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Marshal Jane Freeman was watching her commander closely. He was off, that was for sure. Robbie Sinclair was a space-cold bastard who dedicated himself to his work to the exclusion of everything, and everyone, else. At least, he had been up until a week ago. This past week he had been…distracted. Ever since he had gotten together with that little cutie from Hazard. Not really Jane’s type, but she could see what was appealing, with those big brown eyes and waif-like frame. It had been just one night, but ever since then it seemed like his mind had been wandering more. Not really when he was on the job, but when he relaxed a little bit, when they were alone in his office, he was just…off. Jane decided to test him.
“So you got my memo on the shift rotations?”
“Good, good. I knew that writing it in Cyrillic wouldn’t pose any difficulty for you.”
“Seeing as how you studied ancient Russian history in school.”
“Uh-huh.” She eyed him closely. “Just like Wyl Leyton did.”
“What?” He sat up suddenly, his eyes snapping over to her. “What about Wyl?”
Jane sighed in exasperation. “You are totally out of it, boss-man.”
“What do you mean?”
“I just told you I wrote you a memo in Cyrillic, for shit’s sake! Most people don’t even know what that is anymore! You didn’t snap out of it until I mentioned Wyl Leyton’s name.” She leaned back in her chair, staring at him. “He’s still on your mind, huh.” She saw the reluctance in his face. “C’mon Robbie, confession is good for the soul. Spill it.”
Robbie sighed. He had drifted off, without even realizing it. It was like this past week he’d been stumbling around in a daze, reliving every moment he’d spent with Wyl in his mind at the most inopportune times. Even the station master had noticed something was distracting him, and gone so far as to offer counseling. Counseling. Fuck it, he didn’t need counseling, he needed Wyl. Gorgeous, hot, funny, sexy Wyl who made him feel like he was worth a damn at something more than breaking people down. This last week he hadn’t even been very good at that. His nights were full of dreams of Wyl, dreams which, while extremely enjoyable, weren’t the type that allowed for steady sleep, and his working hours were filled with unrelenting memories and anticipation. Without Jane covering his back, it would have been a very tough week.
“I miss him,” he said finally, a little uncomfortably. Jane was fast becoming a good friend, his only friend on the station, but still, talking about feelings was so…not him.
“You like him.”
“As more than just a hot fuck.”
“Robbie, it wasn’t hard for me to see that you were into him. And obviously he was way into you. So try not to get shy now.”
“You thought he was into me?” He tried to hide the relief he felt at her words. Robbie knew the sex was incredible and that Wyl had been neglected for a long time, but he wasn’t so sure about how he’d fared in the light of the day, so to speak.
Jane laughed. “You’re adorable when you’re insecure! Into you? You couldn’t pry him off of you in the bedroom, and you were just sleeping when I came in. When I watched him say goodbye from the control center, it was all he could do not to jump you. And it was his idea to facilitate his coming back, right?” She waited for Robbie’s nod. “So yes, he’s into you. Feelings assuaged, hugs all around. What else?” she encouraged.
“Well…I’m looking forward to him coming back.”
“Why? For another wild night?”
“Yes, but not just that.” Robbie averted his eyes, looking out into space. “I want to know more about him. There’s a lot to learn. He’s a bonder, but he wouldn’t tell me why.”
“A bonder?” Jane shook her head. “That’s rough. My daddy was a bonder before he entered the military; they were offering debt removal for service back then. And yeah, I’ve heard they can be touchy about why they’re in the system. On the plus side, odds are pretty good he isn’t a criminal.”
“What?” Robbie turned back to stare at her. “How could someone who broke the law be eligible for the bond system? I thought it was just for debts.”
“It is, but there are different types of debts, and the planets all have their own guidelines for punishment. Monetary debt is the simplest, straight-up. Pretty easy to deal with too, since friends and family are allowed to help pay the bond off. Sometimes if a person is involved in financial fraud the government will grab their property as well as placing a debt on them. Same thing goes for petty thievery, some drug abusers, reckless endangerment or manslaughter charges…it all depends. The more money a planet or federation needs, the more crimes they turn into bond-debt instead of jail time. Bonds can sell for a lot of money if the skills are right.”
Wyl definitely had skills. He was a good mechanic, too…Robbie poker oyna felt a blush coming on. “Think I should try to find out his history?”
“If you really like him, you definitely should. And if he really likes you, he’ll tell you eventually, because you need to be honest with the people close to you.”
Robbie smiled. “Tell me again why you’re a marshal and not a counselor.”
“Because I can’t stand listening to people bitch about their fucking problems all day.”
“You’re doing a pretty good job with me.”
“Are you kidding? I’m pulling bloody teeth.” Jane shook her head. “You’re a tough guy, Robbie. You don’t complain about anything, you don’t ask for sympathy, you don’t ask for a break. I really respect that.” She grinned. “That’s why you get my advice for free.”
“I’m a lucky guy.”
“Too right you are. When does he come in?”
“Not for another five hours.”
“Oh, you’ll be useless.” Jane stood up and stretched. “It’s about time for a break anyway. Put Dawson in charge and let’s spar for awhile. I haven’t worked my control techniques for weeks.”
“Get ready to get beaten.”
“Ha! So says the pretty boy, all brawn and no brains. I’ll have you dancin’ to my lead in no time.” She struck a pose, flexing, then walked out. Robbie smiled after her and grabbed for his comm. It would do him some good to get his mind off Wyl for awhile. If anything could do that.
When Wyl got back from the station, he was floating. He couldn’t help it. If he had dreamed up the most spectacularly lucky, pleasurable scenario he could think of before going up to the station, it would have paled in comparison to the reality he experienced. Mind-blowing sex with the hottest person he’d ever met, a person who was in a position to get him back up to the station, a person who for some reason seemed to want him even though he wasn’t much to look at…certainly not by comparison. Robbie Sinclair. Robin. Wyl grinned when he remembered Robbie’s reaction to Wyl figuring out his name. He got so cute when he was a little flustered…
Wyl wanted to find out more about what flustered him. He wanted to ask him about Old Earth and living on Mars, and how long it had taken him to get to this system. He wanted to know about what’d he’d done before coming to the station, what his favorite food was, whether he had brothers or sisters and more about what turned him on. Especially that. He wanted to make Robbie lose his mind with pleasure, and love Wyl so much that he never needed to know about his past.
Wyl frowned. That last thought bothered him, for several reasons. The first was because he knew it was stupid of him to want Robbie to talk about himself and not expect Wyl to reciprocate. The second was because he had used the word “love”. It was way too soon to be using that word. It had never been a word he was comfortable with anyway, not since his parents had died, so how could he even consider it with a man he had just met? It didn’t matter that he was handsome and caring and a great lover who could also cook. Right? Right.
Wyl, you’re an idiot, he berated himself silently. You never stop to think things through, you just go full speed and assume everything will work out. Look where it’s gotten you. And now it’s too late to go back.
Wyl’s attention was pleasantly distracted by Taylor’s arrival. “I’ll help you unload.”
“Thanks.” Vic had purchased a number of things at the station at Danica’s behest, but immediately after arriving he had abandoned ship, leaving Wyl to get everything out.
“So,” Taylor said casually as they hauled a pile of coiled tubing out of the hold, “Danica meet you when you got back?”
“And how did that go?”
“Could have been worse,” Wyl shrugged. They dropped the tubing onto a pallet and went back inside for more. “She was livid for a few seconds about not getting the license renewed, but when I explained what a deferral was to her, she calmed down a little. A tiny bit. Fixing up the exterior of the Wreck is going to be my project for the next week, and then we go back up to finish the inspection.”
“Hell, I’m surprised you got that far, what with the state this was in.” Taylor was a much larger man than Wyl and despite the fact that he was the cook and not a laborer, he easily lifted twice what Wyl could, balancing it on his shoulder as he carried it back to the cart. “A deferral. So you get to go back.”
“Yeah.” Wyl tried to keep the excitement out of his voice when he said it, but Taylor Paulsen was one of his only real friends on this rock, along with his wife Leesie, and he knew Wyl well enough to know when something moved him out of the state of apathy he usually resided in.
“Had a good time, then?” Taylor asked with a grin.
“Is it that obvious?”
“Probably not. We wouldn’t want her highness to see you smiling, though, she’d take it as a personal affront.”
“Yeah…” Danica worried Wyl. She worried him a lot. She had never been a very stable person, and this last standard month her behavior canlı poker oyna had gotten more and more extreme, especially where he was concerned. For some reason she was obsessed with the idea of him sleeping with her, and if she knew he had been up at the station enjoying himself with someone else, especially if she found out it was a man…her reaction could be explosive. Literally. “I tried to tone it down when she came by.”
“At least you got through the meeting with your eardrums intact,” Taylor grunted as he lifted another crate. “She’s been hissing and spitting like a catterpet in heat lately. I’d as soon fly a ship into a black hole as get close enough to touch her.” He glanced sidelong at Wyl. “She spent quite a bit of time ranting about you. ‘What’s taking so long, why aren’t they back, what’s Wyl doing…’.”
“Fuck, T,” Wyl groaned. “How am I going to survive another year of her?”
“You’ll think of something,” Taylor shrugged. “Or you’ll have a heart attack.”
“You’re really encouraging, thanks, T.”
“It’s what I do.”
Fortunately Wyl avoided Danica for the rest of the day. Her instructions to him had been explicit-“Finish the fucking ship!”-so he spent his time in the docking bay, scavenging parts for the hull and planning where to put the patches. He focused, mentally imagining how to place the shield plates, which ones to move and lock in new places and which ones would need to be scrapped and replaced. He was so absorbed in his thoughts that he didn’t even notice the other person standing in the bay until a light, feminine hand touched his shoulder.
Wyl started violently and whirled around, whipping his welding faceplate off. It wasn’t Danica though, it was Leesie, holding a plate of food and a glass of vitamin-enhanced water. Wispy blonde curls trailed about her face as she smiled apologetically.
“I’m sorry. I called out, but you were too involved to hear me, I guess.”
“It’s okay.” Wyl’s heart was gradually coming down from its frenetic high.
“Taylor made you some dinner. You didn’t come to the mess hall this afternoon.”
Wyl took the plate from her hands. “Yeah, I know. I have a lot of work to do on the Wreck before we go back up.” He sat down on a crate and dug into the sandwich Taylor had made. Leesie sat down next to him, folding her hands across her lap, a faint smile on her face. She waited until he was done to start talking.
“So, is he nice?”
Wyl almost choked on the last bite of his sandwich. He took a long drink of the water, and then asked, “Did T tell you?”
“He mentioned you had gotten together with someone, but honestly I didn’t need him to tell me that. I saw you when you got back. You were smiling, Wyl. I’ve never seen you smile like that before. It disappeared as soon as you saw Danica, but it was definitely there.” She nudged his hip. “You don’t have to talk about it, hon.”
“I want to.” It was true, too. “He’s better than nice. He’s…perfect.”
“Gosh. Tell me more about Mr. Perfect.”
“He’s a marshal at the station. I think he’s some sort of commander, but I’m not sure…he was there to meet us when we pulled the Wreck in.”
“What’s his name?”
“Robbie. Robbie Sinclair.”
“Robbie Sinclair.” Leesie repeated it, as though committing his name to memory. “And he was good to you?”
Wyl couldn’t suppress a smirk. “You don’t know how good.”
“Pig,” Leesie grinned. “I’m glad you met someone who could make you happy, at least for a while.’
“I’m going to see him again, when we take the Wreck back up.” Wyl was nearly vibrating with excitement. “You’d like him, Leesie, he’s friendly, he’s handsome, he’s abso-fucking-lutely incredible in bed-“
“Not that I’d go there,” Leesie interjected. “I guess you guys really hit it off.”
“I guess so. I don’t know why, he’s a full-class citizen and I’m a bonder, he’s incredibly attractive and I’m not, he’s-”
“Wyl, you have some really weird misconceptions about yourself.” Leesie shook her head. “You might be a bonder, but you’re expressive, independent, intelligent and very handsome.” She smiled a little sadly. “That’s part of your problem, remember?”
“Danica. Shit.” Wyl rubbed his hands over his face. “If she knew she’d crucify me. Not that I’ve given her any reason to think I want her.”
“Of course not. That’s one of the reasons she’s after you so hard. Be careful this week, Wyl. Don’t give her any cause to be suspicious. Don’t let her ruin this chance for you.”
“Your chance for happiness.” Leesie picked up the empty plate and glass. “Don’t stay up too late, and don’t forget to go to breakfast.”
“Yes, Mommy.” Wyl watched her leave, feeling better than he had since he’s gotten back.
Wyl worked his ass off on the Wreck for the next six days, staying under the radar and avoiding Danica as much as possible. Every passing day brought him closer to going back to the station, and to Robbie. He sometimes stopped in the middle of his work, paralyzed by a internet casino memory, savoring the vivid sensations his brain provided as he remembered Robbie’s hands, and the feel of his mouth, and the softness of the bed beneath his back as Robbie pressed into him, and held him, and took him. It was occasionally awkward having such vibrant recollections, and Wyl was very glad he was working alone.
Finally it was almost time, everything was almost ready, and Wyl was more than ready. The Wreck looked better than it had in years, but he kept at it anyway, trimming the lines, rechecking the new seals on the door, loading the last of the cargo-
“That’s a very annoying habit you’ve picked up.”
Wyl froze for a moment, his body locked in a rigor of fear before calming down enough to turn around. “What habit?”
“Whistling,” Danica replied, walking across the docking bay towards him. “I’ve never heard you do it before, Wyl. It echoes abominably, it makes my head hurt just to listen to it.” She stalked up to him, cat-eyes glaring, smoldering like dying stars. Her metallic, coppery hair glittered like thousands of tiny knives, and the skin-tight black leather suit she was wearing looked more suitable to a dominatrix’s wardrobe than a miner’s. She stopped less than a foot away from Wyl, cocking her head to one side, her expression cold. She smelled like flowers. It was an incongruous combination.
“What could put you in the mood to whistle, Wyl?” she asked, anger and bitterness suffusing her voice. “Looking forward to something? Or someone?”
“Just pleased with my work.”
“Fucking bullshit.” She raised a hand faster than Wyl could see and levered it across his face. The crack from the slap reverberated throughout the docking bay.
Wyl was reeling, his face burning and his mind numb from the blow, when Danica grabbed his hair and hauled him close to her. Tiny flecks of spittle flew from her lips as she broke into shouting. “Did you play at being someone’s little whore, you slut? Did you? Who was it? What did she do to get you into her bed?”
“She”. At least she hasn’t put everything together. “You’re paranoid,” Wyl said painfully, his jaw aching. “And it’s none of your business. So fuck off.”
Danica’s face contorted with fury, and her skin flushed. Wyl could see that the whites of her eyes were actually pink, and her skin was burning to the touch. She’s on something. He didn’t have time to wonder what, because an instant later she threw him, head first, at the Wreck. Wyl managed to turn so that he didn’t hit with his face, but that was the best he could do. The side of his head and his shoulder impacted the metal with a thud, and he dropped to the ground, blind with pain. He barely even felt it when she grabbed him by the hair again. “You’re going to go up there and finish this, because if you don’t I’ll have that marshal fucker breathing down my neck. You’ll finish it, and I hope you enjoy yourself, because when you come back I’ll keep you here working off your bond for the next ten years of your life.”
Danica laughed cruelly. “No one is checking on you, Wyl. No one cares about you. I can do anything that I want to you, and nobody will give a shit.” She shook his head violently, nails digging into his scalp. “You think you’re special? Think again. I own this world. Nobody tells me no, least of all a snotty little bonder.” She let him go and straightened up, flipping her long hair over one shoulder. “Vic won’t be flying you up there this time. Mike’s accompanying you. He’ll be here in half an hour, so have everything ready to go then.” She whirled around and stalked away, leaving Wyl crouched on the floor with his head still ringing, confusion and anger warring with pain. There was truth in what she said, and that was the worst part. She was right. He was just a bonder. The system couldn’t help him, and neither could Robbie. He’d tell him the truth. Make a clean break. Robbie wouldn’t want him once he found out about his past, anyway…
Sudden nausea at that thought bent Wyl double. Damn his sensitivity, and damn the way Robbie made him feel. He slowly got control of himself, breathing shallowly. He touched his head. It hurt, and his face still stung, but that was nothing compared to the sudden grief his soul was howling to express. He clamped down on it harshly. Now wasn’t the time. Now would never be the time. He had to hold it together long enough to see Robbie and explain things. Then he could come back down here and fall to pieces. Maybe Danica would watch.
In retrospect, Robbie was glad Jane had convinced him to spar. It had been a little hard on his ego getting kicked around so handily, and there were bruises developing under his arms from where she had dug her steely fingers into pressure points, but the workout had distracted him from thoughts of Wyl. Now it was nearly time for his ship to arrive, and instead of being wrought up with hours’ worth of anxiety, he only had minutes of anticipation to torture him with. Inspector Doyle was standing next to him, so he didn’t allow himself to fidget, just stared ahead at the docking bay where the ship would be arriving. Five minutes. Three minutes. The inspector wisely didn’t try to make conversation. One minute…
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