaned around her clit, and she cried out, fingers clenching into his hair. Three fingers slipped inside her, curving up against her walls. He slid his eyes open to see her jaw drop as the most amazing noise escaped her throat. He watched her as he worked his fingers inside her, mouth set to task against her clit, sucking and licking in turns. Her body moved and twisted more and more as he sped up, hips trying to ride his fingers, and every time he felt his eyes begin to droop shut, he’d twist his fingers inside her to bring another loud mewl from her lips. Her hand tugged and pulled at his hair, as her hips moved against her will. More and more often, harsh grunts rumbled from his chest as she cried. He could feel she was close to coming, the walls surrounding his fingers beginning to pulse around them. With a final harsh suck, followed by a wiggle with the flat of his tongue, she gasped and let loose a low howl that sounded far too much like his name to be a coincidence.
With a gasp, he came back to reality, desperate to find a towel or anything to catch the mess he was about to make. His free hand fumbled until it came back with a terrycloth towel. Holding it over the head of his dick, he squeezed and twisted his hand around his shaft until he felt the knot in his lower belly practically burst, biting his lip to keep quiet until he felt a tear leak from his eye from the pressure being released so harshly. He gave himself a few more pumps, feeling a knot form in the back of his throat as he whimpered and gasped for breath. He sat there for a few minutes, taking the time reorganize his thoughts and get his breathing back under control before he started the ordeal of cleaning up after himself, and tidying his outfit.
The towel was a loss, so he tossed it into the trashcan by the door. He straightened himself up, tucking his cock back into his pants, and righting them until he felt presentable. Vaughn washed his hands of the cum and lotion, pointedly refusing to look at the mirror.
‘If she ever knew, she’d be disgusted by you. You’re supposed to be her friend, and you do this with her image? She’d never talk to you again.’
He felt himself want to curl up and hide, but instead forced his spine to straighten, and tugged on his jacket, buttoning it up. He stopped as he faced the door, taking a deep breath. He’d focus on how disgusting he was later. Right now, she needed her partner to pull this heist off, and she needed him at his best. He straightened his tie one final time before he unlocked the door and pulled it open.
It was time to finish the job, then he could go back to the base and berate himself for being a shitty friend.
Chapter 3: Death
Hurt/Comfort - Requested by Valoscope
Replacing Gala Number 2 with this because i apparently cant remember my own timelines.
“Fiona. Hey, um. If you’re anywhere near Helios, can you do me a favor and check on Vaughn? He...he sounded really down, and I’m like...halfway around the world right now for business. I’m kinda worried about him. If you get the chance to see him, call me back, would ya? Thanks.”
The message from Rhys had been worrying enough that she had taken it to heart. It wasn’t often Rhys called her for favors, and when he did, he’d been very desperate for her help. Also, if even Rhys had cause to worry about Vaughn, she had felt she should, too.
Having made it to the base in a little under a day, she met Yvette not far inside the complex. The usually so well put-together woman looked...tired. Run down. It was then Fiona noticed something else felt off. The base was quiet, no idle chatter, no echoing steps. Tugging on the straps of a backpack she’d brought, she frowned.
Yvette closed her eyes, flinching as she looked away. Shaking her head ruefully, she looked down the hall before she started walking, Fiona working to keep up with her steps.
“We lost some folks today. Vaughn took a group out for some loot, and to see what scraps we could get our hands on to get some of this stuff put back together. Bandits happened. It’s the first losses we’ve had, and he’s not handling this very well.”
Fiona grew solemn. The consequences that came with life on Pandora.
“Where is he?”
“I’m taking you there now.”
After a few moments more in silence, they stopped at a door that seemed to be wedged open by a piece of debris that hadn’t been removed yet. Inside, she could just make out a form hunched over in the low light.
“This place used to be a bar,” Yvette mused softly.
Fiona bit her bottom lip, nodding to Yvette as she trudged away. Carefully, she stepped over a piece of loose pipe, keeping her steps quiet as she made her way to him. He was leaned over, resting his head atop the bar, arms folded over behind his head, as if to block everything from touching him. He’d removed his armor pieces and left them in the seat beside him, so she made her way to his other side, sliding in close to his form.
Cautiously, she placed a hand between his shoulder blades, using her other hand to tug gently at his arms until they both moved to hang at his sides. She watched as he slowly turned his face to her, jaw clenched and red-faced, covered in little cuts and smears of dirt. Glancing over the rest of him, she saw his arms and legs seemed to be in about the same shape. His eyes were shining, and without wait, she stepped a half step away, holding her arms out for him. One arm shot around her waist as he quickly turned to press his face against her shoulder, pushing to bury it in her neck. Fiona’s arms came around him, her fingers scratching gently against his scalp. Resting her cheek against his hair, she felt his fingers fist around the fabric of her shirt under her jacket.
He never made a sound while she breathed slowly and rubbed his back. It felt like it had been at least a quarter hour before he moved, pushing her away gently and scrubbing at his face with his fingers. He exhaled a heavy breath before meeting her eyes. Fiona edged closer again, his eyes watching her, head tilting back as she got closer. Palms framing his cheeks, she leaned close and pressed her lips against his forehead, feeling his breath shudder from his lips. His rough hands lifted to grip her wrists, pulling her hands tighter against him.
“You’ll feel this way for a while, but I wanna say: It’s not your fault,” she whispered into his hair.
“It really kinda feels like it is, though.”
Placing another kiss onto his forehead, she let herself linger there a moment. An image of Scooter floating away in the vast expanse of space flashed through her mind, and she felt her eyes prick. Swallowing around the lump in her throat, she hummed in agreement.
“I know. And you’ll have sleepless nights over it. You’ll imagine any scenario that could have happened to make it so this didn’t happen. You’ll think up things that could have happened years ago to put you on a path so different, you’d never have even made it here. But it wasn’t you.”
Vaughn’s thumbs rubbed circles over her pulse points. She felt him nod slowly. Flashing him a sad smile, she let her hands drift down to the fabric over his shoulders, fisting her hands in it to tug him from his seat. He followed without question, eyes keeping on her the whole time.
“Where are we going?”
She pulled him closer and away from the bar. Releasing him, she nodded her head towards his gear stacked in the chair. When he turned to gather it, she shrugged.
“I don’t know. Was kinda hoping you could tell me.”
He turned, confused and frowning. She allowed a sleepy smile to grace her features before a wide yawn ruined.
“I’m really, really tired, Vaughn. You are, too. Let’s go lay down.”
His eyes fell to her hand, held out and waiting for him to take it, before raising to look at her once more before it sunk in. He smiled gratefully, reaching out to wrap his palm around hers. She fell into step beside him when he squeezed her hand.
“I was hoping you’d say that,” he murmured.
As they walked in silence, side by side, more memories ran through her mind. Shooting Gortys. Leaving Rhys and Loader Bot. Losing track of Vaughn. The things that had, in the end, worked out, but in the time that they hadn’t, she’d spent agonizing over her choices. Periods of days where she refused sleep simply because she was so tired of having their faces screaming at her in her dreams.
‘If I had been smarter…’
‘If I had been faster…’
‘If I had been even half the friend to them as they had been to me…’
They came to a stop in front of a generic, gray door, keypad glowing at its side. He released her hand to punch the button, and stood to the side to let her through first. It was...odd. She’d never been in a place that was so much his own. So many of his things, parts from his life. Personal things. The hotel rooms, the caravan, the desert nights covered in stars. These are all she’d been around him in; never anything that was solely his own.
There were a couple shirts tossed haphazardly on the end of the bed, likely having been shed on previous evenings. Pants had been left by the side of the bed, along with balled up socks. The bed itself looked to be a double, with what looked like standard Hyperion issue gray blankets and sheets left rumpled from the morning, and Hyperion yellow pillowcases. A window above the bed showed a nearby cliff face, the starry sky above it cloudless; bookcases along both walls, filled to the brim with odds and ends; a desk in a corner with a lamp and chair. A door to her right shined a light as he stepped through it, appearing to be the bathroom. She made her way to the desk, taking a few minutes removing her gun and hat, followed by her backpack, coat, and vest. She had just sat down on the bed to remove her boots when he reappeared, shoes removed, shirtless, and sockless.
“I...I have a shower. If you wanna use one.”
“After you. You’ve probably got some dirt in some of those cuts that needs washing out. I can wait.”
He nodded and turned, the door sliding shut behind him. As the water ran, she let her mind wander again to those days where she felt so out of touch.
Sasha had handled her own feelings on the matter as best she could. She had always been the one that needed to be left alone when she needed to lick her wounds. Fiona had needed to be surrounded by those she trusted and cared for most.
But how was she to do that, then, when they were all gone? Some by her own hand, even, more or less?
‘Why surround yourself with more people when you fail with what few you have already?’
‘You left him behind to watch the whole thing crash and burn. You could have made it to him. You just didn’t try hard enough.’
‘She was like a child. If you could have held out just a little longer, you could’ve made it work to save her.’
‘He believed in you. He knew you were lying to his face, and he called you his friend anyway. And you couldn’t even save him.’
‘You didn’t try hard enough to find him. You left him for dead to be eaten by Psychos and Bandits.’
Her mind rolled and churned, trying to remember what it was that helped her put one foot in front of the other everyday; any bit of advice she could give that would help Vaughn. What had she done? What had she done?
She had worked. She had pushed it from her mind as best she could, and when she slept, she made sure it was because she was so worn out she couldn’t take a step without her head nodding. She put all her focus on jobs, on getting cash, on getting enough food for Sasha to eat well enough, giving no thought to her meager meals until Sasha had practically forced a grilled sandwich down her throat.
(She remembers nearly puking it up, but forcing herself to keep it down under Sasha’s worried glare.)
Fiona didn’t want that for him. How she had handled it...it wasn’t the best way.
He reemerged from the bathroom several minutes later, towel around his shoulders and sleep pants on. She stood as he came closer, rubbing the the end of the towel against his head. Dipping down to grab her pack, she brushed past him on her way to the bathroom.
She spent it in silence, running through her routine, taking time to notice everything he used smelled...clean. No heavy, perfumed things. Just light, clean scents. She scrubbed and scrubbed until she felt clean enough to sleep, and turned the water off, reaching for the towel.
Stepping into a clean pair of underwear, she caught her reflection in the foggy mirror. She straightened her bra, and pushed her bangs back, clipping them in place, before taking the corner of her wet rag to remove what bits of her makeup were left. In the mirror, she could see him sitting on the edge of the bed, back to the bathroom. His shoulders were slumped as he fidgeted with his fingers, poking at cuts on his arms and shoulder.
“Hey,” she called out. He turned to look over his shoulder, eyes widening before he turned back around.
“Sorry. Yeah. You need something?”
She gave his back a fond smile as she washed away the last of her eyeliner.
“You got a shirt I can sleep in or something? Most of my pack is ammo and health kits, with clothes for tomorrow.”
She watched him jump up, hurrying to a set of drawers she’d overlooked in her fatigue. He rummaged around before making his way to her, eyes watching the floor as he held out the folded tee to her. Her fingers slid against his as she took it from him with a soft “Thanks”. Its sleeves were ripped, and the torso had holes and small cuts through it, but it would do. Pulling it over her, head, she tugged at the hem, chuckling when it didn’t hardly reach her thighs.
“Must be your’s.”
He looked up, eyes wide as the image settled in his mind. She watched his cheeks flush red before she pushed past him, making her way to the other side of his bed, and pulled the bedding back to slide her legs in. She felt the other side dip, the blankets moving as he settled them over his body. Rolling to her back, she turned to see him with his arms folded behind his head, eyes open and staring at the ceiling in deep thought.
Lightly, she let the back of her right hand brush his ribs. He jerked, head turning to look at her with an accusation on his lips.
“Ticklish,” she teased, her smile dimming as his face fell again with a sigh.
“I know it’s not easy,” she began, settling her hand against his side to rub his skin calmingly. She felt his body move with each breath he took, finding her own body mimicking his as she rubbed gentle circles over his skin with the back of her hand.
“Who was it,” he finally whispered. He turned to her, eyes quietly pleading.
Her heart suddenly felt heavy, and she bit her lip, drawing her hand away to rest it on her stomach. Her other arm moved to rest above her head on the pillow, her fingers playing absently with her damp hair.
“Everyone,” she said, her voice breaking. She cleared her throat and continued.
“Scooter, then Loader Bot and Rhys. Gortys. You.” Her breath left her mouth harshly, and she sat up. She felt him move with her, beside her, thigh just a breath away from touching hers. Fiona turned, hating the sad, pitying look she was seeing on his face. She grimaced.
“Don’t look at me like that.”
She let the quiet settle around them for a bit before she continued.
“What happened sucks. It’s awful, and it hurts, and I won’t lie, it might happen again. Probably will. This place is awful and terrible and I’ve spent my entire life working on a way to get as far from it as I can. The only things, the only people, I cared about here were Felix and Sasha. Then there were these two idiots with a shit ton of cash that we just couldn’t shake loose. And then there were two robots that were so ridiculously adorable, like honestly, its just stupid how cute they are. And Scooter, who went along with whatever I wanted because I was pretty and I was nice to him.”
She was silent for a moment before she whispered, “I didn’t get to bounce back from that one.”
She felt his damp head come to rest against her shoulder, hand wrapped loosely around her wrist.
“Will it ever stop?”
She hummed a quiet question back to him.
“Hurting. When it happens.”
Turning her head, she looked at him, taking in the sad eyes and all. She thought about telling him yes, that eventually, he wouldn’t hurt when people were killed. This was Pandora. You needed to become hardened to death, or live the rest of your life anticipating the next loss. Then she thought about him seeing a body, and being entirely unaffected; imagined him sighing before turning to walk calmly away from whoever had been out with him on a run. The thought caused a queasy feeling to settle in her gut.
“I hope it doesn't.”
He seemed to think it over, nodding with a low hum. A heavy breath left his back bowed and his head hung while she contemplated what her next step should be as his thumb absently rubbed circles over her skin. She bit her lip, raising her hand until she could tug on his side to turn him. She laid back and pulled him with her until his head came to rest at her shoulder once more. Her arm wrapped around him, she pulled him tightly against her side, settling in once she felt his arm come around her waist. His nose brushed against her chest as he shifted until he was comfortable, and she could finally rest her other hand against his head gently. She felt like she was playing a role she was ill prepared for, the role of emotional comforter. A role she had seldom found herself in since Sasha was so much younger and with a far emptier belly. As his arm tightened around her, and he sniffed and burrowed his face in her shirt, she raked her nails along his scalp until his breathing evened and his grip loosened, causing a sense of relief to flood her. She had hoped she hadn't forgotten how to do this, and it seemed she still had a gentle touch when needed.
Pandora took a lot from everyone that touched it's surface, herself included, but she thought of the deep ache she still felt when Scooter’s face flashed across her mind, and felt her eyes tear up again.
Pandora took a lot from everyone that touched it's surface, but her empathy was still well intact for those she loved, and she hoped Pandora feared her. If he lost his empathy, if he stopped aching and crying over losses, she would set the whole world on fire for taking something so important to his character from him.
Chapter 4: Gala Number 2
“Vaughn,” the earpiece said.
He sighed and brought his glass of wine up to his lips.
There was a moment of silence followed by a low chuckle. From across the room, he could see her caught in sudden conversation with an elderly landowner from Eden 5, the man holding her hands far too tightly. Vaughn felt a grunt push it’s way from his throat before he swallowed what was left of his wine. As a waiter passed by, he grabbed another glass, leaving his own on the tray, eyes held firmly on her. If she needed a way out, he’d have to be ready to act. He thought of the knife strapped to his leg under his slacks, and grimaced. He hated the thought of having to use it, but if she needed a way out, he’d make it happen.
“Do you need me, Fiona?”
He watched as her hand lifted to the earpiece under the guise of pushing back her hair, and she gave a subtle shake of her head. He nodded and looked away at the other gala attendees. A swarm of rich folks decked out in their Saturday night finery. Not even their best, he’d bet. So many with so much, while the people of Pandora suffered so quickly, and died even quicker. It made his skin crawl.
The Children of Helios scavenged and looted whatever they could get their hands on to survive, but they were all adults. Vaughn knew of children, real children, who suffered much more, who starved far more frequently, all because they didn't have have a means of supporting themselves besides stealing. No parents, no guardians. No one to let them live without the stress of staying alive on Pandora hanging over their heads. The money used to rent this event hall was probably more than he'd made in a year working for Hyperion. Money that could have been used to save children like Fiona and Sasha from a life of hardship. Unfortunately, not every child had the knack for thievery like those two, and those that were caught by the wrong person usually didn't live to make another mistake.
He shuffled his way around the crowd of people in the ballroom, trying to keep from spilling his expensive wine all over the beautiful gowns and tuxedos present. Fiona was still stuck with the elderly man, now joined by three of his peers. When the men looked at each other, he saw her lip snarl, teeth bared in a silent growl. He grinned, knowing when the end of the night came, those men could very well find themselves a few wallets lighter than when they’d appeared tonight.
A light touch to his elbow brought his attention around to a gentleman in a black tux. The man spoke of stocks and share prices, things Vaughn hadn’t worried about in at least two years at this point. He’d had more important affairs to handle since he and Rhys had fallen to Pandora, not the least of which was basic survival and the learning thereof. His voice drawled on while Vaughn thought of his last run-in with a group of Skags. The scab on his calf still itched, but it was healing fine. He used the toe of his other shoe to rub against his pant leg.
“...and the reports needed to show for the loss in profit were handled by--”
“Someone far better at numbers than myself. Isn’t that right, dear?”
A quick, warm press of lips against his cheek brought a smile to his face. He turned to see Fiona smiling dully at the man, her hand clutching her purse close. He could see the bulge of her gun against the sequined fabric. Wrapping an arm around her waist carefully, he turned to the man.
“My wife, Lydia. She’s more of an anthropologist than an accountant, eheh.”
“Oh, I’ve noticed. She’s charmed just about every man here.”
The man reached a hand out to her, wrapping his fingers around her own carefully as he bent to kiss her knuckles. The man’s eyes stayed on her, and Vaughn could feel she was two seconds away from breaking the man’s nose, bright smile be damned. Slowly, he tightened his fingers around her waist, thumb rubbing circles just above her hip. When the man finally moved back to a more appropriate two step distance, Fiona moved to grab Vaughn’s hand, and tugged him away.
“Pardon us, but I need to speak to my husband for a few moments.”
With a nod, and a sleazy smile, the man turned after bidding them a goodnight. Once out of earshot, Fiona groaned and rubbed the back of her hand against the skirt of her dress.
“Ugh, God. I think my hand will be kissed raw before tonight’s over. Did you know that old, rich men are quite possibly the most disgusting people alive? Because I know they are. First hand, eyewitness account.”
She scoffed and turned her back on the crowd in favor of looking at him. Leaning closer, she smiled.
“As I was saying, before I was so rudely interrupted by Mr. Hanston: Thank you for helping me here tonight.”
Vaughn shrugged and grinned.
“I still don’t see why Rhys wouldn’t have been better. He can shmooze better than me.”
He watched her eyes roll, as her mouth fell open in an expression of apparent disgust.
“Please! Rhys assumes everyone likes him far more than they actually do. Eeeeeeexcept you, of course. As his best friend. Who I shit talked about him to. Which by the way, he’s also a shit liar.”
Vaughn watched her knowingly before Fiona cleared her throat awkwardly, then said in a firm tone, “You’re a far better candidate.”
He almost felt flattered before the words sunk in.
“Wait. Are you calling me a liar? I’ve never lied to you!”
“I didn’t mean it like that! I meant like, Rhys gets...awkward. He starts making shit up because he thinks he needs to talk when he’s nervous. Since he’s CEO now, there’s a lot more on the line for him when he meets people like this, and he’d be nervous trying to gain investors.”
Turning back to the crowd, he felt her hand slip into his, ever the loyal wife when the crowd could be watching. He laced their fingers together, bringing them to his lips before dropping them to their sides once more.
After a few moments of easy silence, he said, “I don’t mind helping. In fact, it’s almost like a vacation. I just wish I’d thought to shave before coming. Everyone keeps looking at me like I’m wearing a psycho mask.”
She lifted their linked hands to run the back of her fingers along his jaw.
“I don’t know. I kinda like this look on you.”
Vaughn’s eyes widened as he looked up at her. She tossed a wink his way, followed by a toothy grin, as his brows raised in surprise. Slowly, his lips stretched into a small smile, his eyes looking down to the floor. She probably hadn’t meant it but...it had been a very nice thing to hear. He brought his glass to his lips to give his mouth something to do besides shine a goofy grin for the whole room to see, only he was surprised to see her well manicured hand try to snatch it from him. He turned his body away, grunting and shaking his head while keeping their hands linked between them, and holding the glass out of her reach.
“Asshole,” he heard her mutter. His fingers tightened around hers.
“You’re the one who always says how happy you are to see me.”
With a smile and a tug, he pulled her reluctantly from their corner towards the crowd.
“Well, my dear, do you think we can find some information about some vault keys?”
Vaughn heard a low chuckle escape her.
“Oh, darling, I thought you’d never ask. Now, seriously, gimme some of that wine. I find myself in need of alcohol.”
Chapter 5: Quiet Night
Set after Gala Number 2
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
They hadn't made it back to the hotel yet before Fiona was cursing at his side. Vaughn stopped and looked to where she had fallen behind several paces.
“What? Did we forget something?”
She grunted and shook her head, motioning for him to step closer. Once he was by her side, she reached over and gripped his shoulder with one hand, using him to help keep her balance as she tore one shoe then the other off her feet. She sighed feeling the cool cement under her feet, patting his shoulder before letting her hand drift down his arm and fall to her side.
“I fucking hate these shoes. I want to personally maim the inventor of high heels.”
He reached a hand out, dutifully taking her shoes to let them dangle from his fingers. Rubbing the back of his neck, he let out a tired groan.
“I just wanna sleep. For like...ever. No more weird ass people who think of stalkers as exotic pets.”
“Or elderly widowers who try to put moves on me.”
“Or fancy wine...wait. No. I liked the fancy wine.”
“That champagne was pretty awesome.”
“But not worth the company we had to keep to get it.”
Fiona groaned and shook her head. They walked in silence as they approached their building, and as he stepped ahead to open the door for her, he spoke up.
“Of course, some of the company wasn't so bad.”
Fiona gasped, dramatically raising a hand to her chest.
“Vaughn, are you saying you liked schmoozing with those air headed twits? I thought you had more taste. No, but seriously. I'm almost flattered.”
He laughed quietly as they entered the lobby, watching the lights from above catch the beadwork on her floor length, black, lacy affair. Being strapless, it left her upper back and shoulders exposed, showing off the light skin tone differences where scars puckered along her skin and the freckles mixed along with them. As they reached where the marble ended and the carpet began, she groaned once more.
“I'm gonna need to soak these puppies before bed.”
Vaughn was careful to not step on the trailing end of her dress, watching as her thin fingers tugged the fabric higher so as not to get caught on any metal pieces as they entered the elevator. Fatigued, she leaned against the wall, eyes gliding to him. He felt a dumb smile cross his lips, but felt it become earnest when she chuckled.
“I think we make a brilliant team. Don't you?” She said, voice low in the quiet of the late hour. Vaughn hummed in agreement. Whatever this...thing was between them, the casual hand holding, the looks, the trust. It made for good material when working in a situation like this.
The mechanical whir of the elevator slowed as they reached their floor, and once the doors opened, he started out, only stopping to turn and hold his hand out to her.
“Well, my dear? That bath is waiting with your name on it.”
“Darling, that's the best news I've heard all night.”
Vaughn frowned as he tugged her through the elevator doors to their room.
“I'm sorry your lead didn't pan out. Maybe next time, right?”
She groaned, and pouted, before shrugging. He took that to be an affirmative, albeit a reluctant one, and dug through his jacket pocket for their room key. Upon entry, he stepped into the tiny closet provided to remove and hang his jacket, dropping her shoes on the closet floor. He unbuttoned the cuffs of his dress shirt and rolled the sleeves to his elbows before making his way to the bathroom while Fiona carefully removed her gun from her purse at the desk.
Vaughn caught a glimpse of himself in the large mirror above the sink and stopped short. There, on his cheek, was the remnants of her lipstick. A deep purple, just above his beard. He brought a hand to the coarse facial hairs just beneath the mark, eyes flitting to her form in the mirror, back turned to him. Swallowing around the catch in his throat, he shook his head and continued on to the tub in the corner, beginning to prepare a warm bath for his companion.
“Whatcha doin’?” She asked.
“You said something about needing a soak before bed. I'm not the one who needs it so I figured I'd...try to do something nice.” He kept his hand poised above the knobs in case she'd changed her mind. Instead, she gave an honest smile, eyes sliding shut as she sighed.
“You are, quite possibly, the nicest man I know.”
Vaughn shrugged, lips tightening into a line.
“The men of Pandora seem to leave a lot to be desired.”
Fiona let out a harsh laugh at that.
“Oh, believe me. They do.”
She fisted her skirt with one hand, turned, and pointed at her back with the other.
“Help a girl out will ya? Then consider your gentlemanly job done for the evening.”
He felt his heart stutter in his chest. Stepping closer, he slowly raised his hands to the top button, threading it out of its loop, followed by the next, and the next after that. With each button, he uncovered more smooth skin, and the ridge of her spine beneath, so tantalizingly close to the tips of his roughened fingers. Drawing his bottom lip between his teeth, he allowed himself one long drag of his fingertips down her spine, parting the fabric further, nearly missing the shudder she gave. One more thing caught his eye: a glint of metal at the back of her neck. Leaning closer, his finger found the clasp of her necklace, thumb tugging on the release. He leaned forward, letting his fingers meet to transfer the necklace to one hand, and in that moment, Vaughn could see her shiver as his breath left in a huff, moving the hairs at the nape of her neck.
All the buttons were loose, and the only thing holding her dress up was the arm she'd crossed under her breasts. Without her heels, their eyes met easily as she turned around. His heart was pounding, and he was sure she could tell his breathing was quicker, as his eyes did their utmost best to stay at her face.
He only failed twice, and he considered it a personal achievement.
Fiona let her skirt fall back down, letting the hand drop to her side as she held the bodice closer. His eyes quickly glanced down to see her thin fingers fist into the fabric at her thigh. Fiona cleared her throat.
“Well, man? I'm not stripping with you in here! Get out!”
Vaughn choked on air, sputtering as he slid past her and through the door, stopping to apologize but grinning after he realized she had shut the door with a streak of red across her cheeks.
After replacing chapter 3, I've decided from now on if I catch a time line issue between pieces, I'll just say where it's supposed to be because comments don't change when you change the chapter, and that kinda irks me :/ I've got a few more pieces to look over before posting and some prompts sitting in my doc file :)
I'm on Tumblr under the name ladymaliwan. :D
Chapter 6: Third part of Gala Number 2
What the chapter title says. This takes place after the last chapter posted, Quiet Night.
Vaughn had already been through his nightly routine of changing into sleep pants, and combing his hair out before pulling it back again, when Fiona came out of the bathroom in a robe tied tightly around her waist. Her hair was dripping on to the carpet, and under one eye, he could see a smudge from her mascara that she’d missed.
“Forgot my pj’s,” she mumbled, making her way to her bag beside the desk. She stood up with a bundle of mismatched cotton and quietly padded her way back to the bathroom, leaving the door ajar just the smallest amount.
“Hopefully, next information-gathering session will have actual results. I’m sorry I pulled you away from your work for nothing.”
He shrugged, “Like I said. It’s like a vacation. It’s different when the fancy stuff only happens rarely now.”
A moment later, she emerged, tugging the hem of her tee shirt down over her shorts. She looked confused, brows drawn close over her eyes.
“Well, when you work for Hyperion, you’re expected to show up at these sorts of things whenever they happen. Even if you’re just a mid-level accountant. Something about saving company face, acting like they care about everyone who works for them. What a joke, am I right?” Vaughn gave a wry smile, which Fiona returned.
“The best joke was stealing their 10 million. Chaotic good at it’s finest.”
He laughed and nodded.
“I won’t lie. That felt...pretty good.”
Fiona pulled the sheets down, and climbed under them, sighing as her head hit the pillow. She watched him for a moment in silence, while he stared at the stitching on the blanket past his folded legs. She shifted to her side, and raised her knee until it bumped against his, drawing his attention to her with a hum.
“You did the right thing, Vaughn.”
“Oh, I know. I’m more than happy about screwing over Vasquez, may he rest faceless six feet under somewhere. Dick bag.” He shifted and pulled the sheets over his legs as he slid down to lie on his side, facing her.
“He was an asshole,” she said with a grin. He matched it, tucking his arm under his pillow. “I still have no idea how someone as nice as you used to work at such a...such a....”
She scoffed, eyes rolling up.
“That’s not a harsh enough word for what I meant, but yeah. I mean, I get you stuck with Rhys and Yvette, but it’s a wonder someone didn’t try to do you in, too.”
Vaughn snorted, and grinned.
“Nobody cares about mid-level accountants. It’s the higher level jobs you have to be careful.”
Fiona lifted her head, resting it on her palm to look down at him.
“So this bandit thing works out for you better, I take it? Less potential to be...usurped? You seem to enjoy it, anyway.”
Vaughn smiled brightly, biting his lower lip before speaking.
“It’s so much less stress on the heart when you don’t have to worry about waking up to someone shoving a knife to your throat, or being drowned in the company pool, or being fed rat poison…”
“Or getting pushed out of an airlock…”
“Or getting pushed out of an airlock, yes. It’s cutthroat, but in a far different way than Hyperion was. Although, there are some things I miss.”
He watched as she chewed on the inside of her cheek, seemingly pondering something pretty hard. He tapped the bed with two fingers, drawing her eyes to him.
“Whatcha thinkin’ on so hard?”
Her eyes narrowed cautiously, watching his face, before she sighed, lifting a finger to poke the end of his nose.
“This does not leave this room at any point in time.”
Vaughn nodded slowly, his eyes widened comically. She pulled her hand away to run it through her hair.
“I always wondered what I'd've turned out like if we’d been well off. I don’t...I don’t regret helping raise Sasha as best I could. We worked, and we worked hard, and I love her. But, I can’t help but wonder if she...if we would have been happier. If we’d...ya know...had a real family. A home. An education would have been nice.”
Vaughn watched her silence, working his jaw as he tried to think of something to say. Once the quiet continued for so long, Fiona grinned and turned over.
“I’m going to sleep, Glasses Face.”
“You can’t call me that anymore. I don’t have my glasses.”
“Fuckin’ watch me.”
He turned, reaching to turn off his lamp, then moving to lie on his back again, hands resting on his stomach. His eyes kept flitting to her form next to him, back still to him, arms held in front of her. When he heard her legs moving under the sheets, he broke his silence, keeping his stare on the ceiling as lights from the traffic on the street below moved across it.
“Knowing you as I do now...I think you’d have been bored as fuck with a privleged life, but you’re right. Being raised under different circumstances, it might have been different if you knew nothing else. You enjoy learning new things, so I think school would have been fun for you. You’re really smart, and you pick up on things quick.”
He moved his hand to rest between their bodies on the blanket.
“You have...some kind of instinct that helps you move through life. You see what’s needed, and you make your choice, and it’s not always the best choice, but...but you live through it. You pick up, you move on. You do what’s best, not for you, but for everyone around you.”
Vaughn rolled over to face her back, only to see she was half turned, watching him from over her shoulder.
“An education can only get you so far, and the rest is all your own to make of it as best you can. There’s an intuition needed to make it as far you have with so little working with you, and I can guarantee you that if you’d been from my home town, you’d have made it further than any of us.”
He pretended not to hear the small sniff, ignored the shadow of her hand moving over her face.
“I coulda been something, huh,” she murmured.
“Coulda? Pfft. You’re already a something! A big something!”
Her eyes turned fierce, from what he could gather with such little light.
“Are you calling me fat, you jerk?”
Vaughn sputtered and tried to find the right words to explain his meaning until he felt the back of her hand hit his thigh.
“N-no! No nonono! I was ju-”
“I’m kidding, you idiot.”
He released a heavy breath, watching her as she held a hand over her mouth to stifle the laughter. A light passed over the ceiling and just enough down the wall to hit the mirror, which shined it back on her for just a split second. It was just enough to leave him feeling like he’d run a marathon, trying to count the freckles on her shoulder in the span of a microsecond, and he felt he’d come to a decision.
She may or may not ever know exactly how he felt. He might not ever tell her.
But Fiona would damn well know he cared for her, in some way. She would not leave this world, this room, this night, without knowing she held a special place in his life that no one else could touch.
She’s my friend. Friends do this, right?
Without a word, he wrapped an arm around her waist, pulling her back against his chest. He felt her curl in on herself as the last of her laughter died out, knees tucking up close to her chest. He shimmied his arm under her head, resting his own head against his shoulder while moving the arm around her waist until he felt comfortable, only finally feeling like he could rest when her own hand covered his. When her fingers slid between his own, he could practically feel her heartbeat through her back, and tightened his hold on her, letting his nose brush the back of her neck. He felt her other hand move to tug the blankets back up into position around their shoulders and smiled against her skin.
As her thumb rubbed circles along the back of his hand, she said a quiet, “Goodnight.”
He responded in kind, and let his eyes slip shut, trying to burn every image of her from tonight into his mind.