Three wakes up. He isn't alone.
"Easy, easy," answers the blaster Three jams in his intruder's face.
Three knows the voice. "Lights," he grumbles, and they flash on obediently. The glare makes him scowl; too much light after being woken up without warning. He keeps Pip cocked on Six, whose hands are up and empty. The big lug is sitting on an edge of his bed. He looks annoyed, a twitch at a corner of his eye.
"What the hell?" Three demands. He's half-covered by a bed sheet, naked from the waist up. Reluctantly, he lowers his weapon. "Didn't realize I'd ordered a night cap."
Six rolls his eyes. "I heard you."
"You heard me order a night cap?" Three snorts. "Overdressed, don't you think?"
"I heard you," Six repeats, ignoring the comment, "from outside. You were screaming."
Three glowers. "I don't scream."
"Shouting then." Six hesitates, scanning Three's face. Too close for comfort. "Must have been one hell of a nightmare," he ventures.
"Imagining things," Three mutters. He stuffs his pistol back under his pillow.
"I didn't imagine anything..." Six frowns at his placement of the gun. "That safe?"
"Doubt it," Three replies, "but hey. My head, not yours." He reclines back on his hands, sheet pooled around his middle. "How the hell'd you get in here anyway?"
"Override code." Six shrugs. "Five."
"Damn it." The kid is turning into a master criminal. Three has mixed feelings about that. But he doesn't have mixed feelings about wanting Six to get the hell out of his room. "Anything else?"
Six's mouth tightens, as if he gives a damn. "All I'm saying is... Everyone is dealing with some pretty heavy-"
"I don't know what I was dreaming, all right?" Three barks. "And you're sure as hell not my head doctor. I've got nothing to say to you."
Six's forehead pinches in frustration. "I couldn't sleep either, all right?"
"Poor you." Three puckers his lips in a mocking kiss.
Six's eyes narrow. He has plenty to say, Three can tell. More than a few curses floating around that head of his. Good. Three has been dying for the guy to go off. He keeps baiting and baiting, just waiting for Six to finally snap.
But it won't happen tonight either. Six's anger cools, leaving exhaustion and little else. "Fine," he relents. "I'm going."
"Come on," Three snaps. But Six is already out his door, the panel sliding back into place.
Three huffs and drops his head back on his pillow. The pistol underneath jabs his neck. "Goddammit," he grits. It's definitely not safe to have a gun here.
Three blinks back to himself at the mess table. His thumb and pointer finger are pinched against the bridge of his nose. A dull throb pulses behind his eyes. His food sits on a tray in front of him, untouched.
The feeling came over him without warning, thick and paralyzing. It burned hot through his veins. Crept bile-sour up his throat. Three heaves a shuddering breath. At least it's not vomit; he'll gladly take the small miracles. His nerves are still buzzing.
That thing. Dwarf Star. Whatever Rook put inside him....
Six is on the other side of the room. Three wonders if he's been here the whole time. The unasked question hangs between them. Three doesn't want to hear it, and Six clearly doesn't want to say it. But the big guy never knows when to quit. "You all right?" he asks.
"Peachy," Three mumbles. He forks at his crap food with purpose. Only, it looks less appetizing than usual. Way, way less appetizing. The fork drops from his shaking fingers. "Can't eat this shit," he grumbles, forcing himself up.
Now, everything is shaking. Arms. Legs. He's freezing and burning. What the hell.
"Hey." Six takes a step towards him. "You don't look so-"
Three jerks away, arm thrust out to create distance. More small miracles, Six stops. He's frustrated and concerned, obviously. Three doesn't want either sentiment. He just wants his bed and pills for the headache carving away at his skull.
"You're not all right," Six states. He crosses his arms; looks more jacked than usual, flashy bastard.
"So what?" Three shoots back, rather than denying it. "Who cares? You?"
"Of course I care!" Six's usual bullshit. Like he gives a damn about Three. Like he's ever given a damn.
Three isn't about to fall for the act. "Oh yeah?" He rolls his eyes. "Picked a hell of a time to start." Three doesn't wait for Six to try any more sweet talk. He makes a quick exit and stalks back to his room.
Alone, he's free to lie down in the dark. Waves of sickness ride over him. The virus, that thing Rook put in his head... Chaos. Rage. An echo of his own screams. Was any of it him?
It's gone anyway. The crew spaced it, Two said. Good. A human isn't made to feel like that. Raw, blinding hate. Its heaviness sprawls through Three; worst hangover ever.
"You son of a bitch."
Six doesn't seem surprised when Three storms into his open quarters. "What now?" He's sitting on his bed, data pad on his lap.
"You ratted me out," Three accuses, finger jabbed at Six's chest.
"What are you talking about?"
"To Two!" Three glares. "She made me sit through all these damn scans with the robot. Poked and prodded me like some lab experiment. You don't get to tattle to the boss lady any time you think something's up-"
"Well, maybe if you'd own up when something's wrong, I wouldn't have to." Six's voice rises with every word.
A thrill of satisfaction goes through Three. Finally, some emotion from the guy. "Nothing is wrong," Three insists.
"Bullshit!" Six shouts. Three grins outright, egging him on. "You haven't been right since Dwarf Star. You don't want me asking questions, fine. But you owe it to the the crew to get checked out."
"Well," Three rests a shoulder against a wall. "You'll be sad to know that I'm fine. No sign of the parasite. I'm good as can be."
Six frowns. "Why would I think that's a bad thing?"
"Please." Three rolls his eyes. "Gave the crew a reason to doubt me? Made yourself look good, whistle blower?"
Six shakes his head. "That isn't what this was about."
"Oh yeah?" Three crosses his arms. "Educate me, Tiny." He thinks he has the guy; Six is finally going to explode.
But Six's expression turns thoughtful. "Haven't called me 'Tiny' in a long time," he says quietly.
Three curses under his breath. "Don't change the subject," he snaps, to save face.
"I thought we were past this." Six's words drag out, worn thin. "You said it yourself, this is getting old."
"Hey, I'm not keeping you off any more missions," Three mutters. "That doesn't mean I'm buying this whole buddy act."
"It's not an act, Three-"
"You never gave a shit, even before you sold us out!" Three turns on his heels. "You might have the kid fooled. Maybe the others too. But I know better." He glares over his shoulder. "Always will."
"I don't trust him," Portia says. They're alone on the bridge, door shut to their command post. Portia's black trench coat grazes the floor. Her arms are propped on the back of a chair. Marcus' chair.
His legs are crossed and kicked up on a console. "Why's that?" he grins up at her. "Think he's a threat or something?"
"What do we know about Griff?"
"Killed a bunch of people on that shuttle op." Marcus waggles his brows. "Our type a' guy."
"He holds back," Portia states, frowning. "He's not like us."
"He does enough," Marcus reasons with a shrug. "Besides, he's a big guy. Big guys are useful."
"To who?" Portia arches a knowing brow. "You?" Her fingers frame Marcus' shoulders.
Marcus smiles, pleased, and closes his eyes. He straightens for the hands Portia kneads into his shoulders. "He's good for brawls," Marcus says. "Breaking stuff. And - mmm," he pauses, back arched. "Even you've gotta admit, Tiny's one hell of a pilot."
A hand slides under his shirt. It skims down his chest to splay across his stomach. Marcus tenses when her gentle touch becomes nails, pink lines etched from ribs to collarbone.
"I don't care who you want to bone," Portia tells him. "If I find out he's two-timing us? He's dead."
"Fine by me, boss." Marcus smiles under her jaw. "If it makes you feel better? I'm an excellent judge of character."
Portia's mouth twitches. "It doesn't."
The vault door is open and unattended when Six approaches. He finds Three inside, hunched against the back wall of metal shelving. Another episode. A painful-looking spasm tears up his back. His grip is white-knuckled on a rack. It only takes a few minutes to pass, like the others. When Three blinks back to himself, he's broken out in a sweat. His eyes are glassy, and he gulps air through an open mouth.
Three scowls when he spots Six, but Six doesn't ask if he's ok this time. He just continues with his business in silence. Six opens a crate a few steps from Three and removes a handful of green protein bars. From the crate next to it, he takes new wires for the comm chargers and cleaner fluid for data pad screens.
"Hogging the green bars?" Three inspects Six's growing bounty. He's unsteady on his feet, but his mouth is curled in a trademark smirk. His exhaustion bleeds through though, dark circles under his eyes.
Six shrugs. "Can't eat the blue ones."
"You won't eat them, you mean," Three accuses. "The blue ones are crap, but that doesn't mean you can steal all the good ones."
"They're sitting here," Six says. "Anyone else is welcome to them." With a thin smile, Six starts for the door.
"Hey." Three hails him back.
Six considers ignoring him; give Three a taste of his own medicine for once. But he doesn't have it in him. Six turns back around.
"I'll head up with you," Three says. "Not feeling so hot."
Six frowns. "Uh, sure." He waits for Three in the vault doorway. "You good to walk?"
"Give me some credit, will ya?" Surprisingly, Three doesn't sound angry when he answers. He seems amused. And tired.
Three falls in line with Six back to the main level. He walks slower than usual, little attempt made to hide how miserable he feels. Six wants to press him, but he knows he'll hit a dead end. "Couple days before we hit the next station," he tries instead. "Good time to get some rest."
Three's laugh is paper thin. "Fat chance," he mumbles. "Not sleeping."
Six's frown deepens. Is this honesty a sign that Three is starting to forgive Six in earnest? Or has Three's situation gotten so bad that he can't fake holding it together? The latter is more likely. Six's concern rises. "Sick or something?"
A second laugh from Three. "You know I'm not."
Outside Three's room, he punches in his access code. It takes three attempts for him to get the door open. When it finally clicks up into place, Three stumbles to his bed. Six watches him flop stomach-down, lingering awkwardly in the doorway.
"What was I like?" Three asks, muffled by his pillow.
"What do you mean?"
"When I had that stuff in me," Three mumbles. "At Dwarf Star."
"You..." Six enters his room fully and taps the wall keypad, closing the door behind him. This feels like the start of a private conversation. "Didn't seem like yourself," Six remarks. "You were quiet, for one." Three snorts from the bed. "I knew they did something to you there. But you didn't fly off the handle until later. You could speak. You could follow directions. You just...it was like you weren't all there."
"I thought about killing you in that cell," Three tells him. "I've been reliving it."
Not the most comforting revelation. "You've been...remembering when you had the parasite in you?"
Three nods. "It's like missing time's coming together, filling in the gaps. Problem is," he rolls onto his side, "it's not just what I did. I'm seeing what I could have done. In that cell. Back on the ship."
"You didn't though." It's empty consolation, but it's the best Six has. "And it wasn't you. It was whatever that thing was."
Three props his head up on a balled hand. "Yeah it was." He breaks their eye contact. "I would've shot you if you hadn't realized something was up."
"You want to shoot me every other day too," Six jokes. "Just more serious about it that time."
Three's smile is half-hearted. "You were the first one I liked on this crew, know that?"
Six raises a brow at the sudden topic change. "You're joking."
"Nah." Three struggles to sit up, back propped against the wall. He gingerly stretches his legs out in front of him. "One grated on my last nerve." He smirks wryly. "Two, I respected, but I had my guard up around her. Four? Dude's harder to read than analog. Even Five. I mean, what the hell am I supposed to do with a kid?"
"You never trusted me," Six argues.
"Sure I did." Three shrugs. "You knew how to fly. Had a head on your shoulders. Stubborn as a mule-"
"Look who's talking."
Three chuckles under his breath. "You stood for something. Didn't always agree with you. But I trusted you to say what you meant. If you didn't like me, you'd tell me to my face. It was the others I had to watch. They'd stab me in the back. Not you."
Six's shoulders sink. He was hoping to avoid this, at least for one day. "Want another apology?"
Three shakes his head. "Want you to know how it is, that's all." The comment hangs between them. It feels like a step. In what direction, Six isn't sure.
"I trusted you the least," he says.
Three's barked laugh sounds more like himself. "I'll bet."
"You were a self-serving bastard. I thought you'd ditch us the minute it was worth your while."
"But you didn't," Six adds. He crosses his arms over his chest. "I thought you'd be the one to sell us out. Turns out, you've been the most loyal to this crew the whole time."
"No, I haven't," Three murmurs. "If I'd been loyal to the crew, One would still be around." The sentiment is the last thing Six expects to hear from Three. It comes out bitter, edged with a sardonic smile.
Three is wrong. One's death isn't on him. It's on Six. And he's going to have to carry it for the rest of his life.
"Hey, Tiny." Three nods towards an unopened bottle of whiskey on his desk. "I'll share my booze if you'll share your protein bars."
"Thought your good liquor was for special occasions," Six remarks.
"It's a special occasion. You n' me, breaking bread." Three shrugs. "Breaking protein bars, anyway."
Six sighs, but he's smiling as he grabs the bottle. He tosses a few protein bars on the mattress next to Three and sits on a side of his bed. In this new found moment of trust, he dares to ask, "You ok?"
"Better," Three says. Six chooses to believe him for now.
Marcus catches the guy at a bad time. He has mixed feelings about that.
On one hand, Griffin can be hard to reason with in a decent mood. On the other hand, Griffin never gets mad! Seeing the big guy pissed is a temptation Marcus can't back down from. What's the point of all that muscle if it doesn't get used once in awhile?
Griffin is sitting in the mess, screen up. He hasn't registered Marcus' presence yet. His glare is on the media. Marcus gives the video a cursory glance. Not porn, sadly.
"Hey, Tiny," Marcus hails. "Let's talk heist."
"Not now," Griffin mutters. He never looks up from the screen. Marcus' mouth quirks with interest.
He takes a longer look at the stream Griffin is watching. Nothing fun, some GNN report on that shuttle bombing. 'Anniversary of Hyadum-12 Bombing' scrolls across the bottom of the screen. 'Death count: 10,000+.'
Marcus has to hand it to Griffin. Bombing a passenger shuttle is cold-blooded, even for the Raza crew. The act is why Marcus has shrugged off Portia's suspicion of Griffin up until now. Sure, he may be a little off sometimes. Who wouldn't be off after taking out that many people single-handedly?
"Reliving your glory days?" Marcus asks.
Griffin's eyes are dark and warning. "What did you say?"
Marcus looks between him and the screen. "Hyadum-12," he says. "Your handiwork, right?"
"You don't know what you're talking about." Griffin is strung wire-tight. Alarms go off in Marcus' head.
Marcus has to bite his lip to keep from grinning. He likes danger, maybe too much. "You don't give yourself enough credit!" Marcus provokes. "Hell, I thought I had stones, man. But that?" He hikes a thumb at the GNN report. "Thing of beauty."
"Beauty?" Marcus has never heard Griffin's voice so low. "You call that beauty?"
"Well, yeah." Marcus cocks his head. "What do you call it?"
"Pointless," Griffin hisses. "A massacre."
"Your massacre," Marcus corrects. "Hell of a job, man-"
Griffin moves pretty fast for a big guy. In a blink Griffin is out of his seat, and Marcus' back hit the wall. Griffin's forearm jams under his chin. Marcus' head cracks back. His eyes water, and he chokes for air. It feels awesome.
"You don't know a thing about it," Griffin grits. "Or me."
He's huge. Big and hard in all the right places. Marcus shouldn't be smiling right now, but he can't help it! Boss lady is pretty damn amazing. But, rough as Portia can be, she can't fake the size. Griffin's thick arm is cutting off Marcus' throat. His weight threatens to put Marcus through the mess room wall.
"Don't need to," Marcus rasps. "You're one of us, Tiny. All that matters."
Griffin's glare glints like knives. "I'm nothing like you," he snarls.
Portia wouldn't like the sound of this. For now, Marcus stores the information away. He's much happier basking in his own struggling breaths. Dizziness sets in as his air grows thin. His body twitches forward. Biology. Not his fault.
Griffin frowns. "Seriously?"
"Yeah." Not much point lying about the reaction. Griffin's body is close enough to feel all of Marcus' deepest, darkest secrets. He winks. "Murder's sexy, big guy."
Griffin's mouth curls back. For one blissful second, Marcus thinks he's about to get decked in the face.
But Griffin just shoves him off. Shoves him off, as if Marcus was the one pinning him to the mess wall. "You need help," Griffin mutters, and stalks out of the room.
Marcus rubs the angry red welt across his neck. "Says the guy who bombed the damned passenger ship!" He shakes his head. This crew has issues.
Space does not change with the passage of time. No sun up or sundown. But the Raza still feels different at night. Energy reserves kick in, the glow from side panels softer at midnight. No laughter or chatter from neighboring rooms. Even the Android is absent, docked in her charging station.
Six isn't surprised to find Three at the mess table, bottle of bad scotch open in front of him. Two metal cups sit next to the bottle; one is conveniently empty. Three pushes it to the other side of the table.
"You been up this whole time?" Six asks. He sits across from Three.
Three sighs in greeting. "What's it look like? You?"
"Tried to sleep," Six admits. "Gave up."
"Heh." Three downs the rest of his cup in a smooth gulp. He grunts, refilling his cup first before dealing round one to Six. "This stuff's awful. Brace yourself."
Six tests the cup with a sniff first, then a sip. It's terrible, as promised. All burn and no flavor, like swallowing straight diesel. On the bright side, the liquor is potent. He can see why Three is still drinking it.
"Thought you might show up," Three says.
"Neither of us are counting sheep lately."
Six shrugs. "I've been thinking about Anders."
Three frowns, pensive. "That the guy who tried to stop us from breaking out?"
Six nods. "I had to make a choice. He had to make one too." He chuckles bitterly. "He didn't even believe in the GA. But he wanted to stand for something."
Three shrugs. "Stood for a blast to the face." Six shakes his head, but Three keeps talking before he can argue. "You're good at beating yourself up, know that?"
"It's not a bad thing to wonder if there was any other way," Six argues. "I didn't want to kill him."
"Course you didn't. He was a good guy, sounds like." Three's brow knits with the effort of downing more of the awful booze. "Everyone's a good guy to somebody," he mutters.
Six doesn't want to agree with the sentiment, but he can't quite bring himself to disagree either. The Raza is still a moral gray area in Six's mind. No one exemplifies the dilemma more than Three. He can kill without conscience. Say and do things without concern for how they affect other people. He can also sit across a table, unguarded, in a black t-shirt and sweats. Just a man with his own demons. He'll bleed for the people he cares about. He's broken, like the rest of them. How is Six supposed to reconcile the two sides?
"Hey." Three draws his attention with a clank of his cup against Six's. "You can't protect everyone, Tiny. No one can."
"But I can try," Six says. He hears how ridiculous he sounds, how idealistic.
Three's mouth quirks. "Yeah. Guess you can." He takes another tentative sip, grimacing at the aftertaste. "Jesus."
Six drains his cup in three quick swallows. It strips his throat. He grunts, strained, as he drops the metal back to the counter.
Three's brow arches at his speed-drinking. Questioningly, he dangles the scotch bottle. Six nods, and Three tops him off. "You know," he says, "One could've taken me out so many times on this ship. Dude thought I killed his wife! I mean, hell." Three shakes his head. "I've never had a wife...that I know about anyway."
Six snorts. "Tell me about it."
"But I know how I was around Sarah," Three continues. "I didn't even remember her! But if someone hurt her? I would've wasted the sorry bastard in a heartbeat. I never would have hesitated. But he did." Three drums fingers on the table. "And I can't thank him cause he's dead."
Six closes his eyes. He still sees One sometimes, in that huge room off Hyperion-8. Crisp blue button-down shirt. So close to safely walking away from this life. "You could have," Six murmurs, "if I hadn't-"
"Stop already." Three scowls. "I'm trying to be honest, not get more of your goddamn guilt trip." Six starts to balk, until he sees the smile grazing Three's mouth. He lifts his cup in a toast. Reluctantly, Six does the same. They drink in silence.
"Careful," Six warns. "If this keeps up, people might think we're friends."
Three grins. "Asshole. Quit trying to make me sweet on ya."
"I'm not," Six assures. The banter feels good. Natural.
Three kicks his boot under the table. "Yeah, you are." He winks before downing the rest of his cup. His effort ends with a cringe. "So bad," he grumbles. "You staying up?"
Six lifts his cup with a shrug. "Not much else to do."
"Slumber party?" Three suggests. He pours himself another round.
"Right." Six rolls his eyes. "That'd be something."
It's weird to wake up with no memories.
Three knows the basics. He's alive. He has a nose for danger. He loves guns and booze. And he knows trusting people too soon is the quickest way to be dead.
When he sees Two, he remembers that he likes women. Strong women, especially. Sure, he'll take a more delicate chick. Soft and curvy; Three can work with that. But he prefers them tough. He sees potential with Two, if only she would stop making eyes at One.
When Three sees Six, he remembers that he likes men. Not all men, apparently. One is too pretty, and Four - who the hell knows with that guy? He's good enough looking, but he has the personality of a brick. Six has meat on him. He's skilled in the air, and he's quick for his size.
Six would make a good second-in-command, Three decides. It's smart to keep the big guy close. Three can't get his head bashed in if Six thinks they're on the same team. Plus, Six will be a good guy to have around if Four goes stab-happy. Two is no pushover either, and who the hell knows with One?
Three can't remember ever having sex. Not once; that's messed up! Will it all come back to Three, like speaking and shooting guns? Hard to tell. Three remembers how to jerk off, but it leaves him unsatisfied. He decides to test his luck.
"You given any more thought to that second-in-command thing?" Three asks. Six is in the Marauder, fiddling with switches and buttons on the front console.
Six doesn't look at him. He's reaching for a keypad above the front shield. The armhole on his t-shirt is no match for the muscle under it. The fabric rides up, revealing arm and more arm. He'd be a bear in bed. Three's smirk ticks higher.
"The best thing we can do right now is make decisions as a team." Six glances at him. "At least until we figure out what the hell is going on."
"You sound a lot like Two," Three observes. "Getting sweet on her, huh?"
Six rolls his eyes. "Whatever we do from this point on affects everyone. We need to stick together."
Raza Kumbaya doesn't feel like Three's style. But the wide V of Six's body? That's another story. Three puts on his sweetest smile and sidles closer. "You're right," he says.
Six raises a dubious brow. "I'm right?"
"Sure!" Three leans casually on Six's chair. "I mean, we're still getting to know each other. We can't afford to go rogue before we know what kind of trouble we're in. With those rap sheets? I'm betting on a lot."
Six shakes his head. "I can't believe it. All that stuff in those reports? Doesn't feel like me."
Everything Three is wanted for does feel like him. But now isn't a good time to bring this up. He's finally making headway with the guy. "I know right?" he agrees. "How can we be guilty of stuff we don't remember?"
"Yeah." Six rubs his lips together when he thinks. Three's gaze strays there immediately. "I was doing some maintenance in here," Six adds. "Need anything?"
Three needs many things. In a more private location and with far less clothing. But now isn't the time. He needs a better game plan. "Nah, just a walk," Three says. "Getting claustrophobic in here."
"Tell me about it." Six turns back to the console. "Should only take 30 minutes or so."
"No rush, Tiny." Three heads for the door. "I'll be up top if you need me."
"I don't know how I feel about that nickname," Six mumbles.
Three waves over his shoulder. "Whatever. Later, Tiny."
Six isn't surprised by the knock on his door. His bed is still made; he's been lying on top, not even trying to sleep. The lights are off in his unit. He leaves them off when he pads across the floor to the entry console and punches the door open.
Three descends into his room. He glances at Six, then goes straight to the bed. By the time Six has closed the door, Three is lying down with a forearm over his eyes. Six eyes him, bemused. "Slumber party?"
"Yep," Three replies.
"Still thinking about One?"
Three shakes his head. "Dwarf Star. Saw myself going off. Kid was there..." His voice fades into troubled, uncharacteristic silence. Six immediately remembers Five in her cell on Hyperion-8. What could have happened if they hadn't escaped in time.
Six sits on the other side of the bed. He looks down at Three, lying in his bed like this is perfectly normal. T-shirt and sweats, like the night before. The nub of his elbow points towards the ceiling.
Six sets a hand on his shoulder. Three huffs, but he doesn't shove Six off. "You still thinking about Anders?" he mutters.
"Yeah," Six replies. He stares out into the darkness of his room. "And other things."
Six's jaw clenches. "What would have happened if we hadn't gotten out of that prison in time. If the coup hadn't worked. The case wasn't going to trial."
Three's mouth quirks. "No, it wasn't."
For the first time in awhile, Six actually wants to apologize again. The words have been torn out of him more times than he could manage, but they feel right now. Three deserves to hear them, to know Six truly means it. But he doesn't do it. His hand clenches around the curve of Three's arm.
"Don't get mushy on me, Tiny," Three mumbles. He pats the hand on his shoulder, and leaves his hand there. Palm draped over the back of Six's hand. "You hate when I call you that?"
"What, Tiny?" Three nods, peeking from under his forearm. His eyes are red around the rims. Six shakes his head. "I don't mind it."
"Used to say you didn't like it," Three points out. He grins. "So I kept calling you that."
"I didn't know you back then," Six says.
Three raises a brow. "You do now, huh?"
"Yeah," Six replies. "I think I do."
Three snorts and covers his eyes again. The hand draped over Six's spreads, fingers slipping between his. Six eyes their joined hands. "Who's getting sweet on who?" he wonders.
Three smirks at the question. He doesn't answer.
"What do you mean, grounded?"
Three is ready to go. Lulu and Pip strapped to his waist. Knife in his boot. Jacket on. Dressed to kill. But four dissenting bodies block his way.
Two's arms cross in a show of authority. Nyx's expression wars between confused and frustrated. Four isn't hiding his amusement, mouth twitching upward. Six has the nerve to just stand without a word.
"The damn robot said I'm fine!" Three argues. "You ran all your tests. I'm good to go."
"It's my call," Two says. "You sit this one out. We have more than enough firepower. Quick in and out, that's it."
Three rolls his eyes. "Nothing with us is a quick in and out." He glares at Six. "You won't take me, but you'll take this guy?"
Six sighs. "Can we not do this?"
"He's flying the Marauder," Two says. "And he's staying there."
Six frowns at her. "I'm what?"
"Me, Four, and Nyx will take care of the rest." Two looks at Three. A cock of her head that says this is her final word. "Got it?"
Three wants to fight with her. God, he wants to. It's bullshit. Not like everyone else on this ship doesn't have their fair share of crap.
But he doesn't have it in him. Maybe Two can tell. Maybe this is why he's benched. Doesn't mean Three has to like it. "Whatever," he grumbles, with a glare at Two to save face. He turns his ire on Six. Six sighs, waiting.
After a tense moment, Three's expression turns sour. He doesn't have this in him either.
Without a word, Three stalks back to his quarters. He punches the door closed, rips clothes and weapons off, turns off the lights, and falls on the bed. It's the first time he sleeps without interruption in weeks.
It's as smooth as a Raza mission can be. Simple fly down. Two, Nyx, and Four picked up the cargo. No guns, though Six did catch Four cleaning blood off his blade. They were not even fired at as they made their return to the Raza. Under twenty-four hours on planet. Piece of cake by their standards.
Six is tired enough that sleep seems like a possibility. Which doesn't explain why he's standing outside the closed door to Three's room.
Three staying behind wasn't Six's call. He was just as surprised by Two's order as Three. But honestly, the mission went smoother without him. It wasn't a target that needed guns. And even with the parasite gone, he's been lagging. The aftershocks of Dwarf Star's torture is wearing on him, like the guilt is wearing on Six. He wonders if Two will ban him from flying before long. Or worse, pull what she did on Three today. Ground Six until he works the problem out.
Why is Six standing outside Three's room? Does he need to see what condition he's in this much? Did he drink himself into a stupor, or punch holes through his walls?
Six is still thinking about how Three's shoulder felt under his hand. He's bending to the same instinct that has plagued him since he woke up without memories. They're all made for something. Two leads, Three shoots, Four stabs, Five thinks. And Six? He protects. The impulse started early with Five, and it extended to One and Two. It's kept him up at night about Anders, and all those dead bodies on Hyadum-12.
But this is worse. Three will never welcome Six's protection. That the guy doesn't hate Six is a revelation.
Six knocks on Three's door, steeled against the barrage he senses is waiting on the other side. It opens to Three in a t-shirt and undershorts. No wall holes. No empty bottles. He doesn't even look angry.
"Hey," he says. "How'd it go?"
"Smooth." Six looks Three over, confused. "No push back on-planet." He looks rested. And maybe too comfortable, in shorts that seem to embrace every bone and line.
"Good," Three says. "That's good." He backs further into his room. It's an opportunity for Six to leave, if he wants to. Or enter.
Six does the latter, tapping the wall console to close them in. When did he start feeling comfortable enough to control Three's space? Three looks at Six's hand on the touch pad. Maybe he's thinking the same thing.
"You ok?" Six asks.
"I'm good." Three cracks a smile. "Pride took a hit. But whatever, I get it. Boss lady runs a tight ship."
"You respect her," Six observes.
Three shrugs. "Everyone does."
He's right, but it's also strange to hear him say it. This isn't the Three Six is used to. His guard is down, pride relaxed. It's strange. Disconcerting. "You sleep any?"
"Two whole hours." Three grins. "No black goo. No death and decapitation. I'm counting it as a win."
He's never mentioned decapitation before. Six eyes him strangely. "That's good," he says. "I should leave you to it." His hand twitches over the door keypad.
"Already?" It's a casual question, like everything else about Three. But Six's hand still tenses over the console. Three rubs his face with a weary chuckle. Before Six realizes it, his hand has fallen from the keys.
Three has issues. But Six has issues too.
Three takes in his stillness with a tilted head. His confusion becomes a grin, cocky and self-assured. Six has always disliked this part of Three. The arrogance. The unpredictability. Getting close to any of this crew is still dangerous, but especially him.
Three's smirk softens into resigned amusement. He stifles a yawn, waving a hand at his desk and locker. "Took back some of the good protein bars. Drinks in the locker. Help yourself"
Three pauses at Six's voice, half-bent to sit on the bed. "Yeah?"
It's an awkward time to kiss him. Mid-question, head tilted. Their mouths don't meet right. Three is mumbling some follow-up inquiry, words becoming a surprised grunt. Their heads don't move the right way, shocked apart before bumping together. Six hasn't done this in awhile. Three has. He braces himself for a shove or a taunting snicker.
But Three leans on him abruptly. Hands brace in the small of Six's back, and his body jerks with surprise. Three's weight is content and exhausted, like he's happy Six moved in on him. Like being on the receiving end is what he's wanted all along. It doesn't seem like Three at all. Two was right to bench him.
Six's arms curl around him. Hands trace his spine through his shirt, up to the hair at the base of Three's scalp. Three likes the touch, groaning and shifting forward. His mouth parts a bit wider, asking for more.
Six maneuvers them back. Three presses on a wall; his guns rattle on their rack. Three's hands ride under Six's shirt. His waist rises, a questioning twitch of his hips.
Not yet. Six sets a hand on his stomach to still him. His fingers comb from Three's navel to the waist of his shorts. He means the touch to be a letdown. Three curses under Six's mouth. "Jesus," he breathes. "Don't do that if you're stopping."
He sounds into this. Six frowns at the heat in his eyes, the goosebumps riding up his arms.
"Sorry," Six says. He hasn't even touched anyone since he woke up without a name. Just this is huge.
Three drops his head back on the wall. Frustration and amusement war on his face. "Fine," he grumbles. "Waited this long."
Three doesn't answer him. Just draws lazy fingers up the base of Six's spine. It feels good; good enough that Six shifts forward, more of his weight pressing Three into the wall. For a second, Three's control lapses. He sucks in a breath, teeth grit against whatever Six just made him feel.
"Can we make out more, at least?"
"Yeah." Six marvels at the request. "Sure. We can do that."
"Good," Three says, inches under Six's mouth. Six feels his relief when their mouths meet again. It's less clumsy this time. Mouths crossing, breaths puffed over quiet shifts of position. Warm and too easy.
Six's thumb traces the scar on Three's cheek. He's answered by a hum of pleasure.
If only Kal Varrick could see him now.