thewarbingminstrel: (Firefly)
[personal profile] thewarbingminstrel
At long last, my firefly fanfic is finally finished! Sorry for the delay, the muse was talking but the fingers refused to type.

Anyhow.

This is episode 3 as you can see by the subject line, and I edited it alone this time (just like episode 2). Meaning if you find any typos, my bad. I hope it doesn't detract too much from what is going on. And I also hope you enjoy!

OH, and remember. I am not Joss Whedon. No, no. I am merely a fan on a mission.


Affinity

My entire gorram ship was in peril.

It was a constant battle of black stares, a bevy of impatience, and a never ending barrage of sass. I was never too keen on sass, unless it was coming from me. But when the parts wither, the machine breaks down. Chunjing was suffering the brunt of their uncooperativeness.

Nothing bothered me more then my crews outward dismissal of my second-in-command. True, he had made a mistake with his latest cologne choice. But it was not entirely his fault. The Companion was to blame for the most part, letting innocent boys play with things they don’t understand. The end result? The potion had turned Chunjing into a damn brothel.

All the while Sebastian had been on world entertaining a high class bimbo, and I had been in a fitful recovering sleep. The rest of the crew had participated in some rather intimate rituals, and now they weren’t sure how to cope with it. Well, other than the staring.

What could we have done anyway? Despite succumbing to the scent’s carnal demands? It had gotten to my head when Hale came into my room to check on me. Lucky it was him, someone I kissed on a regular basis, so I did not count the fragrance against me. The only thing it made me do was partake in some heavy petting with Hale before I went unconscious.

The worst of it was, now that everything was once again up and running no one could work without getting into rousing arguments. Vanya and Hale refused to be in the same room. Case and Shad wouldn’t look each other in the eye. Champ was nursing a constant headache and out of countenance with anything that moved. It was a huge mess, is what it was.

If they would not tow the line, what was I to do? I pride myself as a hard captain when I have to be. But in this case I felt powerless. Why was that?

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Hale walked up on me hard, a sour look marring his features as if he’d a lime stuck between his teeth. “Can we talk?”

I rose up from the helm and pointed at Case. “All you.” Case didn’t have a problem with that. Quite the opposite, he looked relieved that we were leaving him with his own musings.

We weren’t even away from the bridge when Hale started in on me.

“How can you ignore me for all this time? Don‘t you think that, for the sake of our relations, we should talk?”

I stopped to lean against a nearby wall and scowled at him. “If you are having hang-ups with the fact that you slept with Vanya, I understand. But please. Don’t refer to our activities as ‘relations’.” I put air quotes around the word and stuck my tongue out.

“Please for once, meet me halfway, Fin. I’m at a loss as to what to do to salvage what we have with one another. You are not helping.”

“What we have is anything but romantic. You are my second-in-command. And you’ve been my best friend since I was teething. Don’t make this more complicated then it already is.”

“It IS complicated, Finy!”

I started to get angry. “How?”

“Because! Before Vanya, you were the only one I…” he trailed off abruptly, as if the imaginary lime lodged into the back of his throat to keep his confession from spilling forth. He ended up just staring at me, unsaid words in his gaze.

I was not sure what to think of that one. I mean, I’d guessed before that Hale had only ever bedded me alone. But I didn’t want to jump to conclusions. He’d spent a lot of time on world before sailing with me. I’m sure there were plenty of ladies ripe enough for the picking. Especially with his family being hailed as socialite celebrities within the core planets.

I gave him a mixed look and sighed. “Hale. Don’t get so worked up. Your convictions don‘t rule much out here in the black.”

His eyes stayed cloudy and uncertain. He never knew how to handle it when I made light of things. “I just can’t stand it when you shut me out. If you have something to say to me, you always say it. Why is this so different?”

What a question. I took the time to think about it. Why was it different? I could say, without fooling myself, that I was not bothered by what Vanya and Hale had done to one another. Especially since they were in a drug induced haze when it happened. So why couldn’t I talk to him about it?

I suppose it was because Vanya and I were two different types of women. She was stone cold, but at the same time housed a feline quality that I could never match. I had no qualms about not knowing much about my wiles. But how could Hale go from me to her? How could he do such a thing and not feel that she was better then whatever little I offered?

Shouldn’t he be confronting her instead of me?

I straightened my spine and quirked my brow. “Hale. I think if you should be worried with anything, it should be with how to gain the respect of the crew once again. After all, they all blame you for this past weeks exertions.”

“As they should. I behaved recklessly, and all because I craved your attention.”

I scoffed. “Is that why you poked around Sebastian’s bedtime aromatics? For my attention?”

“Who else would I have done it for, Fin?”

A nerve in my jaw twitched, and I moved my hand up to touch it. I think Hale mistook that for awe, because his eyes went softer.

“Just focus on your work, please, and not on my affections.”

“How can I stop now? All I’ve ever striven for is your approval.” Hale said this softly, as if he were in a confessional.

I frowned. “Doesn’t that make you sad?”

“Most of the time, yes.”

“And yet you cannot seem to stop yourself?”

“If I could, I would.”

Something seized up in my chest, and I ended up forcing myself not to take a deep breath to alleviate the pressure. Hale walked off from me, and I took that opportunity to blink away the strange emotions coming over me.

I knew it before, but now I knew it on a different level. I would never stop hurting Hale. I was bound to disappoint him, no matter how hard I did, or did not try.

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Well after that fun jaunt, I returned to the bridge. My steps were more measured and my head more cluttered, but I had duties to attend to. One of those duties was staring at me from the monitor as I reached Case. He turned and gave me his award winning grin.

“Guess who decided to wow us with her services?”

I peered over his shoulder, only to end up smiling as dorkily as my pilot. “Lidiya!”

The sea blue eyes of the woman staring back at me were always a welcomed sight. Lidiya Motts was sister to Vanya, my on planet informant, and one of the most amazing hackers the ‘verse had to offer. The girl was so good, she could take over an Alliance vessel’s control unit from the equipment she had at her desktop. But the chances that she ever would were slim to none. She would tell me the chatter going around, or inform me of what planets reavers were currently circling round. But it would take a miracle for her to use the full expertise of her skills for anything that wasn’t truly an emergency.

Lidiya was very sheltered and held hesitance where Vanya showed none. They were basically polar opposites. Though they had the same eyes and same trill of an accent, Lidiya was light to Vanya’s dark. Her long light brown hair was usually coiled in a long braid that reached her hips. Her dress was nondescript, almost always something made for comfort. Lidiya usually kept her shadowed eyes downcast when she talked, staring at something unseen yet speaking pleasantly at the same time. I’d tried numerous times to talk her into flying with us, but she just found it more practical to stay on world.

“How have you been?” Case asked her.

Lidiya shrugged and shifted in her seat. “No developments on my current status, as of yet. My mother has not succeeded in finding me a suitor, and I‘m eager to stay out of her spotlight.”

I leaned in closer to the monitor. “When are you going to hack into an Alliance operative’s account and switch their monetary assets to mine?”

Her eyes went round, as they always did when I shocked her, and then she blushed a little. “I don’t have that skill, Affinity.”

“Come on! We all know you do.”

Lidiya shifted again, then gave a small laugh. “Well, maybe I do. But I would never do anything like that.”

“Unfortunately.” I sighed playfully, then gave her a genuine smile. “So. To what do we owe this splendid wave?”

“I have some information for Sebastian. He was curious about the activities of a certain member of his guild. I have recently learned their whereabouts and latest societal plans, and I would like to pass it on to him.”

“Ah. Seb wants to hit some core planet shindig, eh?” I frowned a little. Why wouldn’t he of told me that?

Lidiya held a hand up and shook her head a little. “He can’t be making plans for a party that he does not know about yet. But he is interested in this certain person’s schedule.”

“Hmm.” I gave Case a nod. “Well, go ahead and let him know he has a call. You might want to let the assassin know that her sister is on the line as well.”

“Vanya?” Lidiya’s eyes went round again. “I haven’t spoken to her since…well…I cannot remember. It has to have been at least a month or so.”

I sighed heavily and held my brow. “Kuh wu. Has she been sending you your earnings?”

It was a nasty habit of Vanya to sometimes keep her sister’s pay. And of course Lidiya would say nothing because she felt the job she provided us with was not worthy of pay. Still, when I found out I made sure that whatever Lidiya had been denied came out of Vanya’s coin. One of these days I was going to make the arrangements myself and not rely on the word of someone who had fooled me time and time again.

“Yes, I’ve been getting it on time every few weeks.” Lidiya nodded in her sisters defense. “She just isn’t in the habit of calling. I don‘t take offense. Vanya has always been the tight lipped sort.”

Sebastian’s voice came over one of the speakers. “Captain, if you don’t mind I would like to take this conversation privately.”

“Oh…a tête-à-tête with my ships informant?” I winked at Case, who aided me with a sarcastic glance.

“…If you don’t mind…” Seb was far from joking. Whatever Lidiya had for him, it was important.

I nodded and Case switched Lidiya over to the Companion. Then I sat liquidly back into my chair and tapped my fingers on my thigh.

“I’m going to ask her to do a reavers scan.” I told my pilot.

Gordon’s cheeks picked up with a half smile. “Now you’re talking.”

I leaned my head against the back of the seat and swiveled to look over at him. “Gonna finally get into the action if we find a ship?”

Case’s eyes went dark. He swallowed deeply before speaking. “What?”

I continued to prod him. “Well. I’ve seen you fight before. But never under my employ.”

“Yes. There are reasons for that.” Gordon was always uneasy when I brought up his natural grace with defense. I never understood why the thought scared him so badly. He went to press a few buttons on the control board, one of his fingers twitched and his hand began to tremble noticeably.

“You’ve never given me any.” I frowned when his attention skirted away from me. “Hey, I know full well that reavers are dangerous work to partake in. And you are under no obligation to fight if you don’t feel the need, I just ask because…”

“I’m so good at it?” His voice stayed steady, but after the sentence his lips pressed hard together until they were a ghastly white.

“From what I remember, yes.” Possibly better then me. I knew how to use my fists, but Gordon used something that was unworldly. A skill that could not be matched. “When we met in Boros, you pummeled the twenty some odd men who jumped Hale and me.”

Case shook his head. “I’m not sure why I did that. I’m glad I did, I was able to save you both and it got me a job. But I could never do it again. I could not stand myself afterwards.”

I remembered Gordon’s face after he had beaten that group of uglies. He had looked horrified with what he had done. And no more then five beats later he had emptied the contents of his belly all over the floor and fainted dead away. Hale and I had to take him in and nurse him for days before he came to.

Gordon seemed to be remembering that encounter as well, because a sheen of sweat was dribbling off of his brow. “I’m a pacifist, Affinity. I can’t cause pain.”

“But you can work with those who do?”

“I’ve done so before. Being on Chunjing is different then the life I led before. What you are doing is purifying the universe. Its noble what you’ve participated in, what you‘ve risked your life for. I wish that I could lend more help.” He finally looked at me again, fervently. “I really do.”

“But you wont.” I concluded.

“Never. If I can help it.”

Knowing for a fact that I was making Case more and more uncomfortable did not stop my curious nature. I had been around fighting all my life. I found it hard to believe sometimes that people could make a living without it.

I just could not stop myself, even as I sympathized, and the words went flying from my mouth before I could reel them in. “So, what did you do when you were in the army?”

“Don’t.” The singular word was harsh. His eyes went even more tortured.

The question that burned in my mind since I had first met him rose swiftly to the surface. “You did fight for the Alliance, didn’t you?”

I’d never seen a person go green before. Case’s cheeks flushed up with a nauseating color, and he gagged on something in his throat. I jumped to my feet without thinking, watching uneasily as he doubled over in his seat.

“Gordon!” I shouted his name, as if that would help at all.

Case had his head between his knees, and he looked like he was doing his best not to faint. I could smell the sour stench of bile wafting from the floor at his feet, and my nose wrinkled unwittingly.

The sound of heavy boot falls echoed throughout the walls and I turned to see Hale and Shad bounding our way.

Hale was the first to speak. “What happened?”

I could not interpret what sort of look was on my face, but I knew it wasn’t a pretty one. “He just sicked up on his self.”

Hale was immediately crouching beside Case, a hand to his brow. “Gordon. Can you hear me? Answer if you can.”

A breathless, “Yes,” crept from the proximity of Gordon’s knees.

Shad looked about as unnerved as I did. “I’ll go…get some cleaning supplies.” His compulsive nature had kicked in.

Thankfully, I didn’t want to be the one to clean that up. Though I was the cause behind it. Case always got strange when he attempted to talk about his past. But this was new sort of strange.

What had happened to him, that the mere mention of the army caused him to vomit? There were some things I had to figure out about my pilot, and I had better do so soon.

Hale and I had been taught about exactly what lengths the Alliance would go to in order to keep the peace. That I had always suspected Case of being a part of that lifestyle only incriminated him further when he wouldn’t talk about it. He was a good man. But he had secrets. Dark ones.

Hale helped Case to his feet. “He should take a little time to lay down.”

I nodded and watched the men leave, only to be replaced by Shad and Vanya. They shuffled around Hale and Case, then moved further in. Shad went to cleaning, and Vanya came to stand by my side.

“I heard my sister v’as on the line.”

“Yes,” I answered, taking a moment to shake the recent events off my back. “She’s talking to Seb.”

“Does she have anything for us?” Vanya’s always cool voice was clipped in an edge that had been there ever since she had gotten laid. You’d think that getting some would rid her of her tetchy default mode.

“I plan on asking her. We could use some reaver work.” I shouldn’t have been surprised about her lack of concern over the pilot. Yet I was.

“All done.” Shad stood up to leave with the cleaning supplies with a look of determination. He was most likely off to clean the rest of the ship, after a spill like that.

I went to sit at the helm just as a flurry of sound emitted from the circuit. I pressed a button and Lidiya’s face popped up on the screen once more.

“He’s all done with you?”

Her face took on a cherry toned redness and she coughed a little. “As well as any companion can be done with someone.”

“Sister, when did you take to telling naughty jokes?” Vanya slid to stand right at my elbow.

Lidiya laughed softly and shrugged. “Since meeting this group of curmudgeons.”

I managed a smile for her. Least I could do, since she was forcing herself to get used to our sailin’ talk. “I have a request.”

She nodded slowly. “I expected as much. I’ve been doing weekly scans around the Rim planets. So far I’ve got my eye on a vessel sneaking around dead zones, but if they come too close to civilization I’ll be the first to know.”

“Good girl.” It was nice to know that someone around here could still do their job right.

“Any such luck in the marriage market, Lidiya?” Vanya sneered at her sister. “I’m sure mother has talked you up to at least one suitor in the past few months.”

Lidiya shuddered, as if something oily had just slipped down her spine, and spat out a curse in Russian. “Thankfully, she has momentarily given up that feat and focuses her energies on Catia for now. What about you? Any devious lovers I can make up and report to the parents for you?”

“No devious ones, only inebriated ones.” I supplied for Vanya, much to her despair. She gave me a look that was so full of venom I almost laughed. Instead, I faked a balk and stood slowly. “I’ll leave you sisters alone to chat…”

As I was leaving the bridge, I heard Lidiya ask, “What did she mean by that?”

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Sebastian went in to check on Case, and thankfully his vitals were normal. He was in his room, nursing a mug of water and taking deep calming breaths. I felt awkwardly guilty over the entire thing and wanted nothing more then to rectify my wrongs, so I left him alone. Whatever was in his past, it was like a disease clinging to him. I empathized, even while I squared my eyes at it all. Was this something I had to be wary of?

A good captain keeps their eyes open to any and all things that may bring turmoil to their ship. Gordon Case was a good man, and an exceedingly good pilot. But…

Hale stood by my side as Sebastian closed Gordon’s door. “He’s fine. Trust me. You all got worked up for nothing.”

“So it seems. I just can‘t take any more sickness aboard my boat.” I shook my head at the notion.

Hale looked to me. “What exactly happened up there?”

“That is something that I am trying to figure out. I think our pilot suffers from some sort of traumatic stress over his time in the military.”

“That is not as uncommon as you would suspect.” Seb put in, removing a pair of glasses from his nose and placing them in his pristinely ironed jacket pocket. “Not everyone is able to endure the constant demands of the military, regardless of their loyalty to their regime. And for many, it’s the most forced overtime in hell that you could ever imagine.”

“I would not doubt that.” I crossed my arms and frowned, even while I was attempting to convey understanding. “I just don’t know what he is going through.”

“It is something substantial, I can assure you.” Sebastian waved his hand. “Its of little concern to me. We’ve no doubt whose side Case is on. Whatever inner demons he occasionally faces, eventually he will dispose of them naturally. You just have to give him time. And do not push him, Affinity.”

I held my hands up. “You have my word. Lets forget it.”

“Lets.” Seb tilted his head. “In other news, I have a proposition for you.”

“Oh gee, companion, I probably could get some mileage out of your services right now.”

Sebastian quirked a brow, looking flattered, while Hale stared at me flabbergasted.

“What? I’m stressed.” I gave Hale a look. “As if you haven’t taken advantage of the crew as of late…”

“Don’t start, Fin.”

“Well, the offer is always available to my captain,” Seb purred like a panther. “However, that is not what I meant.” Straightening, he motioned for us to follow him to his shuttle.

I was always taken aback by the lush richness of Seb’s shuttle. He’d made the place a home for the wealthy, that was for sure. We walked in and he bade us to sit upon a lavish divan.

“The call I received from Lidiya was most informative. I’ve been watching a colleague of mine for quite some time, one who poses a threat to my services.”

“You? Threatened? Well, I’m shocked.” Hale sat in a plop beside me, which made me bounce in my seat.

“I am not above such sentiments, Mister Tam. Quite the contrary. I have one or two ruthless bones in my body, especially where my business is involved.

“Someone is taking clients from you?” I spoke up.

“In the nastiest way. This particular companion is spreading rumors about so called vulgarities that occur within my sessions. The bulk of my clientele has not been stolen, but one too many have. I cannot rest easy when people who once trusted in my discretion now avoid my calls at all costs.”

Hale nodded. “I can see that being a pain.”

“Which is precisely why I require some aid in the ceasing of this predicament.” Seb stood before us with his hands clasped behind his back. “My colleague is holding a gambling tournament. It is going to be a social sensation, or so the word is. The invite is extended to guild members, as well as any of their personal accompaniments.”

“We can get you there on time.” I replied. “Provided that Case feels up to flying tomorrow morning-”

“Yes, well there is that matter. But I’ve still one more request.”

Since he was looking dead at me when he said this, my brows rose involuntarily. “Name it.”

“It seems I am in need of some accompaniment.”

“You want us to stop at some moon for one of your customers?” Hale inquired.

“No. That would take us going out of the way for something that I have access to right aboard this ship.”

It felt like something knocked me back hard, my head reeled. “You…mean me?”

Hale started laughing when Seb nodded. I gave my second a black look as he did nothing to hide his mirth.

“You…mean…Finy?” Hale was doubled over.

“Is it that funny?” The words fell hard out of my mouth.

“Well…” That smile wasn’t leaving his face anytime soon. “Why not Champ? Or Vanya? Someone who…has a sense of feminine conduct?”

I pressed my lips hard together and tried not to let steam shoot out of my ears. “I have plenty of feminine conduct.” Hale and Sebastian both looked down pointedly at my legs, which were spread open. I sighed dramatically and slid them closed tightly, then folded my hands in my lap. “Well, if I’m so damn incompetent, why choose me?”

“I’ve thought it all over quite thoroughly. Vanya would do, but she is known in polite society. People would bombard her with questions about her life since leaving home. She would break under the pressure and purposefully become indecent, regardless of our planning. As for Champ, she does not have the skills that our captain here has. She does not know how to pick a lock or fight without the use of a firearm, and I am not looking for anyone to get hurt.”

“What in the world do you need me to do?” I frowned deeply.

“I need some proof that this companion has been conversing with my clients. It could come down to accessing their personal rooms and looking through ledgers, I’d like to be prepared just in case. And I need an audience should this companion attempt to…sway you to their advances instead of mine. If other guild members see for themselves that my colleague is enamored with my company, it will not be so hard for them to believe that my clients are being poached upon.”

“So I’m bait?”

“Yes.”

At least he didn’t try to sugar coat it.

“Do I have to wear a dress?”

Hale started laughing all over again when Seb gave another solemn nod. I sighed. “What in the di yu are you giggling ‘bout?”

“Have you ever even WORN a dress?” Hale forced the sentence out between breathless chuckles.

I had to think about that one, much to my company’s enjoyment. “I know what they look like,” I ended up saying proudly.

There just wasn’t time on board a ship for wearing such frivolous garments. Not when a gorram reaver was staring you in the eye, and not when you had crates of saturated pickles to cart around. They knew this, but for some reason pointing out my lack of fashion sense had Hale near to the floor rolling and Seb smirking down at me.

“I do not believe you will be too much of a challenge.” Sebastian finally gave me some credit. “Not once I am through with you. You will have the drive to get the job done, which should help your acting plenty. I will provide everything, the clothing, makeup, and lessons of gentility. All you need do is smile and bear with me.”

“What’s in it for me?” It wasn’t that I did not want to help. But I would be sacrificing my time and my wares in order to help him discover if this companion was a snake in the grass. I deserved some sort of compensation for my participation.

“Yes, of course.” Seb scratched his chin. “I believe the best course is to pay you in advance. Coin. Enough to keep Chunjing in the air, and in recompense for your cooperation in this dastardly affair.”

Sounded good to me. Though, he was part of my crew. I should be less grubby. My conscience kicked in and I rolled my eyes. “Enough to keep us flying,” I informed him, curbing my need to be greedy. “And…further more…no laughing when you put me in girl wear.”

“Do I have to keep to that?” Hale prattled.

Giving into my irritation, I turned and punched my second right in the chest. Hale fell the rest of the way to the ground, winded.

“Same will happen to you if I hear so much as a spite.” I pointed dead at Sebastian.

Seb made a motion of zipping his lips, though he did continue to smile.

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Case was up and about a few hours later. The pallor of his complexion had been removed, and I breathed easier when I saw his healthy glow once more. He held no ill will against me for my interrogations, but he did keep himself more withdrawn. I kept my eye trained on him as he resumed his command at the helm, briefly wondering if he even remembered the recollections which had sickened his belly.

Champ was entering the bridge as well, a frown that would not leave her face marring her usually calm features. “You talked to Lidiya today?”

She must have heard from Vanya. “Yes, she’s going to keep us in the know. But we have a slight detour to make for the next week.”

This did not please her. Katherine bristled. “What’s going on?”

“Seb has a matter to see to that’s hurting his business. I agreed to help him.”

“Seb? Threatened?” Case turned in his seat to glance over at me, his voice flat yet interested. “That’s unheard of.”

“He can lose work just like the rest of us. Seems someone is talkin’ mean like about his services. He has a mind to put an end to it once and for all.”

“We’re roughing someone up?” Champ looked eager at that.

“Not exactly. He’s taking a different approach.” I sighed at the truth hidden behind that statement. They didn’t know how different.

Her concern in the subject was little, I could tell. But she still asked. “So? We all have parts to play in this?”

I shook my head. “He is looking for a quiet mission. Just me and him this go around. We might need ears at the ready just in case we need savin’, but-”

“No work. No pay.”

I rose a brow at her. “Seb is a member of this crew. We will help him however he needs and not worry about salary. He’s done plenty for us, patchin’ up our hurt and tendin’ our aches. Its not every doctor, or companion for that matter, would stay aboard a ship that takes as much hu chung long as we do.” I gave her a severe stare, daring her to counter my words.

Champ just huffed and leaned against the wall, taking out a smoke and lighting it right there. “Just making sure my time aboard this ship aint bein’ wasted, Cap.” She said on a heavy exhale of undulating haze.

“You know full well it aint. There‘s a heap of work gets done. Don‘t act like I don‘t provide when I can, and I‘ll ignore your bu kuh nuhn attitude of late.”

Champ didn’t say anything about that, just took a long drag of her preoccupation and stared off into space.

“I probably didn’t want to be involved anyway,” Katherine huffed eventually.

Seb took that opportune time to waltz in. “We need to set course for Newhall.” He spoke up, authoritatively. “The event occurs this upcoming Sunday, which gives us an adequate amount of time, Affinity.”

Katherine stood a bit straighter. “You didn’t say there was no event involved,” she accused me.

I shrugged lightly. “Seb needed a date.”

Both my pilot and my hired hand gave a look of exposed surprise.

“What?” Champ demanded.

My hands wanted to wring together, but instead I placed them firmly on my hips purposefully. “Yes. You are looking at the arm candy of a companion.”

Case started laughing, and not quietly, which was surprising considering his latest affliction. Champ’s jaw just about fell to the floor.

“Why does everyone laugh at the notion of me being courted?” I exclaimed.

“Cap! You wont be wearing a dress, will you?” Case’s eyes bulged at the question, and he gripped the back of his seat awaiting the answer.

“Oh, you must have told them the good news,” Hale chose that moment to run up to the bridge, a laugh in his eyes already. He was no worse the wear from my earlier beating and looked ready to joke once more.

This was all very unpleasant. Some side of me, whatever feminine side I possessed, was slightly bruised by their teasing. I pursed my lips and dared Hale to say anything.

He did. “Can you imagine?”

Case snorted. “Imagine? I can’t wait to see! Its bound to be the funniest thing ever to happen this side of the verse.”

“You’re telling me!” Hale agreed. “I’ve seen Mal Reynolds in a bonnet, and I still think he’d be more passable then Finy in a getup!”

That did it. If I didn’t leave, I was going to pummel one of them. I stomped over to Seb and grabbed hold of his arm. “Come on, fellow. By the time Sunday rolls around, I want every person ‘board this ship to not have a reason to laugh.”

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We had a good five days to work on making me a lady, and even though I cringed at the thought of what was to come I did not hesitate to get started. It was hard to believe that I needed a male companion to teach me how to behave properly, when I had been around a female companion enough of my life to of picked at least one thing up.

Sebastian spent some time looking me over on that first day, eyeing me from head to toe. I cowed under his inspection.

“Please don’t put me in pink…” I winced.

Seb held my chin and eyed my hair. “No. That would be too innocent for you. I am going to turn you into a siren. A bold woman, for that is what you are.”

“You think I can pull off something so exotic?” He had me standing in an uncomfortable way so that he could take my measurements. The tape was coiled around his arm, looking a lot like a snake might with its yellow constricting nature.

He sighed at me and lowered his hand. “You are exotic, Affinity. Don’t roll your eyes at me. You have a very real beauty. It may not be in ruffles and rouge, but its there. All I’m going to do is bring it forward a bit more, and in a different way. Don‘t let the nastiness of the crew get to you.”

How could I not? They outright laughed at the thought of my ability to behave like anything but a space woman. Sure, I was raised as one, but the fact that they didn’t even give me the benefit of the doubt was a pain.

“We have time. You do not have to start today, if you do not want to.”

“No, lets start now,” I argued. “Come on. What is there all to do?”

Seb licked his lips slowly, then bade me to sit. I did so, quickly and deliberately.

“Lets start with mannerisms. Lady’s don’t plunk down on furniture, especially something as finely crafted as this.” Sebastian slid over delicately, like a flower petal on the wind, and sat demurely with his legs crossed.

“Okay, you did that way too well,” I accused.

“Practice. Some ladies like a man to be effeminate.” He folded his hands in his lap. “Sit like I am sitting.”

It took some getting used to, but since I should be more of a lady at heart then the companion should be, I forced myself to imitate him.

“That’s very lovely,” he complimented. “Now, do it from standing.”

I untangled my legs, then stood up and did as I was told.

“Wait, wait, wait,” Sebastian put his hands up before I could resume my seat. “Ladies don’t walk so purposefully. You look like you’re about to barge in and storm the place.” He stood up to take my hand and guided me about his short space. “Glide. There you go, glide. Don’t bob your head. Keep it leveled, shoulders down…walk as if you own the place…you are the queen of the shuttle.”

“Me, the queen? Looks like you are more-”

“Don’t force me into something drastic as a result of the insult resting on your tongue, Captain.”

I closed my mouth and concentrated on following his instructions. I felt more then a bit silly, slinking around the room as if I were royalty. Lord knows I had never seen a woman walk like this before. But I took his advice. After all, I was to be introduced to polite society, with people who walked like this every day of their lives and did not find it odd at all.

Funny what those little steps led to. Fittings and face paints, stockings and soft, velvety undergarments. I was taught to sit straight and keep my legs together or suffer a beating. I was taught what the second fork was for, and how long to wait before beginning to eat a course.

My training even extended to my speech. “Is not” instead of “aint”. “Gorram” became “fiddlesticks”. “Like hell” became “I’d rather not”. Before I knew it, Seb had me speaking fluidly in the way of the Alliance friendly snobs. I was walking along the ship with my hands folded before me and my spine tall, and when I sat my legs automatically went one over the other.

I felt like a damn fool.

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That night in Newhall society came quicker then I would have suspected any other day to come. We were okayed in by the checkpoint outside of the city, and soon we were flying passed elaborate houses that looked more like villages then estates. We docked and set up the night before the shindig. Apparently, anyone whose anyone was going to be at this thing. Games all throughout the day, dances that evening, overly grand dinner, and then all would be given sleeping arrangements for the night. I didn’t know it was going to be a sleepover. Maybe I could disappear for that part.

But when I brought it up to Seb, he shook his head. “What better time to do a little snooping then after everyone is asleep?” I couldn’t help but agree with him.

The hours went quicker then I wanted, and soon Seb was awaiting me just outside his shuttle. Well, not just him. The whole bloody crew was waiting along side him, just anxious to see their captain tarted up like a socialite.

“Gorra-” I stopped myself in a huff, then resorted to my training of the last four or five days. “Goodness, me. Bugger. Fiddlesticks.”

“Finy, we’re waiting,” Hale teased in a singsong, knowing I was just a hall away.

“We’ll come get you if you don’t hurry,” Case put in.

My eyes went skyward. If they laughed at me now, it would be the start of a never ending humiliation for me. I didn’t want to admit it, but that thought bothered me.

“Affinity.” Sebastian said firmly. “I am in need of my date.”

I overheard Champ grumble at that. She would have loved to be the one on his arm tonight. Next time, I would teach her how to pick a lock so that she could be the one mocked.

Taking one last breath for courage, I lifted my skirt with both hands and walked from the hall. My head was lowered showcasing the long curls that Seb had fashioned all around my head, as well as the jeweled circlet that held them from my face. The dress Seb had picked for me was a maroon red and pearl grey polonaise with a low décolletage. It molded to my every curve and ended in a fluffy skirt that billowed around my feet, of which were hidden but were buckled in tiny heels. I did not recognize myself in this get-up.

And apparently, neither did my crew.

Everyone was staring at me with the same incredulous look on their face. I couldn’t take the scrutiny. “What?” I asked.

Hale blubbered something unintelligible. Vanya’s eyes were wide. Case had a broad smile on his face.

I ended up stomping. “Say something!” I ordered.

“Wow,” Champ said. “I…didn’t expect that.”

“You look pretty.” Shad was standing on the outskirts of the group, but he was looking just as surprised as the rest of them.

“Yeah, Fin…you look amazing. Like a portrait.” Hale looked shocked that the words were actually coming out of his mouth. Almost like he wished he didn‘t have to say them.

“She’s a vision.” Seb agreed, walking over to take my hand and place it securely on his arm. “It did not take as much work as you lot assumed. Our Captain here is quite attractive.”

I was getting really uncomfortable, and it wasn’t the petty coats doing it. “Alright, alright,” I raised my hand to stop them all. “I aint concerned with lookin’ pretty, just lookin’ believable.”

“Diction.” Sebastian reminded me softly, then started to lead me to his shuttle.

“I am not. I am not concerned with looking pretty.” I practiced low under my breath.

“Well, you have to look pretty,” Champ spoke up. “So that the other companion will try to steal you. Its all part of the scheme.”

“I suppose.” Good thing my hands were on Seb’s arm, otherwise I’d be wringing them together. Or chewing on my nails, which would be hard to do through the gloves. “The ship is yours, Hale.” I spoke to my second. “I want everyone to stay aboard unless they are needed. I don’t want no trouble. Er…any. I do not want any trouble while I am away. Please, lets keep low during our stay. A clean getaway will most likely be in store. If we can, I would like to at least leave the local feds with no suspicions as to our arrival.”

“It is hard listening to you talk that v’ay,” Vanya sneered. “Almost unsettling.”

“Well, maybe next time we will get you in a dress…” I threatened.

“You can try.” Her look turned fierce, but there was a touch of playfulness to it that I recognized.

“I’d rather like to see that,” Case raised his hand as if he were in class. “In fact, lets let all the ladies aboard the ship entertain us by looking hot. You‘ll get no complaints here.”

I glanced over at Hale. He was taking in the full effect of my dress. Or of me in the dress. Or of someone he didn’t recognize in a dress. I was not sure what I was to him that moment, but his eyes smoldered at me. I kind of liked shutting him up.

And it was satisfying to be on the arm of another man. All the while he was kicking himself, and I was off for enjoyment of the rich kind.

“Perhaps we should go,” Seb announced, pulling me the rest of the way to his shuttle. “We’ve a full day ahead of us, my dear.”

“Take care while I am away,” I waved at them all as the doors closed behind us.

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The ride to the mansion was smooth and leisurely. I felt decorous, sitting beside Sebastian as he glided the shuttle easily to the landing dock beside the extravagant complex.

“We’re staying here?” I queried.

“I know, its dauntingly huge.” Seb released the landing gear and the shuttle fell slowly to the dock with a small jerk. “But do not be alarmed. Its actually rather private. There are plenty of crannies to escape to, usually made available for a scandal. A retreat is just not complete without a scandal for the crows to blather about later.”

“Are we that scandal? I mean, why else would your enemy invite you to their home?”

“Its hard to say. On the one hand, it would be considered a slight should I not be invited. I am highly respected amongst the guild.” Seb helped me from my seat, yet another thing I was forced to get used to, and we alighted from the small ship. “However, with these matters, no one is under any obligation to allow all into their company. The reasoning is shady, but I am taking the opportunity to sort out what’s what. It may be the only chance I am given.”

I listened to him, ignoring how much I hated being treated like a delicate idiot. I couldn’t stand up by myself, nor open a door, or even acknowledge anyone without being introduced beforehand. What, was my meat going to be cut for me as well? Were they going to offer Seb a leash to keep me on?

The courtyard was something to be reckoned with. It was surrounded by a foreboding wall, and once passed the metal detectors everything was like a treasure. The walkways were golden, like something from a story book, and floral rushes added to it. The mansion was so big I barely looked at it, keeping my eyes either to the floor or on Seb. Such quantities were alien to me, and I did not want to take it all in at once.

So far everyone I had met in the greeting hall was vapid and boring. Ladies twittered behind fans, men boasted about their gross income or latest buy, and the host was no where to be seen. Servants with lit up choke collars wandered around with beverages and snack foods, and were only permitted to utter phrases like, “yes mum” or “very good, sir”.

“Are those tracking devices?” I leaned over to ask Sebastian.

His eyes went a little sad, and he nodded as he answered me. “Unfortunately, our hostess is known for having indentured servants. It is not so frowned upon in the core. In fact, it is almost seen as a luxury. Some are commended for their kindness in helping the poor better their lives, though most of them will never have free will again. It is rather pitiful the cruelties people will overlook in order to be seen as fashionable.”

There was only one word of that sentence that caught my ear. “Did you say, hostess?” I asked a little too loudly.

My answer was the click of heels from the steps and the butler saying in an overloud baritone: “Lady Adamaris Vusi and guests.”

Everyone perked up to see, indeed, the hostess walk in. She was arm in arm with a male and a female, neither of which was dressed as excessively as she was. They must have been slaves as well. The fabric of her clothing was sheer, and if it were not for the dark slip she wore underneath all would see her wares. Her large breasts were a stitch away from overexposed, and the skirt housed a slit that raised up to her thigh. She walked boldly, in the way that Seb instructed me not to. Her makeup was overdone, as was her billowy red curls. Her skin was pale, as if she spent no time in the sun. She smiled like a star and waved her hand in an airy gesture.

“Ciao e benvento!” She greeted loudly in a voice that was more stale and obnoxious then foreign. “Thank you for coming!”

Juh guh jee hwa juhn kuh pah!” I had a smile on my face, my voice was a nervous giggle.

“Language, Affinity.”

The hostess paraded around, giving the faces she recognized a personal hello. I took the opportunity to face Sebastian.

“You could have mentioned she was a…she…” I tried to keep the accusation as low as possible.

“I hardly see how that changes the predicament.”

“Don’t you?” I continued to smile, though it felt stretched at this point. “Now that I think of it, you went through some pains to keep me in the dark about her gender.”

“It did occur to me that you might find that troubling. But I had to be sure that you would come out, darling.”

“Are you making it a personal goal to embarrass me?” I questioned him. “First the dress, then the hair, the makeup, the ungodly underwear, now being seduced publicly by a woman?”

“It would seem that way.” He did nothing to hide his smile. I elbowed him as discretely as I could, and he wheezed. “Not in the spleen!”

I heard a tsk in our immediate direction, and Seb stood straighter. “Sebastian Hart, you old so and so. Every year I am under the impression that you are not going to show!”

“And every year I disappoint you,” Sebastian countered lightly.

Adamaris gave a chuckle that was so fake it made my skin crawl. “Oh come now. You know you are always welcomed. Especially with the fare you bring.” She began to eye me in a way that made me feel like lunch. I knew my task, so I smiled back at her. “Who is this bellezza you bring? Wealthy, I assume?”

So that was what caught her interest. The possible money in my purse. I bowed my head and let Seb introduce me.

“You assume correctly. If it please, Adamaris, this is Lady Affinity Washburne. An Heiress from the district of Paquin. Affy, meet Lady Adamaris Vusi, my colleague and fellow companion.”

“But please, Affy, call me Mar-Mar,” Adamaris purred, taking my hand and kissing my knuckles much like a gentleman ought. Her lips stayed pursed to my hand for much longer then should have been accepted, but I batted my lashes as I loosened her hold.

“Mar-Mar,” I breathed back in as seductive of a voice as I could manage. I slowly retracted my hand and gave her a look that said I would have permitted more were we alone. She returned the look.

“Perhaps you would join my table?” Adamaris addressed Sebastian but her eyes stayed on me. “I would like to see Affy’s skill at whist.”

“But of course, Adamaris.” I realized that Seb was not calling her by her nick name. Perhaps something restricted when they first met, or something he‘d declined. “How could we refuse?”

She left then, though she gave me a lingering look as she resumed her flitting about.

“Very well done, Captain,” Seb complimented me as he began a departure to the double doors that led to the gardens. “Hook, line, and sinker.”

“Where are we going?” I was actually appreciative of his hold at the moment. I still had not gotten used to the heels, and the dress about my legs made me feel close to tripping.

“To the mazes. I have to make it seem like I am wooing you. You are my prize, as far as this crowd is concerned. We will retreat from them for now, to make you seem even more of a commodity to Adamaris. Then we shall reappear once the card games ensue.”

“You’ve got this all planned out, don’t you?” I gave him a look of admiration and shifted closer to him, trying to be coy for the sake of our act.

“I am doing the best that I can. Though I admit, I did not know I could be quite so crafty.”

“Trussing me up to be stolen by her in front of other guild members?”

“That may not be enough to incriminate her.”

“Well lets hope it is, should we not find other proof of her treachery.” I crossed my fingers.

Sebastian gave me a pleased look as we left the house and entered the garden. “You’ve come a long way with your vocabulary in a short time, Affinity.”

I scrunched my nose at him. “I did have some learnings about me, companion. Its not like I was born under a rock.”

“Well, if I did not know any better I would think you of genteel breeding stock.”

What’s ungentle about being raised on a ship?

The card games took up most of the activities for the day. It turned out I was a pretty terrible whist player, but poker came to me naturally. I smiled constantly and batted my lashes at Adamaris whenever she glanced my way. My legs remained rigidly together, which bothered me unbearably. And soon the heated fabric of the dress had me nearly squirming from discomfort.

It took everything I had to focus.

Thankfully the dancing came, and I was able to get out of the sun and into the coolly kept ballroom. We didn’t have much time for him to teach dancing, beyond the basics, so I did the twirling that I had to and then cozied up to Seb in a dark corner.

“You’re right, this is perfect for bad behaving’.”

“Its all been arranged rather well.” He stopped talking when a couple passed, but he did run his fingers down along my arm. “Though, I feel slightly bad. Everyone in this room believes I am taking advantage of you.”

“Lucky, Mar-Mar will be saving me from your advances,” I stuck my tongue out at the idea.

He smiled. “Nothing could save you.”

I was looking over his shoulder at our hostess, who was laughing too loudly and looking in our direction more often than not.

“She knows you procure wealthy clients,” I deduced. “All she does is wait on the prowl for you to butter them up, then she whirls in with a little flirting, a little charm, and then all it takes is coming up with something unthinkable to ruin your name.”

“Or so I suspect. Whatever she is telling them is frightening to the point that they will not speak with me about it.”

I had never been the recipient of very much flirting. So with the combined efforts of Sebastian and Adamaris, I was at my quota for the next year and a half or so. Both were doing it for their own reasons, but the fact remained.

Dinner was almost my undoing. Our hostess insisted that Seb and I sit near her. I had her to my right at the head of the table, and Seb to my left. I had to deal with her stolen hand kisses, and they were many, as well as Sebastian’s flaring feigned jealousy. Though our plan was working. Everyone present could see how Adamaris was behaving, and I could tell none of them liked it. They would not find her supposed crimes too farfetched.

The talk was boring, the food mundane. It took a dessert and waiting for a few others to cry off cigars and sherry before Sebastian finally asked for us to be excused.

“Taking your siren out of our company already, are you?” Adamaris did not seem pleased. She hadn’t been given an opening to take me from him.

Sebastian practically breathed courtesy. “The journey was long. I need to make sure my lady did not overtax herself.”

I smiled the same inane smile I had been all that evening and faked a yawn.

“Please,” she begged me. “Let us girls stay and chat. I‘m sure we share more than a few interests. I‘d love to learn more about you.” She was doing nothing to hide her fascination.

The guild member to her left gave Sebastian a shocked look. Oh yes, word would get around.

“Actually, I am rather tired.” I gave her a look of apology. Sebastian took my arm demandingly and dragged me away. I could feel the hostess staring at my back.

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Sebastian and I had adjourning rooms. I could see what was planned here at these events.

“Don’t come sneaking in on me,” I told him through the doorway. Then I looked around his shoulder. “Your room is bigger then mine.”

“I’m supposed to be found in your bed.”

“Regardless of the fact that I am an heiress?”

“Yes.”

I frowned at him. “What comes next?”

“Well, I am expecting Adamaris to call on you. Personally.” Sebastian lifted a moist cloth, that I had not seen him holding before, and began to dot my neck, then my wrists. It was so heavy that I could feel the beads of liquid running down my skin. “She will not be able to contain herself. You will be alone, and no risk can be spared.”

“Wait, wait, wait…” I held my hands up. “First of all, what is this? And what are you planning on me doing?”

“Just keep your head, Fin. And don’t sniff yourself.”

I frowned. “You’ve got to be kidding me.” After the ordeal we just went through, he was going to put that voodoo curse perfume on me? Why did I agree to this? I sighed. “I’m going to get raped. By a woman.”

“Nothing will progress, trust me.” Sebastian pushed me toward my bed, then went behind the door. “Trust me.” He said again before closing it.

The frown on my face was now directed at the door. Whatever Sebastian had planned at this point was something he was keeping to himself. Deciding it was out of my hands, I went to the Carolean four poster bed and plopped down at the edge.

What was I supposed to do now?

I guess that since I was supposed to look as if I’d been ravished, I had better lose some clothing.

Shaking my head, I stood and undid the myriad buttons and laces that dotted the corruption I wore. Once I managed to slip it off, I stood in only a sheer shift and my stockings. Thinking that wasn’t enough, I tousled my hair a bit, then returned to my former seat on the bed.

The wait got really boring.

Not knowing what I should do, I paced the room a bit to pass the time. I tinkered with a few of the decorations over the lit fireplace. Then I tossed back the coverlet over the bed and climbed in, trying to take a cat nap. It didn’t work.

I looked at the ornate clock that hung off of the wall like a hologram. It was nearly midnight.

I was losing patience. And the renown state I had been carrying on all evening. I didn’t feel so much like the Affinity Seb had colored out in front of all his fancy-pants associates. Instead I felt like Fin again, eager to return to my crew and hit sky.

Exhaustion from this charade was coming down on me hard. In spite of that, I did not sleep.

I didn’t hear the door to my room close until a near thirty five minutes later. I was sitting on the window jam, my head against the cool of the plaster, when I heard the noise off to my left. I must have dozed off somewhat, because my head was foggy. My eyes flew open when I heard footsteps approach, and I glanced over.

“I was waiting for you.” My voice was soft from almost-sleep.

“Oh?” Adamaris was wearing nothing but a kimono, something I would not have expected such a loud person to wear. It was only one color, after all. “Did you depend upon my arrival?”

“Merely expectin’ it.” My prim attitude had slipped with the wait. I hoped she didn’t notice.

She did not seem to care. “Well, we barely had time for one another since your arrival. I thought it would be nice to chat.” She sat surprisingly away from me, over to the high back chair before the fireplace. Her legs went one over the other, and the opening of her robes fell open slightly.

I remained where I was, though I did turn a bit more to face her. “So? Here to warn me about the big bad wolf?”

Her eyes widened, and she blinked rapidly before speaking. “You’ve heard.” She looked convincing enough, falsely collecting herself from my barrage of words. “Who told you?”

I shrugged a shoulder. “Rumors.”

“Oh, do not be taken in so.” Her warning came complete with a widened expression. “There is more afoot than mere talk. I have it on good authority that your…companion is not someone to abandon caution around.”

I stayed silent, listening to her story.

“You see he preys on the young, wealthy, and beautiful. Those much like yourself. The role of companion is merely a title he uses to mistreat women. I’ve seen it before. He charms his way into your trust, then before you know it…” She sucked in a breath. “Some clients think he is merely predatory, a side that many crave. But Affy, dear, believe me, he rapes the brunt of his clientele. And they unknowingly purchase it.”

“You are telling me that Sebastian tricks his clients into paying him to violently abuse them?” I could feel my frown and tried to rid it, but just couldn’t.

She nodded. “He is ruining the ethics of our profession.”

“I just haven’t seen that side of him.” I countered.

“Well I would not suspect him to behave so when he is courting you. No one shows their true nature when they are playing you the fool.”

I looked down at that note. Guess not. Look at where I am sitting. None of this act had any part of me in it

“You must understand,” she continued, slowly rising. “I throw many seasonal sensations, and always my colleagues are invited. Sebastian comes to one or two a year, and every time he brings a rich, unsuspecting debutant. And every time, that same girl comes out the next day bruised and battered and very confused. Only a few have seen his deception for what it truly is. I only pray that you are one of them.” Her hands went to her cheeks. “It has gotten so bad, I’ve been forced to take it upon myself to warn his company in the middle of the evening, pardon my intrusion. I just cannot stand seeing such a delicate flower being used!”

“I cannot believe it.” I was not saying it because I was acting. No, I really couldn’t believe it.

Adamaris walked to where I sat. She took my hand in hers. “The true work of the companion is not in the brutal.” She pulled at my arm, urging me to rise. I did. “Our true work is of the light. Of the tender.” She brushed back my hair, exposing my shoulder. Her eyes wandered over me. “We are to seek and subdue your inhibitions. To bring forth your heart’s every wish.” She smiled, and something in my throat clenched. “I came here to teach you how a companion makes love.”

“Am I paying for this?” I found myself asking.

“Oh no,” her hands were all over me. “This first round will be a little sample of what you may have in the future.”

When she kissed me, I had not expected it. I had been on the verge of speaking. And then suddenly, soft lips caressed mine. And a tongue as well.

It wasn’t as vulgar as I previously thought it might be. A kiss, any kiss of the sensual kind that had graced me, went straight to my head. And so it was with a touch from Adamaris. She was bold, yet as gentle as she had promised. At first, anyhow. Then her leg went in between mine, and she pulled me tight against her taller frame.

I squeezed my eyes shut and tried to imitated her every move, but it was hard. She was skilled whereas I was novice. But maybe that was what made her moan and begin to tug me towards the bed. I was believable as an abashed innocent, for truthfully that is what I was.

The only person who had ever been on top of me was Hale. Having a woman in his place was no where near similar. Especially with the way she clawed at my hair and breasts.

Adamaris was forceful, and it occurred to me that perhaps she was the companion rapist that she accused Seb of being. But before she could get my legs splayed and my clothing completely off, her breathing changed. She lifted up and stared down at me curiously.

“What is that smell?” Were her last words before her eyes rolled back and she slumped to the side.

I laid there motionless, trying to figure out what happened. Then I slapped my brow and pushed her off of me. Of course. The smell good.

I stared at the sleeping hostess and tried to get my wits about me. It turned out that she was right. There was something about the predatory quality, that vigor, it had swept me away. Were it not for the drug staining my skin, would I have found it in me to make her stop?

The fact that I had to ask that question was incriminating.

I was on my feet when Sebastian walked through the adjourning door way. “Just as I suspected.” He made his way over to me and gave me a full cursory scan. “Why Affinity, you look bedeviled.”

“’Spose being attacked by a woman does that to you.”

“From time to time,” he confirmed. He looked at the sleeping face of Adamaris. “She’ll be out for a while. I was very generous with that perfume. And your lipstick as well.”

I touched my mouth. “Gorrammit, Seb, how many potions do you have?”

“You were perfectly safe, don’t give me that evil look.” Sebastian reached under the bed and retrieved an audio recording device.

“So, this turned out to be your big plan? Isn‘t that entrapment?”

“Easier then getting into any studies she has about.” Seb pressed the stop button and hid the gadget away in his pocket. “And better then having to knock some guard over his head.”

I glowered at him.

He got defensive. “What? I did not have time to fill you in, Affy.”

“Perhaps next time we do this, you can be the one mauled.”

Seb shook his head. “There wont be a next time.”

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It was hard getting passed the feds at such a late hour. We were nearly interrogated before Sebastian took some time sweet talking them and getting us clearance to leave Newhall. There was no guard or alarm set off at Adamaris Vusi’s residence, and I assumed she was still in the thralls of a drug induced sleep. Something told me she wasn’t going to call.

My crew was intact, and they hadn’t had much to do with me away. All were happy to be in the ‘verse once more, putting any idea of life on ground out of the window.

In the end, we all breathed a sigh of relief.

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“Have you decided what you are going to do with that tape?” I asked Sebastian as we sat in his shuttle the next day.

He shook his head and finished off his round of tea. “Now that I have the proof, I am even more infuriated then before. I cannot seem to think straight.”

I nodded in understanding. Could not be easy to have something you’ve worked so hard for in jeopardy. “Well, I think I can help you one last time.”

His eyes lit up in eagerness. “Any ideas would be more then helpful.”

“I believe I can get you a personal interview with an official head.”

Seb’s lips thinned before he spoke. He looked as if he were trying not to laugh. “You have such access? When I don’t?”

I tilted my head. “Does the name Inara Serra come to mind?” It was my turn to hold back a laugh when I saw his expression. “You would be surprised what people you meet with this kind of lifestyle.”

I got away from Seb only after he wracked my brain for all of my interactions with Inara. It was a bit difficult for me, since most of those occurrences were in my childhood. The good old days. The days I still dreamed about. I headed for the bridge, my hands ruining the curls my hair was still in. There was no makeup to speak of on my cheeks any longer, and I was in my regular old cargo pants and well fitted shirt. All was as it should be.

Hale surprised me by blocking my way into the galley. “What happened to the dress?”

I rose a brow. “It was Seb’s. He probably stowed it away in his collection.”

“Any chance of you getting it on again?”

“I doubt even pay would force me into that degradation once more.” I shuddered.

Hale snorted. “Now, there is the Fin I know.” He sounded relieved.

“The one you can laugh at?” The substance of my anger had left when I’d been able to make him speechless.

“And count on.” Hale touched my shoulder.

I smiled.

“Cap, you really want to get to the bridge. Right now.” Case’s voice was happily urgent over the intercom.

My eyes went round the same time Hale’s did. There was usually only one instance that our pilot sounded that eager.

Our footsteps were heavy on the platform as we rushed to the bridge. Vanya, Shad, and Champ weren’t too far behind.

When we got to the helm, my suspicions were confirmed. Lidiya’s face was on the screen, and she was looking nervous.

“You’ve found ‘em?” I was out of breath from excitement.

Lidiya sighed, then nodded slowly. “There is a couple of reaver vessels circling Greenleaf.”

My eyes lit up. Hale clapped his hands together. Vanya gave a bloodthirsty grin.

I turned to eye each of my crew, nodding in confirmation. “We’re back in business.”

Date: 2009-09-28 04:28 am (UTC)
gorgeousnerd: Young Mary Winchester, with her head turned to the side and her blonde hair around her face. (Mary is young.)
From: [personal profile] gorgeousnerd
Ooh, that was fun and sexy. I liked how Finy got to break out of her mold a little bit -- I'm a sucker for roleplaying storylines -- and everyone's reactions were priceless. And, of course, I'm glad to see that Lidiya showed up. :D

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thewarblingminstrel

June 2014

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