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Mission: She's Impossible

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Prologue: Chrisjen Avasarala

Her head was pounding, breathing hurt, everything hurt. It would be a fucking miracle if nothing was broken. Her throat felt rough. Had she been screaming? She hadn’t even realized it. From the corner of her eye she saw Cotyar lying face down, out cold, blood trickling from a cut on the side of his head. Bobbie was on the other side of the room, also not moving. Even through the fog of the pain, she could see that her nose was broken, blood pooling on the carpet.

The toe of a boot pushed its way underneath her shoulder and flipped her over on her back. An inhuman noise came from her mouth, the pain shooting through her entire body. Her vision went blurry for a moment, but when it came back into the focus, she found herself staring down the barrel of a gun. After all of that, it would still be a bullet that would end her.

Chapter 1: Cotyar Ghazi

Cotyar tried to hide his smile when he saw Chrisjen’s eyes light up as she tasted some special type of organic honey. She loved these things, farmers’ markets. It had surprised him probably as much as it had her. She had a domestic side to her now that she was retired. It was mostly limited to food and cooking, but it still didn’t match up with her reputation of the woman who could have run the country if she had wanted to.

He looked around while she chatted away with the beekeeper, one of his hands resting on the small of her back. Hearing about the upkeep of some honey bees wasn’t really his idea of fun. Chrisjen seemed to like it though. He had learned to poke through her fake smiles and it was all real right now. She was completely relaxed and as much in her element talking to farmers in her jeans and t-shirt as she had been staring down politicians in a designer suit.

“Just one more stall and we can go to the fun part,” Chrisjen said, putting a ridiculously large jar of honey in her already full bag. The fun part, as she called it, was more for his benefit than for hers. It’s where the local breweries had set up camp, selling their latest inventions in combination with some decent pub food. She wasn’t much of a beer drinker, but she indulged him, the same way he did her.

He followed her to the the woman who sold a wide array of fresh herbs at the edge of the market, zoning out when they launched into a conversation about basil and fresh mint. He watched the people pass them by, families, older couples like them, chefs, amateur or otherwise. Sometimes he wondered how many of them knew who she was, what she had done for them. If they did, none of them showed it. Chrisjen loved it, being mostly anonymous again, especially after the whole media-circus that had surrounded them for the better part of six months with the whole Mao ordeal.

He watched as Chrisjen leaned down with a focused look in her eyes to smell one of the herbs, when a deafening sound rang out across the market. Everything suddenly seemed to go in slow motion. The herb lady collapsed, a bullet hole in the centre of her chest, a bullet that had not been meant for her. The world was silent for a second, before it exploded into a wall of screams. Cotyar whipped his head around and spotted a masked man with a semi-automatic, pointing it right at them. Without thinking about, he grabbed Chrisjen and dragged her down as more bullets began to fly.

He curled around her, scooting them under the stall as he fumbled for the gun tucked in the back of his trousers. Chrisjen was clinging to his other arm, her breathing fast and panicked, her eyes locked on the lifeless body of the woman who had been selling her fresh herbs for the past year.

“What the fuck is happening?” she managed in an attempt to sound authoritative, looking at him over her shoulder. Cotyar felt his own heart rate spike when he saw the blood on her face. She must have caught her face on the edge of the stall when he took her down. Her bottom lip was split and there was a small cut above her eyebrow. It looked a lot worse than it was, but that didn’t make him feel him any better.

“It appears that someone is trying to kill you.” And as far as he was aware she hadn’t done anything lately to warrant that. And that was a problem. He didn’t know who this guy was, why he was shooting up a local farmers’ market or how he knew she would be here. He let go of Chrisjen and rolled onto his haunches, trying to spot the gunman’s legs through the throng of running and hiding people. Another problem, this place was too goddamn crowded. A clean shot would be hard. There was just too much happening. From this position, he could see the bodies spread out across the marketplace, deserted shopping bags on the grounds, forgotten produce lying forlorn under the stalls.

“Bullshit. This feels like a mass shooting.” Chrisjen had come up on her knees behind him, her hand grabbing onto the back of his shirt, like some sort of lifeline. He could understand her cursing and disbelief, but he did not have time to deal with it right now. He turned around, ignoring the way he felt when he saw the blood on her face and pointed at the dead herb lady.

“That bullet was supposed to be in your neck. You’d be dead if you hadn’t bent down at the right moment. If this was a mass shooting, if wouldn’t have started with a single targeted bullet.” He’d have time later to lose it about how close she had come to dying. So would she. Right now, there was a guy mowing down people to get to her and that needed to be fixed.

“Oh for fuck’s sake. Isn’t it your job to keep assholes from killing me?”

“I quit, remember?” He grabbed her hand and dragged her out from underneath the stall, past the body of the herb sales woman. Cotyar felt bad that he didn’t know her name. Chrisjen would know it. He pulled them behind a van. It wasn’t much better in the way of stopping bullets, definitely better for hiding.

“You’re the one who brought a gun to a fucking farmers’ market.” She shot back, glaring at the gun in his hands. She might have had a point there. He peeked around the van, trying to gauge where the gunman was. When he couldn’t, he turned back to Chrisjen. Rationally, he was aware that he should not be arguing in the middle of a shooting, but even when she was hurt, she managed to make his blood boil in the worst way.

“And you’re the one who is a loud-mouthed former ambassador that has someone trying to assassinate her during a goddamn farmer’s market,” he snapped, ushering her to the other side of the van. She looked angry. Good. Angry was better than scared. He could work with angry. It meant she was paying attention and not going into a state of panic or shock. Making sure she was crouched behind a tire, he tried to figure out a strategy that would get both of them out of there, alive.

“Well, excuse me for having the type of enemies that don’t respect retirement.” She had arms folded in front of her chest and an eyebrow raised. Her type of enemies was a can of worms he did not want to open right now. He could write a book about all the people she had pissed off, some of whom would have the resources to do this, though most of them wouldn’t.

“I won’t excuse you, because I’d like to spend time with the woman I love without dodging bullets,” he said and was pleased that for once she seemed speechless. At any other time, he would have savored the moment.

“...I love you too,” she said softly. Cotyar nodded and looked over the hood off the van and nearly cursed when he saw how close the gunman was. Before he could squeeze off a round, a shot rang out. A searing pain went down his arm. God, he hated getting shot. At least it wasn’t his dominant arm. He fired back, once, twice. His bullet hit the target with military precision, one in the chest and one in the head.

He didn’t wait for the body to hit the ground before turning around leaning against the van. A few of Chrisjen’s choice words were going through his head. That had been way too close for comfort. He looked at his arm. Just a graze by the looks of it. Chrisjen raised herself up, her hands shaking as she reached for him, carefully touching his upper arm where the bullet had sliced through his skin.

“You’re shot,” she stated, apparently not caring that she was getting his blood on her hands. She looked both scared and relieved.

“Comes with the territory of being around you,” he tried in an ill attempt at a joke. It was mostly a joke, anyway. Chrisjen, however, was not amused. Before she could hurl an obscenity at his head, he placed a hand on her shoulder, vaguely aware that he was still holding his gun. “It’s just a graze. I’m fine.”

“Good, because we have to go before the police get here.” Cotyar froze midway through tucking his gun in the back of his trousers. She wanted to leave the scene of her own botched assassination. He tried to look for signs of shock, but could detect any.

“You wanna run that by me again? I killed a guy.”

“Knowing you, with an unregistered gun. Do you want to explain to the police why? And if this really was an assassination attempt, I have no idea by whom or why. If the police know, then the press will know within the hour. If people find out I’m alive - -”

“- - they might try again,” Cotyar supplied. He hated it when she made sense. He really wanted to disagree with her, but found that he couldn’t. Her safety as well as the likelihood of ever finding who was behind this were better if they left before the police got here. Dammit. He’d have to call in a lot of favors if they ever found out it was him that shot the gunmen and then left the scene of the crime.

“There are already too many people dead and injured.” The unsaid ‘because of me’ hung heavy in the air. “We shouldn’t make this worse.”

---

It was a small miracle they had made it out before the police got there and that nobody had found out yet that they had been there. But no cops meant no hospital. Any doctor worth their salt would have immediately realized that his wound came from a gunshot, which left them to take care of their minor injuries themselves. Cotyar would have really wanted to have Chrisjen checked out for a concussion.

“I’ve had a concussion before, I remember what it feels like. No, I am not nauseous or dizzy, nor am I suffering from any sort of amnesia. I fucking wish. I am tired, confused and I have a headache. Can you blame me?” She downed her whiskey in one large swallow and Cotyar tried not to cringe. Waste of Lagavulin and a terrible idea if she did have a concussion. He still wasn’t convinced, even if the damage to her face wasn’t that bad.

“I’m still going to wake you up tonight to check. Sit still.” She pursed her lips, but stopped fidgeting, allowing him to clean the blood off her face. It never failed to amaze him how much a small head wound could bleed. It didn’t look too bad. She’d have a bruise on the side of her chin, nothing she couldn’t hide with make-up, knowing her.

“I’d have to be able to get some fucking sleep first,” she muttered under her breath. Cotyar recognized the look in her eyes. She was coming to terms with the fact that she had come absurdly close to dying. If the man had shot a second later or if Joan, herb lady’s name according to Chrisjen, hadn’t boasted about the freshness of her sage, he’d currently be planning a funeral. He wasn’t looking forward to having those nightmares again.

He had had them frequently after the whole incident on Mao’s yacht where he had ended up with a bullet in his gut and Chrisjen had had a gun pointed at her face multiple times. If her marine turned diplomatic liaison hadn’t decided to make a semi-suicidal attack on the idiot with the gun, they would have died then and there. He’d seen her dead in his sleep more times than he cared to count. Seeing whatever hellish scenarios his subconscious was going to come up with now was not something he was looking forward to.

“Fuck, motherfucker,” Chrisjen cursed when he swiped the disinfectant over the cut above her eyebrow. “Normal people would tell that it was going to sting.”

“Yes, well when have we ever been considered normal people?”

“A very good point, considering that a normal person would have let me look at his gunshot wound before tending to a split lip.” He didn’t even try to protest when she grabbed the little cotton ball he was holding and chucked it in the trash where it joined their blood-stained shirts. He simply held out his arm so she could unwrap the towel he had wrapped around it as an emergency measure during the car ride home. That disappeared in the trash as well to be burned later.

Chrisjen leaned closer, tucking an errant lock of hair behind her ear. Sometimes he wondered what the hell a woman like her was doing with him. He’d only ever asked her that once. Her response had been to call him a fucking idiot and that had been that. She’d cheated on her husband with him, even though she had definitely loved Arjun. He hadn’t understood it then and he still didn’t now. He doubted he ever would. She’d always have certain parts of herself closed off.

“You got lucky. The bleeding has slowed a lot. You probably don’t need stitches, but you’ll have a scar that will ruin the bottom part of your tattoo.” He had figured that out already. Some tattoo artist would have a hard time trying to fix that on top of scar tissue. But the no need for stitches was good news. With hospitals out of the questions and with Chrisjen’s utter unwillingness to sew his skin together, he had not been looking forward to doing that himself. He hissed when she swiped the wound with disinfectant. She didn’t even have the decency to not look smug at his obvious discomfort.

“You never liked that one anyway,” he said through gritted teeth. She didn’t. She had hated it the first time she saw it, with the insignia of the marines in the centre. It reminded her too much of her son, of how he had been responsible for his death. She had once told him she didn’t know Charanpal had gotten a similar tattoo until she had gone to the morgue to see his body.

“Oddly enough I like scars caused by bullets even less.” Her gaze flicked down towards the puckered scar on his abdomen. He inhaled slowly. She hid her guilt well, but there were times in the early morning, he could see it in her eyes. Gently placing his fingers under her chin, he tilted her head up and leaned in to kiss her. Chrisjen didn’t miss a beat and wrapped her arms around his neck, getting off her chair and onto his lap in one smooth move.

The cut on her lip didn’t seem to be bothering her or she simply didn’t care, overcome with the same need he was feeling to be close to her. It wasn’t a heated kiss, just a slow, don’t you dare let me go kiss, tongues leisurely sliding against each other. She was making those soft sounds in the back of her throat that usually led to nights without a lot of sleep. He broke the kiss before they found each other having sex in the kitchen, again.

“Just so you know, I plan on taking a shower long enough to piss off Greenpeace. Care to join me?” He really, really wanted to. She was even harder to resist when she used that tone. Unable to control himself, he looked down, catching a glimpse of the lacy edge of her bra under her tank top that he had seen her put on that morning. He bit back a groan. He was going to kick himself for this later.

“Incredibly tempting as that is, I need to contact some people, start trying to figure what happened today and why.” Chrisjen raised her eyebrows and slid off his lap, back onto her own chair. She didn’t seem annoyed, more amused that he was doing this to himself in the name of security. With a faint smile, she started laying out the supplies to bandage his arm.

“Suit yourself. I’m perfectly capable of taking care of things myself,” she said casually, as if she hadn’t just implied she was going to masturbate in the shower. He swallowed. The image of her in their spacious shower, a hand between her legs, her head tilted back flashed through his mind. He was already hating himself for saying no. Maybe after he was done. Now, he needed to focus.

“Evil woman.” Chrisjen just blew a kiss at him.

---

It wasn’t until the early hours of the morning that he managed to crawl into bed, not a lot wiser as to who had been behind the shooting. At least he knew that while the police were looking for the mystery shooter that had taken out the gunman, they had no leads yet. That gave him some more time to figure out what had happened. With his upped security measures, they would be safe for a day, maybe two before something spun out of control and they’d either find themselves looking down the barrel of another gun or be dragged in by the police.

“Your loud fucking thinking is waking me up. Sleep.” Chrisjen’s voice was rough with sleep, not willing to fully wake up. She had been able to find a way to find a way to drift off then. Good. Without opening her eyes, she reached back, grabbed his arm and pulled it around her body. He went willingly, until there was no space left between them. Her breathing had slowed enough for him to know she was back asleep. Placing his hand on her chest where he could feel her heartbeat, he let its steady rhythm lull him to sleep as well.

Chapter Text

It really shouldn’t have surprised her just how many security measures Cotyar had managed to put up. The man had been a spy and head of security, but it felt a little like overkill. Well, maybe not, considering everything. Of course, maybe she should have just used the front door instead of sneaking in. It would easier if she had permission to be there. She was already toeing the line by holding back information. If it got out she was visiting Avasarala, they might kick her out and blacklist her.

At least the lock on the back door was easy to pick. That seemed like a flaw until she spotted the little silent alarm fixed on the top of the door. Dammit. So close. No need to be sneaky anymore then. She pictured herself walking into the living room with some snappy opening line, when she spotted the leftover lasagna on the counter. It smelled divine. And she hadn’t had dinner yet.

She had just taken her first bite when she heard a familiar sound behind her. She turned around and grinned, even though she had a gun in her face.

“So, do either of you want to tell me why someone used a mass shooting to cover up an assassination attempt on ambassador Avasarala? I thought you retired,” Bobbie said casually, leaning against the kitchen island. Chrisjen cursed under her breath as Cotyar put the safety back on, but he didn’t put the gun away just yet. Bobbie just continued to smile as she took another bite of the lasagna. She couldn’t picture Chrisjen Avasarala cooking, but something told her that it wasn’t Cotyar who had made this. She was a good cook then. Interesting.

“Next time, just ring the doorbell,” Cotyar said in a low voice. They looked good, all things considered. Well, he had a bandage around his upper arm and she had a split lip, small cut above her eyebrow and Bobbie could detect a bruise on her chin underneath her make-up. She had seen the pictures of the scene of the incident. It was honestly a miracle they were alive and at home like nothing had happened only the day before yesterday.

“I trust your reflexes.” She did. Chrisjen’s were a different story. When it was cold, she swore she could still feel the cracked rib the diplomat had given her when she had shot her accidentally. In the vest, but still, that hurt like a motherfucker. “But seriously, how deep in the shit are you?”

“Fucking christ. We don’t know. I am retired. I haven’t done anything lately that could start a diplomatic incident, let alone trigger a mass shooting at a fucking farmer’s market.” And there was the Avasarala she knew and loved. She looked different. Where she used to wear custom designed suits, sky-high heels and an insane collection of jewelry, she looked casual now. Just a pair of jeans with a white blouse and uggs. She smirked at that. Even as indoor shoes, they looked ridiculously out of place on the woman.

“Alright, I figured I’d ask. Don’t get your panties in a twist. It’s not every day that a retired ambassador gets shot at. And no offense, but you aren’t the easiest person to get along with.” Chrisjen just rolled her eyes and grabbed a bottle of wine, pouring herself more than a healthy amount. Cotyar frowned at her, but Bobbie detected a softness in his gaze that he only reserved for her. It would be sickeningly sweet if the two of them didn’t deserve a little bit of happiness after everything. Clearly somebody didn’t agree with that.

“Do you think I’d let her out in public if she pissed off someone with the money to hire someone to stage a mass shooting just to kill her?” Well, no. Cotyar was nothing if not prudent when it came to protecting Chrisjen. But then, domesticity might have changed a person. It was hard to tell. If Chrisjen was wearing uggs, there was no telling what could have changed with Cotyar.

“She could sell ice to an eskimo, so I don’t necessarily trust you not to fall for those big brown eyes.”

“She is standing right here. And for once in my life I was absolutely not at fault,” Chrisjen countered. Bobbie hoped she was right, but she doubted it. Nobody accepted that kind of collateral damage to take out one person if they didn’t have a good reason for it. Chrisjen was the kind of woman to give people more than one reason.

“How do you know what happened?” Cotyar asked, finally putting his gun down on the counter. That confirmed her theory that they had left the scene to stop people from finding out that it had been an botched attempt to assassinate Chrisjen. Mass shootings happened. Not too frequently, but they did. The media got swept up in the grief and the killer’s motive. An attempt on a former ambassador’s life, that was something that would lead to a bureaucratic mess of an investigation. And whoever was behind it would either try again or disappear.It was a smart move that had kept them out of the spotlight for two days.

“A mass shooting happens in a major city near the border, my people get put on it. I spotted you two in the background of some cutesy vlog filmed about thirty seconds before shit hit the fan. The gunman was shot by an unsub, but neither of you turned up in the morgue or in any police reports. I can put two and two together. Called in a few favors to keep it on the down-low. You have until tomorrow morning,” she explained as she put the lasagna in the fridge. She was not looking forward to that discussion in the early morning, but it would be worth it.

Her phone dinged with a new message. Uh-oh. She wasn’t supposed to be getting any messages tonight. She was expecting a ‘you need to get back right now’. She wasn’t sure if what the message actually said, was any better. Well, this just went from an assassination attempt to a possible shitshow.

“Uhm, are you sure this wasn’t your fault? Because I just got intel that the guy who tried to kill you used to work high-level security for Protogen. And I’m fairly certain we all had something to do with that.” Cotyar’s jaw tensed and Chrisjen’s lips thinned. It would have been interesting to watch if Bobbie didn’t vividly remember every second of that explosive situation that had nearly ended all of their lives. It almost ruined Chrisjen’s career as well.

Mao had made the years long affair between Cotyar and Chrisjen public, photographic evidence and all. It hadn’t helped that Bobbie had been in a few of them as well. That had definitely been a crazy part of her life. She missed them, but she was happy to be working for own government again, even as some sort of defense liaison. If Chrisjen hadn’t come out of that situation with proof of Mao’s ‘scientific’ experiments on war orphans, the affair combined with accusations that she had been involved, would have ended her. Holden’s ragtag crew of criminals with a serious Robin Hood complex had saved her ass there, handing her Mao on a silver platter.

“That cunt. I knew I should have let Amos rip him apart,” Chrisjen spat, anger radiating off of her. The revelation of the affair, the attempt to take her down with him, the genocide of an entire city and illegal experiments on children, all of it had caused a definite and justified hatred for the man within Chrisjen. She had looked absolutely terrifying with a cold smile and fury in her eyes when Mao had been dragged before her. Bobbie actually was still surprised that Mao hadn’t ‘accidentally’ fallen and broken his neck in prison.

“Mao was years ago. The international criminal court put him away for life.” Cotyar sounded convinced, but Bobbie could read the worry in the tense line of his jaw. And in the way he brought up his hand to slide under Chrisjen’s long hair and let it rest on the back of her neck, where she tended to carry her stress.

“It might not be Jules-Pierre. It could be his family or anyone who had a high position in the company. You effectively dismantled and destroyed his company and erased his fortune. You were well in your right, of course, but if it is someone linked to Mao, I think that you’re definitely at fault here, ma’am.”

“Bobbie, we’ve fucked. Don’t call me ma’am.” Bobbie felt herself flush at the memory being part of that particular threesome. Definitely the craziest part of her life. But Chrisjen didn’t seem to be focused on her at the moment. There was no teasing tone in her words, her thoughts clearly already with the things to come. Seemingly subconsciously she leaned back against Cotyar, seeking his support. He looked contemplative, already planning ahead. He hadn’t formally been her head of security for years, but it was clear that he was trying to figure out the next step. Anything to keep her safe.

“Mao. If it is him, this is far from over.” He was right about that. Mao had come close to developing the world’s most powerful bio-weapon with help from top politicians from several countries, including the vice-president Errinwright of Chrisjen’s home country. He had been one of the wealthiest and most influential men on the planet. Even with his empire gone, he couldn’t be underestimated. If it was Mao, he would have squirreled enough money away, kept enough ties to the right people to pull this off. Which meant this was only the beginning.

“I’ll see what I can find out. In the meantime, maybe moving temporarily to a safer place isn’t a bad idea. I know a couple of places.”

“I agree.”

“No.” They spoke at the same time, leaving Bobbie slightly bewildered. Luckily the two turned towards each other and not her. That sweet, supportive little moment was over and they instantly returned to that bickering couple Bobbie had met years ago, when Chrisjen had still been married and their affair had still been a secret to the rest of the world.

“I am not hiding.” If she had used that tone with any other person, that would have been the end of the conversation. Ambassador Avasarala had been a force to be reckoned with and even now she seemed to grow taller as she confronted Cotyar, who was unimpressed by her tactics to bully him into her way of doing things.

It was so reminiscent of that moment she had convinced Cotyar to actually let her stay aboard Mao’s sinking pleasure yacht until she had found the evidence she needed to take down the billionaire and the politicians that backed him. Bobbie still had no idea exactly how Chrisjen had managed to do that with Cotyar sporting a bullet in the gut, Bobbie dealing with a cracked rib and as it turned out the ambassador had had quite the impressive concussion. It only spoke of her talent to manipulate people into doing exactly what she wanted.

“If this is Mao, I am not enough protection. We got away from the market because people didn’t know you were the target. If her people know, than our people do as well or they will very soon. Remember where Mao had some of his cronies planted? You need to go off the grid.” Bobbie was already mentally running down the few safe houses in the city. Ever since the cold war between their countries had been settled, they had had less use for them. She doubted any of them were properly stocked. Time to call in a few more favors. If Chrisjen agreed.

“We don’t know it’s him yet. And I’m not locking myself up, because some fucker with a gun tried to kill me.” Judging by their injuries and the increasingly furious look on Cotyar’s face, that fucker had come really close to succeeding. He had also killed sixteen people and injured dozens more to try and hide the actual target. Some fucker with a gun did not really do that particular mass shooter justice.

“My God, you are so infuriating. You nearly died. Again.”

“So did you.” Chrisjen didn’t miss a beat. Suddenly her objection to being put away became clear to Bobbie. She didn’t want to go without him, afraid that Cotyar would die trying to protect her. Or would be used to get to her. Pretty much the whole world had seen the poorly censored pictures of the two of them. Any idiot would know that if Chrisjen disappeared, Cotyar was the way to hurt her and their best chance to find her. “Nobody is talking about putting you in a safe place.”

“I’m the one with the gun.” Thank Christ for that. Bobbie instinctively reached for her ribs.

“And the one who will try to catch a fucking bullet for me. A gun won’t be worth shit if you can’t fire it.”

“I still have contacts. I already set out a few inquiries about the shooting, I can’t keep digging from a safe house. It’s my job to keep you safe.”

“No, it isn’t. Not anymore. It is your job to grow old with me. One of the perks of being retired. My list of top priorities is a lot shorter, and you’re pretty high on it.” There was the slightest of trembles in her voice, emotion clearly written on her face. Bobbie seriously considered smacking both of them. Stupid, stubborn people. They had gone through a lot together and it was plain as day they simply didn’t want to lose each other. Communicating like regular people was apparently too hard for them.

“How about you both go to a hotel for now?” Bobbie tried, finally seeing a somewhat safe window of opportunity to interrupt their argument. They both seemed to deflate, the fight having left their bodies. Cotyar sighed, which was as good as a yes as she would get. Chrisjen nodded and stepped closer to him, carefully wrapping her arms around his waist as she leaned her head against his shoulder.

Despite the fact that she had broken into their home and had just witnessed an argument between the two of them, this was the moment she felt like she was intruding. These were people that rarely showed vulnerability, seeing them seeking comfort in each other’s touch, it was deeply private. Not that either of them seemed to care that she was still standing there, feeling slightly awkward. Cotyar pressed a quick kiss to the top of Chrisjen’s head and just like that, the moment was over and they switched into a more pragmatic mode.

“You take care of your things. I’ll go pack us a bag,” Chrisjen said to him and glanced at Bobbie before disappearing from the kitchen. Cotyar shook his head and rubbed a hand over his face. He looked like he hadn’t properly slept the past two nights, if he had slept at all.

“Not the easiest person you could have fallen in love with, huh?” She had once asked him why Chrisjen. She was married, it could cost him his job and she was without a doubt the most impossible person Bobbie had ever met, it didn’t make sense. He had replied with a ‘you’ll see’. Their relationship still didn’t make complete sense to her, but she had seen it. Chrisjen was the type of person that when she focused all of her attention on you, you felt like the only one in the world that mattered and that was impossible to resist. And she had given her heart to Cotyar. She couldn’t even imagine what that felt like.

“Out of all the adjectives that apply to her, easy is not one of them. Damn difficult on the other hand. But I wouldn’t have it any other way. Well, most of the time. Sometimes, I wish she would just shut up and listen to me.” He looked at her, that unreadable look on his face that he had given her after she had essentially committed treason by decking a commanding officer and asking asylum at Avasarala’s embassy. She never figured out what he was thinking when he looked at her like that. “Come with me.”

He led her back out of the house into the backyard. Now that she wasn’t sneaking around she could see that, even in the dark, it was quite nice. She could picture Chrisjen running around with her grandkids, while Cotyar watched from the lounge set. She could imagine the two of them curled up there together, enjoying a glass of wine. She almost pitied the fool who had decided to disturb the life they had managed to build with each other. Because Cotyar was going to enjoy slowly killing them and Chrisjen would make sure he got away with it.

“You planning to do some gardening?” Bobbie asked when he brought her to an innocuous looking shed. Cotyar didn’t reply as he unlocked the padlock. She was secretly hoping she wouldn’t see gardening tools when he flipped on the light and was a little disappointed when that was exactly what she saw. “Okay, seriously?”

“Didn’t they teach you patience in the marine corps?”

“No, they taught me that waiting for a second can lead to you and your team dying. But I’ve been riding the past few years.” Chrisjen had gotten the treason charges lifted and even had her reinstated in the corps. She had eventually been placed as a sort of military liaison back in Chrisjen’s country for an intelligence agency. She had worked her way up from there. She was practically a spy now. Cotyar probably loved the irony of that.

“That kind of training doesn’t go away, marine,” Cotyar replied as he slid a pair of shears hanging on a wall aside to reveal a keyhole. Clearly not a regular shed then. He unlocked it and what had looked like a wall full of gardening stuff, turned out to be a door.

“Clearly not, spy. Because you have an armory, in your shed and I feel like this is where I ask you why.” Having a gun or two was one thing. But the guy had a dozen handguns and a few semi-automatics. Enough ammo to shoot his way out of several shitty situations. And then there was the shelf with a collection of weapons that no civilian, even someone like Cotyar, should have. She briefly wondered if Chrisjen was aware of his little setup.

“Because I’m in a relationship with Chrisjen Avasarala. As you know, she’s the type of woman people want to kill. It may not be my official job anymore, but it’s still up to me to stop those people. Having guns helps.” He sounded so very casual about it, it was like he was talking about the weather. The man had enough weapons to take down a small city. This was ridiculous, even to protect a woman like Avasarala. Handy at the moment, but still ridiculous.

“And the grenades?” she asked, pointing to the handful of grenades neatly lined up. Cotyar barely gave them a look as he started grabbing guns and ammo, carefully placing them in a bag. Was he expecting Mao to send a private army after them?

“Escalation.”

“For when things escalate or for when you want to escalate things?” Cotyar just smiled and added a grenade to the bag. Bobbie threw her hands up in the air. Chrisjen was frustrating because of the way she used her words. Cotyar made her want to pull her hair out because he didn’t use words. “Right. Well I’m way past plausible deniability, so do you wanna clue me in on what your plan is?”

“Keep her safe, find out who is behind this, get rid of them.” Nowhere in that plan did he state to shoot down a few hundred people or to flee to another country. Yet here he was pulling out passports that were almost certainly faked. Who would put their passports in a shed if they weren’t fake anyway? Jesus Christ. The guy had quit when Chrisjen had retired three years ago. Had he turned into some international assassin? It honestly wouldn’t surprise her that much. Other than that Chrisjen would probably kill him.

“Fine, don’t tell me.”

“I’ll go into the finer details when it's necessary. Right now, I need you to make sure that her kid and grandkids are safe. They’re actually in your country at the moment, but if this is Mao, we have no idea how far his power still extends. You can put a few people on them. I also need you to stay on top of the investigation into the attack. Any information, anything at all, you share it with me.” She was going to run out of favors very quickly at this rate, but for Avasarala’s family, it was worth it. Those grandkids were adorable and they brought out a side in Chrisjen that she liked.

“Anything else?” Maybe she could invent a time machine and make sure that Mao didn’t survive the Guanshiyin incident. That would probably stop this from happening. She used to never get stress headaches, but she could feel one building up behind her eyes now. God, she missed the days she could punch or shoot her way out of situations.

“Yes.” She sighed. If she didn’t care a lot for these people, she would have started to regret coming here at all. But Cotyar didn’t have another request. His expression softened and he placed a hand on her shoulder, giving her a reassuring squeeze. “It’s good to see you again, Bobbie. We’ve missed you.”

That was unexpected, especially coming from him. Cotyar rarely made his feelings known. When she had briefly been sort of a part of their relationship, he had rarely expressed his feelings about it or her. Chrisjen tended to do enough talking for the two of them. So this was nice. Almost lump in her throat nice. She had missed these impossible idiots as well. “Same here.”

“Now, could you check on Chrisjen? I need to contact some people who’d disappear on me if they knew you were in the same room. And I think she needs some support.”

“Sure.”

Chapter Text

It was difficult to decide exactly what and how much to bring. She had no idea how long they were going to be gone. God fucking damn it. She slammed her hand against a drawer. Of all the shitty, migraine-inducing things during her career, it would have to be fucking Mao to come back and bite her on the ass. The last time she had seen him was during his sentencing. She had waved at him as he been dragged away to be put away for life. That might not have been the smartest move, but still rather tiny compared to what she had done to his business empire.

When she had threatened to put his balls in a jar on her desk, she should have followed through on that.

She grabbed a handful of shirts and stuffed them in a suitcase. That was upside of having to go on the run, no need for custom designed suits and expensive heels. Jeans and t-shirts were fine for the both of them. She fought the urge to punch a piece of furniture again. When they got out of this, she was going to wring Mao’s neck. And have whoever was coordinating this for him publicly drawn and quartered.

She was retired and someone had come so very close to killing her. For the first time since she had sat in the hospital, waiting for news on Cotyar’s surgery to remove the bullet from his gut, she felt powerless. She was just an old woman with no way to compete with idiots trying to kill her at a farmers’ market. Even with her connections from a lifetime in government and political positions, she couldn’t stop bullets.

And now apparently her own government wasn’t even quite as good Bobbie’s people at figuring out who had killed over a dozen people. She had discreetly asked around under guise of wanting to know who had caused such destruction to her hometown. Nobody had been able to figure anything out so far. She’d have to have some interesting conversations when she got back from whatever the fuck they were going to do. Hiding, running, disappearing. All of the above, probably.

She reached down to grab a pair of Doc Martens off the shelf and paused when she caught her reflection in the mirror. Christ on a stick. She really was old. The lines on her face had deepened since the shooting, there were pronounced circles under her eyes. No amount of make-up was going to fix that. With a roll of her eyes, she yanked her hair back into a ponytail, which made her at least feel somewhat less ragged.

Chrisjen had nearly finished lacing up her boots when she heard footsteps on the stairs. Too unfamiliar and too heavy to be Cotyar’s. He barely made a noise when he moved around the house. Bobbie then, most likely sent by Cotyar, because she doubted that the impossibly tall woman would have made that decision on her own.

“For someone who managed to sneak into our house and only trip one of Cotyar’s alarms, you climb stairs with all the subtlety of a tank,” Chrisjen said, without looking over her shoulder. She knew Bobbie was standing in the doorway of her walk-in closet. It had felt strange to see her again after a few years, but not unwelcome. She had missed her, missed her fierce loyalty, her powerful presence and easy smile. She even sometimes missed her in her bed. She knew Cotyar did as well.

“Didn’t want to spook you.” Chrisjen tried very hard not to laugh at that and ended up snorting instead. She grabbed the suitcase and turned around. Bobbie was leaning a little awkwardly against the doorframe, a quizzical look on her face. Chrisjen simply moved past her, back in the bedroom, tossing the suitcase on the bed.

“Anyone that tries to kill me with you two around is a fucking moron. I’m pretty sure that for tonight, I’m safe.” The last time anyone had tried that with both Cotyar and Bobbie around, most people hadn’t survived. Cotyar had single handedly stopped the latest assassin and Bobbie could snap a person in half if they came for people she considered her own. If anyone tried something tonight, Chrisjen had half a mind to feel sorry for them.

“Trying to kill you in a crowded public place doesn’t exactly speak of a high IQ either,” Bobbie said dryly, following her into the bathroom. Chrisjen started gathering up her toiletries. It definitely wasn’t a smart plan. Or maybe there had been a part two to that plan that she wasn’t aware of yet. It would remain a sloppy attempt on her life with an unacceptable high level of collateral damage. The image of Joan’s dead body on the ground, the bullet that had been meant for her lodged in her chest. At least her murderer had been dealt with.

“No, it doesn’t.” But they had known to find her at the farmers’ market. So they were probably aware of her schedule. But choosing a mass shooting? That spoke of a level of stupidity she wasn’t aware of even existed. There were plenty of times they could have come at her while she was alone. She hated that it didn’t make any sense. There was the Mao name and the resources to get a lot of firepower on the one hand, but on the other hand it spoke of inexperience. It didn’t fit together.

She glanced at Bobbie, sitting on the edge of the bathtub. She hadn’t believed her eyes when her former bodyguard/assistant had shown up in their kitchen, wearing a suit no less. Such a change from the Marine corps uniform. She had matured, it was like the aggressive edge had softened, but that unwavering loyalty hadn’t gone, otherwise she wouldn’t be here, risking her job for her. Chrisjen was already mentally running down a list of people she could strongarm into saving Bobbie’s career if shit hit the fan.

“I assume Cotyar showed you his little shed.”

“I was wondering if you knew about that.” Chrisjen smiled. This was her house as much as his. He would never bring that many guns in their living space without talking to her about it. They were fine with secrets between them. An illegal armory, however, was definitely something they had discussed. She really didn’t like that it had been necessary to have it.

“I don’t go inside it. That’s his space, but I know what he uses it for. We had a deal. He can keep his fucking guns, but they don’t get in the house and if even one of my grandchildren gets the idea of what’s in there, I’ll crush his balls.” Bobbie chuckled. That had been a fun conversation. Cotyar had agreed, but had still fought her on it just for the hell of it. They liked to argue about far too many things. And he had managed to badger her into having one goddamn gun in the house.

Which he took with him whenever they went out in public. When the shock of what had happened had worn off yesterday, she had confronted him about it. It had ended with Cotyar locking himself away in his shed, angrily doing research and she had spent an hour facetiming her daughter and grandchildren. It was good that they were away on holiday. The farther away, the better. Eventually Cotyar had returned to the house and they had a more civilized discussion about it. She still mostly hated guns, but she hated being shot at more.

“They’re safe, by the way. Your daughter and your grandkids. Cotyar asked me to put some people on them. Apparently they were already keeping an eye on them, but they’ll get some more heavy-weights to surveil and protect them,” Bobbie said as she came up to stand beside Chrisjen, placing a hand on top of hers. She had no doubt that Cotyar had asked her to take care of it, but Bobbie hadn’t even waited to do it. She had gotten on the phone and made sure her family was protected.

Chrisjen looked up at her. Good god, she always forgot how fucking tall she was. The fact that she was wearing combat boots and Bobbie wearing boots with three inch heels didn’t help. She raised herself up on her toes and pressed her lips against Bobbie’s. It wasn’t romantic or sexual, just an expression of gratitude. But it did make her realize just how she had missed her. If and when this was all over, they would have to be in touch more. “Thank you.”

Bobbie nodded, looking a little dumbfounded. Chrisjen just shook her head and tried to move past her, back into the bedroom, but Bobbie didn’t let go of her hand and pulled her close. This time the kiss wasn’t one of gratitude. It was the kind that, under different circumstances, would lead to Bobbie arching up underneath her, crying out her name. Another reason to hate Mao then.

“You know Cotyar just wants to keep you safe,” Bobbie stated after she had let Chrisjen go and followed her into the bedroom. Chrisjen put the last of their necessities in the suitcase and zipped it up. Enough for a week. If this situation wasn’t solved by then, they were well and truly fucked.

“And he’s going to get himself killed in the process.” And after all the shit they had gone through, the prospect of living out the rest of her days without him was not an attractive one.

“He’s good at what he does.”

“He is. And yet every fucking time we go to bed and every single morning I see that fucking scar, I’m reminded that he almost died for me.” He had left SIGINT for her when she had been made ambassador to secure peace with a country that would have loved to see her head on a spike. He had called it paying back a debt he owed her dead son. Well, he had paid back that debt, three times over and yet he still insisted on putting his body between hers and flying, fucking bullets.

“You realize that you two are both being stubborn idiots. You both don’t want the other to die. Maybe stop fighting and reach a compromise.” Chrisjen scoffed and sat down on the bed. Compromises. That was just a word people used when they didn’t want to admit how much they lost to reach a deal. Her father had taught her to play all the political games, but compromising hadn’t been for him and therefore not for her.

“Compromises aren’t my specialty. Cursing at idiots until I get my way is.” If you don’t like how the game is played, simply change the rules. She had figured that out a young age and had applied it plenty of times. The problem with Cotyar was that he wasn’t a part of the game. And since she had retired, technically speaking, neither was she. It was times like this she regretted declining to run for president.

“And how’s that been working out for you lately?”

She shrugged. “Not enough idiots to yell at.”

“Well, Cotyar is packing up enough guns to arm a squadron, but he’s coming with you. So you won this one. Maybe listen to what he has to say next time?” Cotyar was taking that many guns? Was he expecting Mao to send an army after her? She didn’t like the idea of being shot at in the slightest, but the thought of Cotyar getting ready to go out guns blazing, that was something that truly scared her. And if they got out if this situation alive, there was going to be a huge fight about the sort of guns he kept on their property, because she doubted they were merely handguns.

“I listen to him. I just don’t go along with every shitty idea he has.”

“You tend to not go along with any of my ideas, good or bad. It’s really annoying.” Cotyar was leaning against the doorframe of their bedroom. Now he knew how to sneak upstairs. He gave her the tiniest of smiles before tossing a passport at her, one that felt far too new to be her own. “I’ve booked us a hotel, under false names and ordered a cab. We’re getting out of here soon.”

She looked around their bedroom, taking in the pictures of her family, of the two of them. It felt wrong to leave it behind. This was her home. And now that shit for brains Mao was chasing her out of it, years after she had won. And she was retired for fuck’s sake. That asshole was coming for her when she was done with politics and international diplomacy. If they got out of this, she was going to figure out if it were possible to have Mao slip and fall on a shank, ten times.

Chrisjen flipped open her ‘passport’ and looked at her new identity. Illegal armory, fake passports. She hoped he had taken everything with him or hidden it away well, because if they decided to search their house after they were gone, this was going to be a problem. She squinted when she saw the name she’d have to use. “Oh for, my maiden name is Smith? Are you fucking kidding me? I’m surprised you didn’t go for Jane Doe.”

“Nobody looks that close at maiden names. And I was hoping we wouldn’t need to use them when I had these made. We probably still won’t, but just to be certain.” Cotyar had the good sense to sound mildly ashamed at the obvious fuck up. Smith. Right, she looked as much like a Smith as he did. And it seemed like one the worst cliché fake names to use. This wasn’t some movie. Bobbie tried and failed to hide a laugh. At least she agreed.

“Let’s hope we don’t need them then.” She could sell a lot of things, but with her appearance and the accent she had never been able to get rid of, her maiden name being Smith wasn’t one of them.

“Great, so let’s go.”

---

She let the hot water beat down on her body. It wasn’t quite as nice as the shower at home, but it did the trick. At least the water pressure was good and the temperature went past what was considered healthy. She was sort of hoping the scalding hot water would wake her up and make her realize the past three days were all a some fucking dream. That would be a pleasant surprise, knowing that sixteen people weren’t dead because Mao decided he needed revenge on her and he didn’t have the good common sense to hire a decent assassin. Even though sixteen live was nothing compared to the massacre of Eros.

Closing her eyes, she braced herself against the wall, willing away the images of bodies in the streets, their faces twisted in pain. She hadn’t gone there, but it didn’t take much to imagine the smell of vomit, death and decay when the pictures had come in. She could understand making sacrifices to protect one’s home country, but killing close to two hundred thousand people to test a weapon? That wasn’t a sacrifice, that was genocide. She thought that once Mao and Errinwright were locked away for life it would be over.

At least Errinwright was gone, killed in prison, through no interference of her own, but she’d be lying if she said she hadn’t considered it. Traitorous sack of shit, trying to frame her for being partially responsible for Eros. Chrisjen still got angry whenever she thought about that. Mao and he had nearly gotten away with it as well. If she hadn’t had Cotyar and Bobbie, and the infamous Rocinante crew, four outlaw vigilantes, she’d be dead and disgraced. She wasn’t sure which one was worse.

With a sigh, she turned the shower off. And now here she was, in a hotel, hiding, because she had decided that dragging Mao to the international criminal court was more satisfying than having Amos snap his neck. Life really was a bitch sometimes.

Stepping out of the shower, she wrapped one of the big, fluffy towels around her. She’d have to thank Cotyar for picking a decent hotel. He could have so easily gone for a crappy motel, knowing that nobody would ever think to look for her there, but he had wisely avoided getting into another argument. A decent bed and good shower. He knew that depriving her of either was very dangerous.

She wiped the mirror clean and looked at herself as she toweldried her hair. The bruise on her chin was an interesting combination of blue, purple, colors skin wasn’t supposed to have. That would take a while to completely go away. Together with the small cuts she looked like a battered old woman. She felt like it too. If they got through this, they were going on vacation to somewhere far away and tropical, where she could drink gin tonics on the beach all day.

After one last look, she exited the bathroom. Cotyar was right where she left him, his gun close to him on the table, he sat hunched over a laptop, using some improbable way to have a secure connection. She hadn’t pretended to want to know how it worked and he hadn’t explained it. She just knew Bobbie didn’t like it, but had deemed it safe enough. She had insisted on checking the whole set up and ensuring that nobody had managed to put a bomb in the hotel room, before she had left with a promise to give them updates if she discovered something important.

Cotyar mumbled something unintelligible under his breath and his frown deepened. Chrisjen cocked her head to the side and watched him for a moment. He didn’t even seem to realize she was there. Some spy. She could be standing there naked and he probably wouldn’t notice it. There was an idea. They could both use a distraction and they both needed to relax. Nothing quite like an orgasm or two to make that happen. She untucked the corner of her towel, allowing it to pool around her feet.

“Cotyar, come to bed.”

“I’m almost done.” He didn’t even look up. That was that theory tested. She rolled her eyes. His version of ‘almost done’ was almost as bad as hers, meaning he would be there until the very early hours. Not to mention the fact that she was naked and he didn’t bother to look at her. She put her hands on her hips, not entirely sure if she was amused or annoyed by his dedication to protect her.

“Cotyar,” she tried again. He opened his mouth to tell her off when he looked up from his laptop and she had the satisfaction of watching the words die on his tongue. She smirked and raised an eyebrow, daring him to reject her now under the guise of protecting her. His eyes slowly raked up her body, from her feet all the way up to her eyes. His gaze was so intense it almost felt as if he were touching her from across the room. Chrisjen had to suppress a shiver.

“That is not playing fair.” She smiled at that. When had she ever been interested in playing fair? She wanted to win. It was a simple as that. He really ought to know that by now.

“I’m naked and you want to talk about fucking fair?” Cotyar was up and inches away from her in the blink of an eye, his hands resting on her waist. Slowly he moved his hands up, fingers tracing her ribs. She didn’t move as he leaned in, his cheek almost brushing against hers, his lips a hair’s breadth away from her ear when he spoke.

“No. I really don’t.” His voice was low and there was no mistaking that he wanted her as well, thoughts of doing God knows what on his laptop forgotten for the moment. Chrisjen let out a breath she hadn’t realized she had been holding as his lips fastened on her throat. His arms slid around her, pulling her close until she was completely pressed against him, her hands resting on his chest. A soft moan got stuck in her throat when his tongue flicked out against her pulse and he sucked the delicate skin into his mouth. Too late she realized what he was doing and tried to push him away.

“A hickey? What the fuck are you? Sixteen years old?” It wasn’t like she had to hold a press conference tomorrow, but all the same, a fucking hickey? Christ. She knew she had almost 25 years on him. He didn’t need to emphasize it. Cotyar just gave her that mysterious little smile that meant he was unimpressed. She was tempted to put a stop to it all, just to get revenge, but that would mean punishing herself as well and she was not into that. She glared at him instead. “You’re going to regret that.”

“I doubt that.” Smug bastard. He cut off the sharp retort she had ready by leaning down and kissing her. She’d get her revenge later if he didn’t manage to fuck those thoughts out of her head. He was off to a good start, kissing her like there was no tomorrow, fingers digging into her skin, as if he were afraid she was going to disappear. Maybe he was. They had mostly argued the past few days, pointing fingers about who had come closest to dying. They hadn’t actually properly talked about their feelings. The way he was holding onto her, it felt like he was trying to tell her he wasn’t ready to lose her yet.

She let out an undignified squeak when his hands moved down towards her ass and he suddenly lifted her up from the floor as if she weighed nothing. He crossed the short distance to the bed and rather unceremoniously dropped her on top of it. Pushing herself up on her elbows, she watched as he joined her, crawling over her, strategically placing a knee between her thighs.

Cotyar looked down at her and for a second she forgot that her body was thrumming with need. He was looking at her like she was the eighth world wonder. Like she was the only thing that mattered. She wondered if she looked at him the same way. Goddamn fucking feelings. She only wanted a good fuck to get rid of the frustration of being in this situation in the first place. Cupping the back of his head, she pulled him down for another kiss, not in the mood to be swallowed by emotions.

He went willingly, his tongue easily slipping into her mouth. She ignored the slight discomfort she felt every time their lips met. That goddamn split lip was taking too long to heal. One of his hands slid down her body, circling her nipple, before trailing over her belly and settling between her legs. He was barely doing anything, just gently tracing her folds and it was maddening. She tried retaliating, but her fingers barely brushed the fabric covering his erection when he moved out of her reach, breaking the kiss and shaking his head at her.

“No?”

“No.” She raised her eyebrows. No? He was still fully dressed and just as aroused as she was. What on earth was he playing at? Luckily for him, he didn’t let her wait for very long, kissing his way down her body, teasing her with little nips of his teeth, sucking enough to make her squirm, but not enough to leave a mark this time. He knew all of her weak spots, from the one just below her collarbone to the edge of her hip. It left her breathing heavily, hands grasping at the sheets.

“Will you stop that fucking teasing?” she managed, gritting her teeth when his lips brushed against the inside of her thigh. He quirked an eyebrow at her, sinking his teeth in the soft skin. Her head snapped back and she let out a string of curses in a language she wasn’t even sure she spoke. That was going to leave a mark, another one. She could feel his tongue soothing the indentations he had left behind.

She looked down at her body and found him grinning between her legs as he moved them onto his shoulders. His breath ghosted over her pussy, but instead of burying his tongue where she needed it, he moved to her other thigh, sucking another mark into existence. Fucking asshole. He was rarely this territorial. He never felt the need for it. Clearly, being caught in a hail of bullets had changed that. By this rate, her thighs would be riddled with hickeys. She was going to feel that tomorrow with every step she took.

She whimpered, rolling her hips, trying to get him to do what she wanted. Maybe she needed to convince to let his hair grow a little, so she could grab it. Cotyar had a wicked gleam in his eyes. He loved doing this to her, teasing her until she lost the ability to properly form a sentence. Next time she had his cock in her mouth, she was going to make him beg for mercy. Her thoughts of revenge must have been written across her face, because he finally ceased teasing.

“Fuck, yes,” Chrisjen moaned when he pressed his tongue against her clit. Her hips snapped up involuntarily, desperate for more. He immediately grabbed her thighs, holding her in place, as he sucked her folds into his mouth, flicked his tongue around her entrance, dipping it inside, his stubble scratching her skin. It seemed like he was everywhere. Her hand flew to the back of his head, holding him close, while the other clung to the headboard.

He was far too good at eating pussy. He had reduced her to a writhing, whimpering mess using just his tongue. She barely remembered why they were in a hotel in the first place, the reason behind him going down on her like it was his last chance to ever do it. The way he was going, she had trouble speaking, her sounds reduced to moans and gasps.

Her nails dragged over his scalp and Chrisjen could feel rather than hear him groan against her, the vibrations travelling up her spine. His grip on her thighs tightened enough to hurt a little and she revelled in it, the pain heightening the pleasure. His mouth, his tongue, they never stopped moving, driving her closer to the edge. And she was close, so close.

Cotyar must have realized, giving her a look that took her breath away. And suddenly he sucked her clit into his mouth. Everything went blank. She arched off the mattress, every muscle tensing up. Her orgasm crashed over her and he was unrelenting, drawing it out, continuing to move his tongue against her, until she collapsed back on the bed, trying to suck air into her lungs, unable to control her twitching. Fuck, he was good.

And he wasn’t done. He had backed down somewhat, pressing soft kisses to her folds, but he wasn’t stopping. He had that evil glint in his eyes.

“Don’t you dare,” she said, her voice a breathy whisper. Cotyar didn’t bother to look remorseful as he pressed the flat of his tongue against her pussy. She was powerless to stop the sound that escaped her throat, to stop the full-body shiver. Still so sensitive, too sensitive. She didn’t think she could come again so soon, but Cotyar seemed intent on disproving that particular personal theory.

He released her thighs, his hands leaving faint impressions behind on her skin, and slid two fingers in her without preamble. She cried out. God, she hoped the hotel had thick walls. His mouth returned its relentless attention to her clit. She moved her hips, unsure if she was trying to get closer or trying to get away. It was just too much. Blindly she reached for his free hand and grabbed it, holding onto it like a lifeline. Chrisjen was beginning to suspect he was trying to kill her before any of Mao’s people could.

She closed her eyes as she felt her second orgasm building. She was just going to ride it out and he would stop. He would have to eventually. Cotyar curled his fingers up and lights exploded behind her eyelids. She could hear heart pounding in her ears. She couldn’t breathe, couldn’t move. It was almost painful.

He still wasn’t stopping or even slowing down. And she just couldn’t. Not again.

“Please, stop,” she begged, trying to get away from him, his fingers, his mouth. She couldn’t take it anymore. He had won whatever game they were playing. She cracked open an eye and watched how with a final kiss to the inside of her thigh, he stopped, looking really pleased with himself.

“All you had to do was ask.”

“You’re a diabolical fucker. You know that, right?” Her voice sounded hoarser than it normally did and she licked her lips, her mouth annoyingly dry. Her hand trembled when she brought it up to her eyes. She felt sweaty. He had worn her out and she had barely touched him. She jumped when she felt his lips brush over a nipple. Peeking through her fingers, Chrisjen saw him move further up her body until they were face to face.

“I thought we weren’t playing fair,” he said, pulling her hand away from her face. She huffed. Beaten at her own game by her former bodyguard. That was embarrassing. Cotyar smiled and kissed the tip of her nose. She glared at him. If her muscles cooperated more she’d flip him over and make him beg. As it was, she could manage to pull him down for a kiss, winding her arms around his neck.

She could taste herself on his lips, on his tongue. She could taste his need for her as well. She’d feel bad for him if it weren’t his fault that she wasn’t capable anymore of giving as good as she got, but she still wanted him. Especially when she could feel his erection through his jeans, pressing against her thigh.

“Get this off,” she ordered, pulling on his shirt. She needed to touch him, feel his skin against hers, feel his muscles move under her hands. Cotyar raised himself up on his knees and practically tore it off him, tossing it somewhere it on the floor where it joined her towel. She didn’t think she would ever get enough of the sight of him shirtless. His broad chest, the faint outline of his abs, the ink that decorated his skin. He was gorgeous and he was hers. The bandage on his arm and the scar from his bulletwound were the only things that could distract her from it, harsh reminders of how close he had come to dying for her.

Chrisjen forced herself not to linger on those thoughts. He was alive and mostly well, and desperate to fuck her. She reached for his jeans, undoing the button and zipper in a few quick moves. Shoving them and his underwear down enough to free his straining erection, Cotyar didn’t even bother taking them off, before he was on top her again, his fingers tracing her folds. She was still sensitive, but it wasn’t unbearable. She just wanted him inside her.

His patience for playing around was clearly over when he grabbed his cock and lined himself up. Slowly he pushed into her, never taking his eyes off her. The muscles in his back tensed under her hands, his brow furrowed with concentration, trying not to go too fast. Which was sweet, but unnecessary. She dug her nails into the small of his back, causing his hips to snap forward. He groaned the second he was fully inside her, his forehead coming to rest against hers.

“I won’t break,” she whispered as she wrapped her legs around his waist, already feeling the ache in her thighs. She was old, not ancient. She wasn’t in the mood for slow or soft. She wanted to feel that he was alive, that they both were. Cotyar looked at her, breathing heavily already. He wasn’t going to last very long and she didn’t care. She simply wanted him to lose control the way he had made her let go.

He coaxed her arms up, above her head, pinning them down and intertwining their fingers. Chrisjen leaned up and caught his lips in another kiss just as he started moving his hips, setting a quick pace with deep strokes. Pleasure curled in her stomach. It wasn’t going to be enough to make her come again, but she could still revel in the feeling, in the soft sounds he was making in the back of his throat, in the slight pain when he tightened his grip on her hands.

His thrusts started getting more urgent, rougher. She tightened her legs around him, moaning when he hit a particular sensitive spot. Cotyar was close, she could tell from his breathing, the expression on his face. Unable to run her nails down his back, she sank her teeth into his bottom lip and tugged gently. He froze, his orgasm hitting him suddenly. She watched his face, his eyes shut tightly, almost as if he were in pain, before he fell down on top of her, panting in her ear.

Chrisjen brushed her lips against his jaw, humming softly when he released her hands. Her fingers protested when she flexed them. He must have been holding on tighter than she thought. He pressed a quick kiss to her cheek and moved off her. She couldn’t help but wince at the slight discomfort she felt when he slipped out of her. Maneuvering them so they were on their side, Cotyar pressed against her back, arm wrapped around her.

“Are you okay?” he asked quietly and kissed her shoulder. She frowned. That was an unusual question for him to ask, considering they hadn’t done anything they hadn’t done before.

“Why wouldn’t I be?” His loaded silence told her everything. He thought she was having trouble coping with the shooting, with being possibly hunted by Mao’s people, the chance that one of them might not get out of this alive. He thought she was using sex as a distraction. It wouldn’t be the first time. Great. He was her partner, her bodyguard and now her shrink as well? “I fucked you, because I wanted to, not because I’m in denial about the situation. Don’t start treating me differently. I guarantee you, you won’t like me if you act like I’m a frail old lady.”

“Well, you are old. But you’re not frail. That doesn’t mean I’m not allowed to be worried about you.” He wanted to do this now? She had finally managed to drag him away from whatever a former spy did to find out what had happened three days ago and he had to turn a perfectly nice post-coital moment into something she was definitely not in the mood for. He was lucky she loved him, because he was ruining the most relaxed she had been since the shooting.

“Fine. If you want to talk, we’re taking a shower first. I’m not doing this introspective bullshit when we’re sweaty and smelling like sex.” She didn’t want to do it at all, but an orgasm or two always made her more pliable. Fuck him for exploiting that. She was going to make him detangle the mess her hair undoubtedly was and she was going to drink a very stiff gin-tonic. Something told her she might need it.

Chapter Text

Bobbie stared at the file in her hand. Just by taking this out of the building, she was risking an indefinite suspension. Showing it to Cotyar and Chrisjen would probably amount to treason. Not that she was unfamiliar with those charges. The things she did for that woman. Betraying her country, lying to her colleagues and her boss, risking her entire livelihood just to protect a very stubborn former ambassador whom she had once considered the enemy. She had even used her face as target practice once upon a time.

She’d once told Cotyar that if anyone came for her or people she considered hers, she’d go through them like a door. That felt like a lifetime ago and yet she still considered the old lady hers to protect, even if it could lead to an international incident, which could possibly jeopardize the very fragile peace between their countries. She sighed and leaned back against the elevator wall. Life seemed really intent on fucking with her on occasion.

The elevator dinged and the doors slid open. With a heavy heart she stepped off it. At least she was bringing them some clarity about the attempt on Chrisjen’s life, she just really doubted they were going to be happy about the discoveries her agency had made. Cotyar had been right. It was far from over and a hotel with its security cameras wasn’t safe anymore either. That was going to be a great conversation, convincing the pair of them to go to a safe house.

Using the keycard she had forced from the front desk by flashing her badge and some well-placed threats, she opened room 1017, only to be met by an image that caused heat to rise up in her cheeks. They immediately jumped apart, but Bobbie wouldn’t quickly forget the way Cotyar had had Chrisjen pressed up against a wall, her wrists in one hand, his other buried between her legs. Cotyar reached for the gun on the table until he saw who it was.

“Jesus Christ, really?” Bobbie asked as she kicked the door shut behind her.

“Draper, you really need to learn how to knock,” Cotyar said, sounding just a tad annoyed, before he disappeared into the bathroom to wash his hands. Bobbie rolled her eyes. They were acting like bloody teenagers.

“It’s four in the afternoon!” she shouted after him. “Why would I ever think you two would have sex at that time?”

Chrisjen didn’t even look remotely ashamed as she zipped up her jeans and straightened her shirt. How did she do that? She even casually flipped her hair over her shoulder and gave Bobbie a look that said ‘you owe me at least one orgasm’. Judging from the hickey on her throat that wasn’t as fresh as what she had walked in on, Chrisjen had no lack of those. It was just a little depressing that a woman 35 years her senior had a better sexlife than she did. “We weren’t having sex, yet. You interrupted us.”

“You’re gonna argue semantics?” Because she really wasn’t in the mood. Chrisjen just looked at her and gracefully sat down in a chair, folding her hands together as if she were getting ready for an interview, as if she weren’t flushed with arousal. This really was a terrible time to be reminded of the fact that she knew exactly what she sounded like when she came, what she tasted like. That she knew what Cotyar’s muscles felt like against her palms, his mouth on her skin. She didn’t need those memories right now. She was there to save their asses, not to think about them naked.

“If you’d like. But I doubt that’s why you’re here.”

“Chrisjen, for once in your life, don’t be difficult,” Cotyar chastized as he exited the bathroom. Chrisjen shot him the perfect ‘me, difficult?’ look, he simply ignored her. They went from nearly fucking against a wall, to being aloof so fast, it nearly gave Bobbie whiplash. But she was grateful for Cotyar and his ability to somewhat be able to reign in Chrisjen. It was only a little, but it was better than nothing. “Bobbie, I assume you wouldn’t be here unless you had news.”

“Right, I do.” She tossed the file onto the bed and watched as Cotyar took it and began flipping through the papers. “Turns out, it was Mao. We’ve pulled the security feeds from prison. Conversations with his lawyer aren’t recorded, of course. But those with his family are. We’re still combing through them. It looks like he has managed to set his daughter, Clarissa, up against you. We suspect he handled the more implicating details through his lawyer, but she is definitely running this op.”

“His daughter? He killed one and now he’s using the other to get me?” Chrisjen’s voice was laced with disgust. Bobbie couldn’t blame her. After the way he had used Julie Mao to infect and kill the entire city of Eros, this didn’t seem too much of a reach. But even without having children of her own, she couldn’t fathom how anyone could use their own flesh and blood like that, kill and manipulate them to execute some maniacal plan.

And Clarissa was still so young. She had just turned 24, her entire future ahead of her. Cotyar handed Chrisjen a photograph from the file, turning her expression from one of disgust to one of sadness. The girl was intelligent and beautiful, but blinded by a need to please her father. A father who had been knocked off his global pedestal by Chrisjen. She doubted it had taken Mao a lot of effort to get her to do his dirty work for him.

“Apparently. We can’t find her. She’s been AWOL for two weeks. Along with a dozen or so former Protogen employees. The kind that carried guns. Which means - -.”

“- - that this isn’t over and you aren’t close to being safe,” Cotyar finished for her. He sat down, the file forgotten for a moment. She hated being the bearer of bad news. She knew that somewhere they had been hoping it had all been a fluke, a lone gunmen driven mad with thoughts of revenge. Instead here she was, telling them it was looking like a decently organized op, all to murder Chrisjen. They hadn’t been able to determine yet if Clarissa had more targets.

The Rocinante crew was a possibility, but they were notoriously difficult to track down and as far as Bobbie was aware none of their bodies had turned up. She’d reach out to Alex if anything started to point to the fact that they were in danger as well. Occasionally she’d message the driver/grifter of the crew, just to check in. She had liked him, despite his harmless attempts to get in her pants.

“This is from your agency. Our people, what do they know?” Chrisjen asked, sounding too detached. She had slipped her professional mask on, a way of stopping her emotions from rising too close to the surface. Bobbie was aware of how she felt about children being used. She had been there when James Holden had handed her the evidence of the experiments Mao had done on war orphans. She had practically vibrated with fury, hurling a glass at the wall. The woman could be ruthless, but she drew a line in the sand when it came to children. And Clarissa Mao was practically still a child, especially to Chrisjen.

“They know about the same. And they know you’ve disappeared. They sent people to your house this morning.” She had been in the room when Yao had made the call to tell them the shooting was linked to Avasarala. They had not been pleased that they hadn’t made the discovery themselves and that was putting it mildly. At least they had agreed to share information to bring it all to close that much quicker. Well, that was the hope anyway.

“We’re aware.” Cotyar’s elaborate security system, right. It made sense that he would have cameras that he could access remotely. It was actually one of the more reasonable measures installed, all things considered. She couldn’t help but let her gaze briefly stop at the bag, lying innocuously in the corner of the room. Did Chrisjen know it held a grenade? Probably not.

“The overall consensus seems to be that it was an attempt on your life and that you’ve gone into hiding. Which, y’know, is true. Your lot is royally pissed off you didn’t trust them and came to them instead, especially with you killing the shooter. Souther seems to be running interference, since he knows the whole Mao business,” she explained with the two of them watching her intently, listening to every word. Yao would have her head if she knew how much she was saying. She was generally a pretty calm woman, but Bobbie suspected she could be terrifying when angry.

“Souther? At least someone competent with integrity is working the case on our end then.” Avasarala approved. Wow. And she thought Souther couldn’t stand Chrisjen. Bobbie had met the man exactly once at some peace treaty anniversary gala she had been forced to attend. He had been nice enough, lovely husband. But she vividly remembered him calling Chrisjen a devil in a designer suit, always ready to bury her Louboutin heels in someone’s back. He must have done something to earn her respect.

“What actions are they taking?”

“They’re trying to get Mao to talk, checking security feeds to find Clarissa or the Protogen people, interviewing family, deep-diving into their finances and internet history. They’re also focusing a lot of manpower on finding you two, even though it’s pretty clear you don’t want to be found. Sinepoli floated the idea that you don’t trust us to be clean. That was shut down immediately. Nobody really seems to be entertaining the notion that Mao might have people in their or our department. They just think you’re scared.” Sinepoli’s suggestion hadn’t been appreciated. Everybody wanted to believe they ran a clean ship. Bobbie felt bad for not sticking up for him, but people were already suspicious of her because of her connection to Avasarala. No need to paint a target on her back. She’d make it up to him later. Right after she paid him back for all the help he had given her.

“Do you think there might be? Mao’s moles in your department?” Chrisjen asked. Bobbie suddenly felt like it was eight years ago, when ambassador Avasarala had shown up out of the blue at her local watering hole, interrogating her about the mysterious deaths of her squad out in the mountains near Eros. Malfunctioning equipment and a mysterious virus they had claimed. Chrisjen had been convinced it was more. God, she had hated her then. Of course, she had been right, which had let to her cold-cocking her captain, stealing intel and seeking asylum at Avasarala’s embassy.

“I don’t know. I hope not. But last time he had our secretary of defense and your vice-president in his pocket, not to mention a bunch of military brass. I’d rather not take any risks.” The betrayal of her superior officer still stung. She didn’t think anything like it could happen again. They had purged Mao’s people from every level, but there was no guarantee they had found everyone. Or that people hadn’t been bribed by whatever hidden pile of cash Mao must have.

She trusted Yao. The woman had an exemplary record and not a traitorous bone in her body. Sinepoli was like a puppy, a bit rash sometimes, but fiercely loyal, way too happy to be a part of their agency, serving his country, like a good little patriot. She couldn’t think of anybody she worked with who might be colluding with Mao. They had sworn an oath. The thought that someone might break it for a big paycheck and the possibility of revenge was nauseating.

“So you’re the only one who knows where we are?” Chrisjen pressed. Bobbie almost felt uncomfortable under her intense stare. It didn’t help that Cotyar was sitting next to her, sizing her up as if he didn’t know what side she was on, the measures she was willing to take to protect them. She straightened her back, an instinctual move under that much scrutiny. The two of them always had a talent for making her feel like she was on trial or something, even when she hadn’t done anything wrong.

“If I weren’t, you’d be staring at a lot of really angry agents. But you’re in a hotel with security cameras and you’ve got a recognizable face. It’s only a matter of time.”

“You’re going to move us to one of your safe houses.” It wasn’t a question. It was a statement, one without a hint of protest in Cotyar’s voice. He had probably suspected where this conversation was going from the moment she showed up with the file on Clarissa Mao and the former Protogen personnel.

“Is that even possible without Yao’s approval?” Bobbie didn’t even bother asking how Chrisjen knew that Theresa Yao was her boss. The woman just knew things about everybody. She always wondered why she had only ever made it to ambassador when she could have been running the country. Perhaps she liked being just out of the thick of it better, able to control everything, manipulate people without being held accountable. Despite having worked for her, she had never bothered to ask her about the finer details about her career.

“No, it isn’t. I made it happen anyway.” It hadn’t been that hard. The safe houses were a leftover from the Cold War, used mostly to hide assets, deserters and spies that had been made. This close to the border, it was easy to house them before ensuring it was safe to ship them home. They were rarely used anymore. Stealing the keys and replacing them with fake ones was easy. “Same as these.”

She tossed a couple of phones on the bed. They had left their own behind at the house, turned off. Too easy to track. Souther’s people probably had them now. Having an easy way to communicate with them, to call them if necessary was essential now that it was clear Mao was coming after them, Cotyar’s impressive laptop setup notwithstanding. E-mails were too easily tracked anyway. Phone calls from burner phones she had also stolen from her job, activated without anyone’s knowledge, was a bit more inconspicuous.

“Goes without saying those are not to contact any one other than me. And if I call, you had better pick up.” The first part was mostly for Chrisjen who barely managed to hide a pout. She was probably itching to reach out to people, to verbally abuse people into doing her bidding. Here was to hoping that Cotyar could stop her from doing that. The phones weren’t untraceable and having Avasarala found with one of her agency’s phones in one of their safe houses would lead to Bobbie’s ass being in prison faster than she could say ‘former ambassador Avasarala’.

“You could lose your job, helping us out.” She could do a lot more than lose her job, but she knew that this was Cotyar’s way of giving her a last chance to back out, to leave protecting Chrisjen up to him. He knew that if she got caught, it was possible that not even Chrisjen’s influence could save her ass. If she wanted, she could take back the phones and the file and just leave, pretend it never happened, no hard feelings.

Bobbie shook her head. “And you could lose your lives if I don’t. I know what’s worth more.”

Cotyar looked at Chrisjen, the corners of his mouth curled up in that mysterious little smile of his, the kind that mad Bobbie feel she had passed some kind of test she had no idea she was even taking. Chrisjen looked at her, not with a smile, but there was something in her eyes, something that told Bobbie she was touched, proud, grateful. Her voice was soft when she spoke. “You haven’t changed, Bobbie Draper. Not one bit.”

Chapter Text

The safe house was more of a safe apartment in the less glamorous part of the city. It wasn’t as bad as the outskirts, but it wasn’t good either. That made it kind of perfect. He hadn’t chosen the most expensive hotel or booked the biggest room, in the hope that people would expect her to have a penthouse suite. Bobbie’s safe house was better. People would never think to look for her in a slightly shitty one bedroom apartment in a neighborhood that the hipsters hadn’t quite gotten to yet, but would in a year or two.

He hoped it wasn’t going to take long until Clarissa Mao and her team of Protogen goons were brought in, but if it did, they could stay here for a bit. It was small and a little dusty, but Bobbie’s people had kept up the payment on its utilities and it had clearly been regularly cleaned. It would seem that despite the peace treaty they seemed to value having a safe house in this city. He supposed he ought to be grateful for the paranoia.

Bobbie and Chrisjen had disappeared into the bedroom to put some fresh sheets on the bed, leaving him to his own in the small living room. He could heard the cadence of their voices float down the hallway as they chatted. He had no doubt Chrisjen was trying to needle more information out of the tall woman. She had an insatiable need to know more than what was good for her and she usually got those needs met. It didn’t really matter. Chrisjen couldn’t do anything with information at the moment.

Neither could he. The apartment didn’t have any wifi which was its only downside. He knew how to protect his connection, but hacking into a signal, that was less a part of his skill set. He would have to spent the better part of the evening trying to figure that out, not something he was looking forward to, but he needed contact with the outside world.

“Bobbie, if you apologize one more fucking time, I’ll have Cotyar gently pistol whip you.” Cotyar looked up to see Chrisjen enter the living room, Bobbie in tow, looking annoyed and apologetic respectively. Maybe they hadn’t been discussing Mao then. Chrisjen was lacking that particular air of smugness she always had whenever she got her way.

“And why would I do that?” he asked calmly. Chrisjen only made idle threats when it concerned people she cared about, but pistol whipping was an interesting one. Something must have annoyed her.

“She keeps saying sorry for this place as if I were expecting the Hilton. It’s getting on my nerves.” Cotyar frowned at Bobbie. She was risking her career and possibly her freedom to save Chrisjen’s ass and she was apologizing? He realized Chrisjen looked completely out of place here. With the wallpaper peeling in places, the furniture being two decades old and the cobwebs gathered in corners, he doubted if the queen of England could look more out of place than she did. But she hadn’t complained or looked down her nose once, well aware of what Bobbie was risking.

“Bobbie, stop apologizing. Chrisjen, stop treating me like your henchman.” He didn’t bother putting any heat behind his words. It definitely wasn’t his job to play referee for those two. He had his own discussions and arguments to be fought with Chrisjen. The last thing he needed was to be dragged into something he had nothing to do with, especially when it concerned mostly fake threats to a friend who at one point had shared their bed.

“I should go anyway, all of us are working overtime with this case,” Bobbie said, before Chrisjen could fire off some snarky comeback. Cotyar felt a certain sadness when Bobbie announced she’d be leaving. He knew they needed her at her job to get information, but her presence was comforting to both him and Chrisjen. Something in her stature, her capabilities, she just fit well with them. “I’ll call tomorrow to check in, give you updates.”

Bobbie turned to leave, but Chrisjen caught her hand, her expression soft, unguarded. It was worlds away from the annoyed one she had been wearing mere moments ago. It was another reason Bobbie fit so well with them, because Chrisjen loved her. Not necessarily in the romantic sense, but she loved her all the same, which was rare. Chrisjen cared for a lot of people, but her love was something she reserved for a select circle. Cotyar knew without a doubt that Bobbie was a part of that circle.

“Thank you. For everything,” Chrisjen said, looking up at Bobbie. The tall woman swallowed and nodded, like a good marine. Clearly that love was mutual. After this was all over he’d have to discuss that with Chrisjen. See what the possibilities were. They couldn’t let Bobbie disappear from their lives again. He knew that much for certain. He knew he didn’t want to lose her again. Her gaze moved from Chrisjen to him and with a single look she managed to tell him that he had better take care of the stubborn old woman or she’d have his ass.

Without saying another word, Bobbie left the apartment, closing the door behind her, leaving the two of them behind in a former enemy’s safe house, because some megalomaniac had sicced his young daughter on Chrisjen to get revenge for thwarting his attempt to escalate the Cold War into a real one so he could make an insane amount of money for his bioweapon. If he were a writer, he would go hunting for a bookdeal the second this was over.

“Home, sweet home,” Chrisjen said as she scanned the living room. She didn’t look particularly pleased, but she didn’t look disgusted or disappointed either. She was just taking it all in, probably trying to figure out how she was going to spend her time in this space, unable to leave or even open a window, without any decent distractions.

“It’s as good as any.”

“It will do.” He wondered if Chrisjen had ever lived in a place like this. He doubted it. Born into a family of politicians, diplomats and civil servants, even as an immigrant she had had status and money. And it hadn’t taken her long to shake off her father’s name and make a reputation of her own. The only time people compared her to her father was to acknowledge how much she had surpassed him. No, Cotyar knew with a lot of certainty she had never lived in a place like this.

But she was adaptable and with Souther and Yao on the case, he hoped they wouldn’t stay here very long. It would do fine for a few days and at least she was safe. So was he, since she seemed to be pretty adamant on that as well. It was why he hadn’t protested to moving to the safe house with her, without a proper internet connection.

After their shower last night, she had explained in that typical Avasarala way that losing him, even him getting wounded, was unacceptable. And she was going to keep fighting him every step of the way if he insisted on saving her life by recklessly risking his. He could have argued with her, tried to explain that being unable to properly protect her made him feel useless, that he needed to do this for her, for her daughter and grandchildren.

But Chrisjen had, despite her bravado and the gin in her hand, been uncharacteristically vulnerable, showing her fear for his life, the same fear he had for hers. He knew that she would find ways to protect his life, making it infuriatingly more difficult to keep her alive. Going along with her, sticking by her side and limiting his options to help find Clarissa Mao was the smartest thing he could do right now.

Chrisjen sat down next to him on the couch. He could see the effects of the situation in the tightness around her mouth, the fatigue in her eyes. She kept up a good façade, but not even a woman like her could keep all of this from taking its toll. Abandoning his efforts to hijack the neighbor’s wifi, he wrapped an arm around her shoulder and pulled her close, until her head was resting on his shoulder.

“I suppose that means Netflix is out,” she said, an air of levity in her voice as she gestured at the antiquated television and his internetless laptop. He chuckled. If he managed to get a connection and secure it, he’d see about getting her something to occupy her time. Chrisjen going stir crazy was not something he wanted to deal with. He’d already seen what that could lead to today, when she had annoyed him enough that he resorted to pushing her up against a wall just to shut her up. Sadly, Bobbie had walked in at the wrong moment.

“I spotted a VHS copy of Titanic somewhere, if you need some entertainment,” he suggested teasingly, knowing how much she disliked that movie or anything that even remotely resembled it. Chrisjen made a disgusted sound and jabbed her elbow in his ribs.

“I’d rather pull out my lashes one by one.” He’d have to agree with her there. He didn’t much care for the movie either, but it was nice to pretend that their biggest problem was a terrible and outdated film selection. Just for a moment it seemed almost normal.

---

Cotyar rolled his neck and stared at his computer screen, trying to ignore the ache in his muscles. The bed in the safe house was less than stellar. Or maybe he had just gotten too used to their bed, with its overly expensive mattress and luxurious sheets. He used to be able to sleep on rocky ground without problem. He was getting old. Or he was getting soft living life as a kept man, only taking the odd job here and there. Either way, his neck and back were protesting from sleeping on that mattress.

He wasn’t saying that that was the reason he had doubled his efforts to get a secure internet connection, but he also wasn’t denying it. The sooner he didn’t have to sleep in that bed again, the better. Chrisjen didn’t like it much better. He had caught her muttering about it being too small. He personally did not really mind it, nor did he see why it was a problem. Since the shooting Chrisjen had always pulled him close to her until he was wrapped around her. They didn’t need a massive bed.

Finally he managed to get everything set up, using a wifi network called ‘Y Que’, whatever that meant. It felt good to be able to know what was happening in the outside world. At least now he knew that as far as the rest of the world was concerned, what had happened was still a mass shooting. No one had leaked to the media yet that Chrisjen was somehow involved. That was a relief and a surprise.

Clearly Clarissa wasn’t like her father. He and Errinwright had used the media to their full advantage, twisting her attempts to create peace as a stalling tactic to start a war, calling her a traitor. The photos of the two of them that some skeevy PI had taken that Mao had leaked to really drive home his point that she was a horrible woman. They had tried to destroy her reputation so nobody would mourn it if she suddenly died. Clarissa Mao just wanted her dead. Otherwise there would already be something out there.

He frowned when he received an email from a contact he had reached out to a few days ago on an account that he only used when he was conducting business that needed to be strictly off the radar. A lot of the information they had already gotten from Bobbie yesterday, but there was some news. Apparently the two countries weren’t working that well together, because he knew that Bobbie would have called him if she had this information as well.

Little Clarissa had dropped out of college just before graduating a year ago. Ariadne Mao, her mother, hadn’t understood why, nor was she aware of what her daughter was doing now, but Cotyar could find enough snippets of information in the interview transcript to figure out that Clarissa had probably been training with professionals, getting stronger, no doubt learning hand to hand combat. She was prepared to take Chrisjen out in any way possible. Almost as if she had counted on that first attempt to fail.

“Huh, now that’s interesting,” he mumbled to himself. He began to understand how Clarissa had so easily fallen for her father’s manipulations. Her mother had protected her from a lot of the gruesome details, so much so that Clarissa had believed her father’s story, despite his conviction and life sentence. She just needed to prove herself to her father, prove that she was just as good as the golden daughter he had lost. “She doesn’t know.”

“She doesn’t know what?” Chrisjen asked as she entered the living room. He managed to stifle a laugh when he saw the shirt she was wearing, a gift from her daughter from some famous designer. ‘Fashion stole my smile’. She probably hadn’t consciously grabbed it when packing their suitcase, but seeing her wear it with a pair of old jeans and combat boots, instead of one of her suits made it a lot funnier.

“Clarissa Mao doesn’t know that her father was directly responsible for killing Julie. She thinks it was just a freak accident that her sister was in Eros at the same time Protogen unleashed its weapon. She doesn’t know he used her as patient zero,” he explained, watching the gears in her head turn with this information. He knew what he had handed her, a way to possibly stop Clarissa from this madness. If they could get this girl to see what her father was capable of, maybe she’d call off her plan for revenge.

There was something chilling about watching her like this, exploiting weak spots, finding ways to make sure she would win. She couldn’t protect herself with guns and violence, but even without her title or a position in the government, she still was a force to be reckoned with, able to manipulate people into doing her bidding. He looked at her, the small frown she wore, her eyes locked on the window, hands fiddling with her phone as she tried to think of the best way to use this information.

He stopped and looked at the phone in her hands. Chrisjen wasn’t one for nervous fiddling, nor was she one to have her phone out unless she used it. She didn’t like the things, other than for a means to an end. “What happened? Did Bobbie call?”

“No,” she said slowly and pocketed the phone.

“Then what...please tell me you didn’t.” Cotyar curled his hands into fists, realization dawning upon him. She wouldn’t be that damn stupid. A subtle shift in her expression confirmed his suspicion. Stubborn goddamn woman. He rubbed his forehead, unable to ignore the sudden headache. “Who did you call?”

“Souther.” At least she hadn’t bothered to lie or spin some tale which was a small relief. A very small relief. It didn’t do anything to relief the frustration he felt that she had once again done her own thing without consulting him, ignoring the one rule Bobbie had given her when it came to that phone. Sometimes he wondered why he even bothered keeping her safe when she kept pulling crap that put her squarely in the middle of danger.

“You called Souther?” he asked, a tight feeling in his throat. Of all the idiotic things she could have done, she had called the man in charge of the investigation. He had half a mind to throttle her where she stood, casually leaning against a cupboard as if she hadn’t done something monumentally stupid. He cursed her ability to remember information that most people wouldn’t even attempt to retain, like phone numbers in the age of smartphones.

“Just to let him know he needs to direct his focus away from us.”

“He said you had dead eyes and a poison tongue. The man hates your guts. What makes you think he won’t be tracing that call right now?” That had been interesting to witness, an irate Souther hurling insults at Chrisjen as she listened with a calm smile. He was one of the few people she had worked with that she had deemed honourable which was why she had maneuvered him out of his position and into the one he held now. He was too honourable for the world of politics. He hadn’t thanked her for it. And now here she was, expecting Souther to listen to her, to help her.

“He hates my guts a great deal less than most people. I didn’t stay on long enough to trace it. But now he knows we’re alright, he’ll put more people on finding Clarissa rather than us. I trust him.” She had trusted Errinwright as well all those years ago, until she didn’t and his betrayal had nearly cost them their lives. He was sorely tempted to throw that in her face, but decided against it. A full blown shouting match would only draw attention to them, but he couldn’t resist needling her a little more, to try to get his point across.

“That’s great. Do you trust him enough to also mention you were using a burner phone and were holed up in a safe house that our government has no idea even exists?” She rolled her eyes at him in a very condescending way. Oh she was lucky he loved her, though it was hard to remember why at the moment.

“You’re being dramatic. It was just a phone call and now instead of sitting around with their thumbs up their asses trying to find us, they’re doing something more useful.” If that were true, if Souther hadn’t pinged their location, if he were as honourable as Chrisjen thought he was, it might have been worth the call. But those were a lot of suppositions and he didn’t care for that at all. There were too many variables and she had taken one hell of a gamble the odds were in her favor.

He took a deep breath, trying to find a way to explain to her, once again, that if she were going to pull a stunt like that, she could at least tell him before she did it, when his phone rang, the screen lighting up, showing a blocked number. If this was fate’s way of telling him he was right, he really wasn’t in the mood for it. Telling Chrisjen ‘I told you so’ was never actually as satisfying as he wanted it to be. He answered the call, putting it on speaker.

“You have to leave now!” Bobbie whispered before he could get a word in. She sounded panicked. That wasn’t something he had ever heard in her voice before. Cotyar immediately felt his brain snap into survival mode, slamming the laptop shut and going for the bag with his weapons. Chrisjen looked at him with wide eyes, the condescension gone.

“What happened?” he asked, not taking his eyes off Chrisjen as he chucked the laptop in a side compartment of the bag. She looked scared. She hid it well, but he could tell. He just didn’t know if she was scared because she thought she might have screwed up or because she knew Clarissa was coming for her right now.

“Does it fucking matter? Clarissa knows where you are. You have to leave right now.”

“Trust me, it matters.” He knew that Souther would never sell them out like that, but maybe there was some implausible way that his phone was bugged or something like it that had made it possible to find them.

“We have a mole here. I caught him making the call to Clarissa. He figured out I was helping you, tracked my movements. I broke his nose, probably going to get suspended in a minute for everything I’ve done. Again, it doesn’t matter.” The relief he had felt about Chrisjen not being the one to blow their cover quickly evaporated when he heard of her impending suspension. They had all known it was coming, but that didn’t lessen his concern. He saw it on Chrisjen’s face as well.

“Do you have a plan?” If Bobbie was getting suspended, that could seriously compromise their ability to find safe places and get information. It also meant that she wasn’t going to be able to help them if and when Clarissa found them today. The task of keeping Chrisjen alive was back on his shoulders again.

“I’m gonna see if I can get some backup to you. Take the phone with you and go!” She hung up. Cotyar didn’t waste a second, tossing the phone in the bag and slinging it over his shoulder and grabbing Chrisjen’s arm. If Bobbie was this panicked, they had no time to grab anything else of importance. They were well and truly on the run now. No safe place to go to, their one savior about to be suspended, nothing with them but his weapons and the clothes on their backs and a girl with a team of trained men trying to kill them.

“What are we going to do?” Chrisjen asked when he unlocked the door, his weapon drawn. He checked the hallway and the stairs before dragging her with him when the coast was clear. They wouldn’t be here yet, but he’d be damned if he lost her because he forgot to check his corners.

“Steal a car and get as far away from here as possible.” He had spotted a small car park a block away on the drive in. He was hoping someone would be stupid enough to leave it unlocked and otherwise he’d have to really have to dig deep to remember how to hotwire a car. If all else failed, he had a bag of guns and one of the scariest women in the country with him, they could hijack a car if needed. He hoped it wouldn’t come to that.

The entrance hall was clear as well. Thank God that this was happening during an midweek afternoon. Most people worked. There was less of a chance to bump into anyone and the roads would be less crowded. The street was mostly empty as well, but he still tucked his gun away for appearance’s sake. “Act normal.”

“That’s it?” she hissed, linking their arms, pretending to be just a normal couple walking down the street. If he ignored the bag of weapons and the painful way she was gripping his upper arm, they almost were. “Steal a car and leave with nowhere to go?”

“I’ll think of the rest on the way,” Cotyar replied, plastering a fake smile on his face when they passed an old lady who looked at them curiously. He hoped no one recognized her. Her face hadn’t been on the news for awhile, but she wasn’t the type of woman people tended to forget easily. He wished he had a better plan. Or any plan at all. At the moment, getting the hell away was the best he could come up with.

“Fan-fucking-tastic.” He shared the sentiment, but there wasn’t much he could do, other than do his job. Or former job. Whatever. He just needed to get her away from here before Clarissa got here. It was the only way that they had a chance to make it. If they showed up before then, well, in a shootout with multiple trained men, he didn’t like his odds. He knew he was a good shot, but there was only so much he could do against an undetermined amount of men who had served in a small private army.

He guided them onto the parking lot, zigzagging between the cars. There were maybe two dozen or so, not a lot. One of these people had to be dumb enough to not lock their car, maybe even do that thing where they put the keys in the sun visor. He’d never seen anyone do that who wasn’t in a movie, but right now he could use a little luck.

Finally he came across an old french family car, something far too close to a minivan, totally not what he would have chosen, but it was unlocked, so as far as he was concerned, it was the best car in the world at the moment. On a hope and a prayer he flipped open the sun visor and a set of keys came tumbling out. He shot up a thank you to whatever God had decided that they deserved a small break.

Cotyar looked at them and looked at the bag on his shoulder. He needed to be able to shoot, should Clarissa find them. And he had to be able to shoot accurately if they wanted a chance to survive. He was going to regret doing this, but he grabbed Chrisjen’s hand and placed the keys inside it. She looked at him as if he had just handed her a live nuke.

“You’re gonna have to drive.”

Chapter Text

“What the fuck did you say?” The keys in her hand felt heavier than they were. He was fucking joking. He had to be. It wasn’t that she couldn’t drive, she could drive just fine. But she wasn’t a fool. Cotyar was anticipating some kind of chase and she did not have the skills for that. She was a former public servant, he was the one who used to be a spy. If anyone ought to be driving a getaway vehicle, it should be him, not the 67 year-old ex-desk jockey.  

 

“You, drive. Unless you want to shoot?” She eyed the bag Cotyar had slung over his shoulder. She had hoped she would never need to know its exact contents. Clearly that hope had been idle. She knew how to shoot, but nothing more than a stationary target at a gun range. Given the choice, driving or shooting, driving was the far more desirable option, but she hated both. Whoever that mole was that Bobbie had discovered, he ought to count himself as very lucky Bobbie had only broken his nose. She was really tempted to have him disappear to black site, the kind that everybody claimed didn’t exist anymore.  

 

“Who says there will be shooting?” They had left the safe house immediately. She highly doubted that the Mao girl would get here that fast. If they just left right now, there would be no need for shooting, logically speaking. She also knew that she was grasping at straws to keep her thoughts rational. Her heart rate hadn’t returned to normal from the moment she had heard Bobbie’s panicked whisper on the phone. She didn’t want to think about the possibility of bullets starting to fly.

 

“I do. Now get behind the wheel.” Cotyar pushed her towards the car, leaving her no option but to climb into it. She slammed the door shut, watching as he rounded the car and got in as well. The bag made a disturbing sound when he dumped it between their seats, the guns rattling against each other. It didn’t help matters when he unzipped it and she caught a glimpse of what was inside, enough hardware to take out Clarissa and her goon squad fifty times over. If they were pulled over, she would have hard time explaining all of that.

 

“For the record, this plan sucks,” she bit out as she twisted the key and the car came to life with the sound that only shitty old cars made. It was like a goddamn plane with that racket. She had driven a car similar to this when her children were still young. She hadn’t liked it then and liked it even less now. This fucking thing was probably going to fall apart within minutes. Wouldn’t that just be something? Dying in a car crash instead of in a hail of bullets. The latter would make for a better eulogy she thought grimly.

 

“If you’ve got a better idea, I’m open to suggestions.” How she wished she had a better idea. Anything that was more than drive away. She’d already thought about calling Souther again, but his lack of enthusiasm and his anger when she had called him before had ruled that out. He probably would only help them if they agreed to come in and, well, a mole in Bobbie’s department didn’t exactly increase her faith that Souther’s agency was any better.

 

She had even considered going to another safe house, she still remembered where a few were. But unlike the apartment they had just left, they actually had been updated to the 21st century, including proper security systems and video surveillance. Souther would immediately know they were there and so would about a dozen other people. Getting away first and worrying about where they would go later was the best plan. That didn’t mean she had to like it.

 

The car groaned and protested as she pulled out of the parking lot, the gears shifting about as smoothly as she had expected. If Clarissa was coming for them and it did end up in some car chase, they were royally fucked. Cotyar’s less than enthused expression told her he agreed with her assessment. It wasn’t going to be a smooth ride.

 

“Get us out of town,” Cotyar ordered when she turned onto the road. That would take a while. Even with minimum traffic, there weren’t really any fast ways to get to the highway or any road that led out of the city. She had lived here for decades since she had migrated to this country. The only time she hadn’t, was when she had been an ambassador, and she knew this city like the back of her hand, every little back road or dead end, even in neighborhoods like these. Maybe that was the one advantage she had. Clarissa had grown up in a mansion in the country, gone to college in a different city. Even with research, Chrisjen had more experience here.

 

She felt some relief after she had turned a few corners and there was no sign of any cars following them, no men in black with guns appearing out of nowhere. Maybe they had caught a lucky break for the first time since the shit hit the fan. After being shot at, leaving their home, fleeing from the safe house, it would be a nice change of pace if something went alright for once.

 

Cotyar covered her hand on the stick shift. He was still focused on making sure nobody was following them, but some part of him was starting to feel a bit of hope they got away in time. She could feel it in the comforting squeeze he gave her. As she stopped for a traffic light, he took her hand and pressed a quick kiss to her palm. A heavy lump settled in her throat. He was doing so much, sacrificing so much for her. He had been doing it for years. She wondered if he would ever reach a point where it was too much.

 

Thankfully the light turned green and she could put her attention towards driving this piece of crap instead of getting too emotional. She looked to the side, past Cotyar who was checking behind them, as they went over the crossroads. It couldn’t have been more than a second or two, but she caught the eye of a young woman sitting in the passenger seat of some big black SUV. It was like everything went in slow motion for that one moment. The girl’s eyes widened and Chrisjen felt her heart stop. She had never met her in person, but she looked exactly like the photograph Bobbie had shown them.

 

Clarissa Mao.

 

“Shit.” Cotyar’s head whipped around to look at her. Her expression must have told him everything he needed to know. He didn’t even bother to look to check if she were right. He simply cocked his gun, the muscles in his jaw tense. She recognized that look, she had seen a few times before and that had been exclusively when someone was trying to shoot her. He was getting ready to kill people to protect her life, again.

 

She jumped when his hand landed on her thigh and he pushed it down, the engine protesting at the sudden change of speed. In the rearview mirror, two black SUV’s sped around the corner, cutting off some small car that nearly crashed into them. The sound of squealing tires reached her ears and something in her, probably the sudden rush of fear and adrenaline, just snapped to attention. She swatted his hand away and switched gears before the engine exploded.

 

Beside her Cotyar was rolling down the window with a fucking hand crank, getting ready to shoot at their pursuers when it became necessary. Judging from the way they were closing in, it was going to be soon. She was never going to be able to outrun them in this tin can on wheels. Trying to lose them was the best option she had. Yanking on the steering wheel, she turned a corner at the last moment. One of the SUV’s missed the turn, but the other followed easily. Fuck.

 

She was officially in a car chase in the world’s worst car with no experience on how to handle a situation like this. Unless she counted the one time some idiot terrorist cell had tried to blow her up, but had planted the bomb in the wrong car. The car behind her had blown up and hers had sped off without a backwards glance. But that hadn’t been a chase and there hadn’t been guns. She also hadn’t been the one doing the driving.

 

The first shot rang out and it shouldn’t have surprised her that much, she knew it was going to happen, but she still felt herself freeze when the sound reached her ears. That was the second time this week she had heard that sound and it did not get any easier. The fact that the bullet had slammed through the rear window and the windshield, not that far from her head, didn’t help.

 

“Drive, goddammit,” Cotyar shouted, when more bullets flew through the car. Metal hitting metal, the windshield quickly being turned into swiss cheese. Ducking down as low as possible without losing her line of sight, she ignored the red light, cut in front of some fancy little sports car, turned the corner and ended up on one of the main roads that cut through the city. Accelerating through traffic, she saw that the black SUV had effortlessly followed them.

 

“What the fuck do you think I’m doing?” she yelled back, more than a little annoyed that he was backseat driving at this moment. The man was currently hanging half out the passenger side window, shooting back. He had no right to be a smartass right now. She had no patience to deal with it. She had to get off this road, before they ended up in the city centre where the collateral damage would be through the roof.

 

In the rearview mirror she saw one of Cotyar’s bullets hitting its target. The man on the passenger side caught it, his head snapping back and he hung limply from the window until one of the other men pushed him out. She swallowed heavily. No honor amongst mercenaries then. From the corner of her eye she saw something big and black pull up beside them. She turned to look and immediately found herself face to face with Clarissa Mao holding a gun. Shit, fuck  She managed to duck down just in time, arm held up to protect herself.

 

The window exploded inwards, glass everywhere. She barely registered the small pieces that had found its way into her skin. Without thinking, she pulled on the steering wheel, ignoring the pain when a few shards of glass dug into her palms.. With a sickening screech, it scraped against the guard rail. Cotyar maneuvered himself inside the car again, looking pissed off that she nearly slammed his head against a lamppost.

 

“Little warning next time,” he grumbled, tossing his gun at his feet and grabbing a pair of twin guns that looked a lot more impressive. He started moving towards the back of the car when she spotted an opportunity.

 

“Sorry.” That was both for what had happened and what she was going to do. Praying that this would work, she slammed on the breaks and shifted back to the second gear to make a tight turn, off the main road, right into a residential area again. Not ideal, but possibly better than the city centre. Cotyar slammed into the side of the car with a grunt, but she didn’t bother to see what foul look he was giving her. She had shook Clarissa’s car again, but the other SUV was proving a lot more difficult.

 

Cotyar struggled to get over the backseat and landed in the trunk less than gracefully. He was just trying to kick out the ruined rear window when the SUV rammed them. Chrisjen felt the impact through her entire body. That was going to hurt for a good while. The dull thud told her she had just lost the rear bumper. Well, it would hurt for a long time only if she managed to survive it. She felt those chances diminishing the longer the sound of guns being fired continued.

 

At least the SUV backed off some when Cotyar ditched the rear window with one last kick, giving him a clear shot at their pursuers. She couldn’t see if any of his bullets hit anything, but the view of Cotyar firing two guns at the same time was quite an impressive one. Speeding over crossroads, ignoring traffic lights and stop signs, she tried to zigzag through the neighborhoods without getting too close to schools again. She wasn’t sure how she or the car could keep this up. Or how long Cotyar’s luck would last being in the line of fire like this.

 

“Fuck! Not again.” The pained words nearly caused her to collide with the car in front of her. Cotyar rarely swore, so this could not be good news. In the mirror she saw blood running down his arm. It looked worse than the wound he had gotten four days ago. A lot worse. It was also on his right side, his dominant side. She heard another groan of pain and suddenly he was crawling back over to the backseat, his wounded arm held tightly against his body.

 

He rummaged in the bag and pulled out what she sincerely hoped wasn’t what she thought it was. Because that would mean he had kept it in her backyard, where her grandchildren played. He had kept it in the hotelroom, far too fucking close to the bed where they had slept.

 

“Please tell me that’s a smoke grenade.” She was practically begging, but she didn’t care. Cotyar had not been fucking stupid enough to keep grenades this close to her home. He just looked at it in his hand before locking eyes with her in the mirror. He gave her the face he usually made when he was about to do something really idiotic that she passionately disagreed with.

 

“Okay,” he replied with a shrug. He pulled the pin with his teeth and with a throw that was dead accurate even with his left hand, he threw it through the hole in the SUV’s windshield. For a very brief moment, Chrisjen felt relieved. “It’s not though.”

 

The words barely registered before the explosion behind her stopped her heart for a moment. The SUV had blown up, a massive fire coming up from what had been the car. She didn’t hear anything but a high-pitched ringing in her ears. Her heart was trying to pound its way out of her chest. If she weren’t holding on to the steering wheel for dear life, she was pretty sure her hands would be shaking. That little stunt had just taken years off her life.

 

Cotyar was shouting something at her, but it didn’t fully register. It was like she was stuck in a daze that she couldn’t shake out of, not until he grabbed her shoulder, leaving a bloody handprint on the white fabric. His touch brought her back to reality. “Focus, Chrisjen. You need to get the hell out of here. Now.”

 

She hadn’t even realized she was slowing down until then. The engine was practically stalling. She accelerated quickly, distancing them from the site of the explosion. She had almost forgotten about the other SUV when it suddenly appeared in her rearview mirror. It was like a nightmare that wouldn’t end. She was going to need a lot of therapy after this.

 

Putting her foot down, she sped off, the SUV pursuing her easily. Cotyar used the backseat to steady his aim, blood still rolling down his right arm. The situation was getting more dire and she couldn’t   think of a way out of it. She turned onto a long bridge, connecting the neighborhood to an industrial area, when out of nowhere a van appeared next to them, far too close for comfort. Great, because Clarissa and her mercenaries definitely needed more backup. Then the van honked. Who the fuck honked when they could just shoot? Frowning, she looked at the driver.

 

“Oh you’ve got to be fucking kidding me,” Chrisjen said when she recognized the woman behind the wheel and the man sitting next to her, giving them an awkward wave. If this was Bobbie’s idea of backup, she was going to have to have a heart to heart with the woman to set her straight. Backup meant highly trained people, not a quartet of criminals who happened to have decent morals. But with her car beat up to hell and Cotyar bleeding in the back, James Holden was as good an option as any. “We’ve got company.”

 

Just as Cotyar looked at the van, the side door slid open to reveal Amos with a massive gun, shooting at the car that was behind them. It swerved and backed off a little. But Clarissa was in that one. It wouldn’t take long before they were catching up to them again. Behind Amos, Alex appeared, looking far less confident and happy about the situation. He was gesturing at her, at them. But she had no idea what he wanted.

 

“Move closer to them,” Cotyar said, clearly understanding something she had missed. She steered closer to them when Cotyar opened the door. Suddenly it all became a lot clearer and she didn’t like it one bit. She was barely keeping this vehicle on the road as it was, and Amos and Alex wanted to move into it while it was driving. They were insane. If she ended up being responsible for killing all of them, she wasn’t taking the blame.

 

With her focus on the van, she missed the pothole and hit it head on. The car shook. There was a terribly loud creaking and suddenly their door came off, toppling across the road. Now the car was literally falling apart. Fucking great. They weren’t even going to make it to the end of the bridge at this rate. But she moved the car even closer to the van. Cotyar shot at the SUV behind them while Amos practically pushed Alex from the van into their car.

 

“Goddamn y’all,” the grifter said as he crawled over the weapons bag and sat down next to her. She looked at him from the corner of her eye. She had no idea how a decent scammer was supposed to get her out of this. She knew he was an amazing driver, but that didn’t help her much. “This is a right mess. Right, at the end of the bridge, turn left. We’re gonna have a straight stretch of road, and we’re gonna switch.”

 

“We’re going to do what?” she asked, hoping she had misheard him over the sound of gunfire and the roar of the engine.

 

“Switch. Just do as I say, ma’am. We’re gonna do this nice and easy.” She glared at him. Sure. Nice and easy. As nice and easy as trying to switch places while driving a car was when people were also shooting at them. She hadn’t been panicked enough already, now she was going to have to do some impossible acrobatics. But the prospect of no longer having to drive this fucking coffin was good. She made the turn to the left and waited for his instructions. Or for a bullet to hit her, whatever would hurt less.

 

“Alrighty, now try to stand up as best you can while keeping your foot on the gas. I’m going to slide underneath you.” Why not? Fuck. Her legs shook as she pushed herself up. The car sped up and she hoped this road was long enough to complete this idiotic switch. In the rearview mirror she saw the van in between her car and the SUV, giving her some freedom to take a little time. Cotyar was looking at her intently, not even caring that he was still bleeding. Even now, he was still focusing too much attention on her.

 

Chrisjen tensed when Alex’s hands landed on her hips, steadying her as he slid in the seat underneath her. His foot shuffled hers off the gas.The car only briefly slowed down. She had no fucking clue how, but he had managed to pull it off. From the backseat, Cotyar grabbed her arm and helped drag her over to the passenger seat, where she collapsed in a crumpled heap. She did it. They did it. Whatever. She wasn’t driving this shitheap anymore.

 

Her hands began shaking almost immediately. The adrenaline that had pushed her to continue disappeared and she was overcome with a sense of panic. Covering her eyes with the hand that didn’t have any glass in it, she tried to take calming breaths and failed miserably. She tuned out everything that was happening around her. It wasn’t over yet, she couldn’t go into shock right now. The last thing Cotyar or Alex needed was an old woman puking in the car, because she couldn’t deal with the situation. Shock could come later.

 

“Hey Chrissie, how have you been?” Her head snapped up. Only one person had the balls to call her that. She hadn’t even realized he had gotten in their car. She looked over her shoulder and saw Amos crouched on the back seat, wearing a shit-eating grin that nobody would be wearing with people shooting at them. Nobody but Amos Burton.

 

“Call me that again and I’ll staple your dick to your anus,” she snapped.

Chapter Text

“Hoss, I just got a call.” Amos didn’t bother to look up. With Alex’s background, he tended to get a lot of calls that could lead to another ‘mission’ as Holden liked to call them. They’d let him know when they needed him which usually wasn’t until things started getting violent. It suited him just fine. Between his boyfriend and his three crewmates there were enough brains and opinions to go around. He simply continued to clean the assault rifle. “It was Bobbie Draper.”

 

“How would she know where to find us?” Holden asked. Draper. He remembered her. The tall foreign marine who had somehow ended up being a bodyguard to an enemy diplomat. Both Holden and Alex had had a crush on her. For Holden it had been the muscles, for Alex, he had probably just been happy to see someone from his home country. She knew how to contact Alex after all those years? That was surprising to say the least.

 

“Because I kept in touch with her.” That explained it.

 

“Alex!” Naomi said in a scolding tone. Amos hid a chuckle. Holden was their boss, as far as they had a boss, being a bunch of do-gooder criminals, scamming powerful corporations, but whenever Naomi got angry, they all listened, including Holden.

 

“Yeah, yeah get mad later. It’s Avasarala. She’s in trouble.” That got Amos’ attention. Famous, international pain in the ass Chrisjen Avasarala. He still vividly remembered meeting her on Mao’s enormous yacht. The short woman, cursing up a storm, her designer suit soaked in her bodyguard’s blood whom she was holding up with Draper. Despite all the news and knowing what kinda crap she liked to pull, he had instantly liked her. For a politician, she had seemed surprisingly no nonsense.

 

Even though her mission to bring Mao in from the cold had turned into a hostage situation with a firefight, consequently completely fucking up the con they had been trying to pull on the mogul that would have ensured his downfall. With some serious psychological manipulation, Avasarala had somehow managed to get their crew to work for her, give her the evidence she needed to clear her name, got herself and her people passage on their boat back to shore while the Guanshiyin sank and had arranged for them to be pardoned and disappear again. Hell of a woman.

 

“And that is somehow our problem?” Naomi asked, arms crossed in front her chest. She didn’t like Avasarala, never had. The two of them had just rubbed each other wrong. She hadn’t trusted the ambassador as far as she could throw her.

 

“That mass shooting that happened? That was all to take her out. She’s on the run with Cotyar. But they’ve been made. Bobbie thinks they might have taken a car, but they may be dealing with some mercenary types. They need help.” That was all the information Amos needed. He tossed the rag he had been using in the general direction of his workbench and started assembling the assault rifle quickly and methodically. He knew at this point, there would be some discussion and it would end in them piling into the van to go rescue Avasarala. Holden had too much of a moral compass not to.

 

“Again, why do we need to help?”

 

“Because it’s Mao.” A complete silence fell over the room. Amos still regretted that he had listened to Avasarala when she stopped him from snapping that weasel’s neck. The one good thing to come out of the whole Mao incident was Prax and his daughter. He had come to them, begging for help when one of Mao’s company’s was trying to strongarm him into using Mei for experiments in return for free treatment or else the price would go up. What started out as a simple ‘fuck over the corporate douchebag’, had turned into massive international shitfest when Naomi had uncovered how deep his kind of evil went.

 

Avasarala had taken him down, dragged his ass to court. But none of them had left that mission the same way they started it. Images of Eros and children being experimented on seared into their brains.

 

“Well, shit,” Holden mumbled. Amos could already see his resolve crumbling. Normally he listened to Naomi, they all did. But an intense dislike of Avasarala really wasn’t enough reason to let her die at the hands of some assholes who worked for Mao. With a final click, he had finished his assault rifle and stood up, looking at this teammates. Holden had that squinty, judgy face, Alex was just looking at the gun in his hand and Naomi was bracing herself for something stupid. He knew that look all too well.

 

“What are we waiting for?” he asked. Things had been too quiet around here anyway. If it had been up to him, they would have been in the car the second Draper had called them. Even if it was a rescue mission, it was better than sitting in their loft, cleaning his guns. Even Prax had noticed that he was going a little stir crazy.

 

“Hang on, Amos,” Naomi tried. Amos decided to ignore her, for once. He loved her, but she was wrong in this. Their job was to help people who fell victims to big corporations, when lives were ruined or lost. Mao might not have his company anymore, but he was still an evil former tycoon. Avasarala had taken him down and now she was paying the price. It was simple maths to him. They were going to help her and her bodyguard turned boyfriend.

 

“I like the old lady and I like fucking Mao’s plans up. Why are we even talking about this?”

 

“He’s got a point,” Holden supplied. That made it three against one. Everybody turned to Naomi, expectant looks on their faces. She pursed her lips as she looked at each of them. Nobody was relenting. They were going to do this and she wasn’t going to stop them. She sighed defeatedly and Amos smile. Bingo.

 

“Fine.” And that was four. Their missions always worked better when they were all in favor. Of course, this was just a rescue mission and not an elaborate scam. There were much less variables, just an extraction and bringing them back here. That was pretty straightforward and more up his street. Holden would run ops with his navy background, but protecting people and possibly shooting at others, that was his speciality.

 

“Good, because there’s a good chance they’re currently being shot at.” Alex made that face where he knew he had done something idiotic. It almost made Amos crack up were it not for the fact that if he had started off with the detail that somebody was shooting at Avasarala, he would have been in the van and on the road minutes ago.

 

“Jesus, Alex, lead with that next time,” Holden said, going for the safe where they kept their guns and ammo. Amos grinned and grabbed the handgun he had cleaned before the rifle. If Holden’s first thought was to grab weapons, that meant he would actually have something to do. The boss didn’t like it when they used violence, didn’t want to risk any collateral damage, even though Amos rarely missed and he only occasionally beat up people a little too much.

 

“Excellent,” he stated as he caught the magazines Holden tossed at him. Alex turned around to look at him.     

 

“Sometimes, you truly scare me.” Amos shrugged. He knew the rest of the crew didn’t always like the way he so easily broke fingers and shot people’s kneecaps. He didn’t enjoy it either, but he didn’t mind it, especially if he did it for the right reasons. Shooting at a bunch of Mao’s goons to save an old lady who had once helped them seemed like the perfect reason. And he missed pulling the trigger.

 

“How do we find them?” Alex launched into some explanation about Bobbie sending him stuff so they could track a phone. It quickly turned into technobabble that Amos didn’t care for. Electronics were Naomi’s thing, she had a real talent for hacking, tracing, stuff like that. He was the muscle and the guy who kept their vehicles in driving condition. He liked that role just fine.

 

---

“I don’t like this,” Alex muttered as Naomi sped around a corner, keeping an eye on the tablet with the moving dot on it. His hands were probably itching to drive the van himself. He was not the type of guy to be sitting in the back, waiting for the action. He was an amazing driver as well, doing the most impossible things, even if it did take him some truly terrible music blaring through the speakers to do it.

 

“We know. You also know why you’re back there,” Holden said over his shoulder. He was clutching his gun pretty firmly. Amos knew he hated this, the possibility of having to shoot someone. He always had qualms about firing a gun in the first place. Amos never understood how a guy like him had ended up in the navy. He had been dishonorably discharged, but that did mean he completed his training. He just couldn’t picture it.

 

“Yeah, yeah. They might be in need of a better driver. Which is another thing, if I die doing some crazy stunt, I’m coming back to haunt y’all.” He pointed at all of them, his face serious. He was a dramatic little shit at times. He wasn’t going to do anything he hadn’t done before. Now he just had to do it with bullets flying at them. No big deal.

 

“We’re counting on it,” Naomi chuckled. Even Holden smiled, the tension melting away a little. Amos just shook his head, keeping his eyes on the dot on the tablet. It wasn’t driving in a discernable pattern, though it was keeping away from public places like schools and malls. That was considerate. It also told him that whoever was driving didn’t have a plan or destination in mind. They were worse off than Amos thought. A noise that sounded suspiciously like an explosion pulled him from his thoughts. What the fuck was going on?

 

“Uhm, was that explosion them?” Alex asked, his eyes wide. That would count as a colossal fuck up, if they had somehow gotten themselves blown up before they could rescue them. Holden leaned close to the tablet, all the levity they had felt before gone. Even Naomi looked scared and she was only doing this because she hated Mao more than Avasarala.

 

“They’re still moving.” The little dot was definitely still moving. Good. They hadn’t been blown up, yet. But the Mao goons were clearly willing to use the big guns to take Avasarala out and that meant they had to hurry. He was not ready to lose that stubborn old woman and her stoic bodyguard to some assholes playing with explosives, because their boss couldn’t deal with the fact that he had failed trying to play God.

 

“Good, because we will catch up with them soon.” She pushed down on the gas, having found a sudden motivation to save the former ambassador. It didn’t take very long until they turned on to a bridge and the sound of gunfire reached his ears. Naomi honked. “We’re here.”

 

“Shit, Avasarala is driving?” Holden commented and he actually waved. The idiot. But damn, if the old lady was driving, she had been doing a pretty good job so far. She had kept them from being caught in the explosion and they were still alive, despite people firing at them. He wouldn’t have thought she had it in her.

 

“Good thing we kept you back here then. You can be the knight in shining armor.” He gave Alex a firm pat on the back and slid open the door. He nearly burst out laughing when he saw what the situation was. Avasarala was driving some ancient minivan that was beat up to hell. She looked stressed, angry and a little scared. Her man in the backseat didn’t look any better. He had definitely caught a bullet, but he was a hard man to keep down, still shooting at the SUV in pursuit, awkwardly holding his bleeding arm against his body.

 

Firing a few shots at the car, he watched with satisfaction as it backed off a little. The girl in the passenger seat yelled at the driver. Clearly she was in charge. Strange. She was so young. Mao would trust his big revenge plan to a college student? He frowned and then something clicked. She looked like Julie. His daughter. He was using his daughter to kill his enemies? Even to Amos, that seemed cold.

 

Avasarala moved the car closer to their van as Cotyar opened the door. Before Alex could move, Avasarla hit a pothole, shaking the whole vehicle. With a groan the door was ripped from the car and ended up somewhere on the road. He’d be really interested to know how they had chosen that piece of shit if it was literally falling apart. But the lack of door made it a lot easier to get Alex over to them. Grabbing the man by his arm, he helped him cross over from the van to the car while Cotyar laid down some suppressing fire. It went relatively easy, all things considered.

 

Naomi moved the van between the SUV and the car, giving Alex time to work his magic. The SUV wasn’t in the best shape either, bullet holes everywhere. Cotyar had given them hell. Time to add to that. Some idiot decided it was a good idea to get up through the sunroof to try and shoot at him. Big mistake. With a few bullets, the man’s brain was splattered all over roof of the car, his gun clattering away on the road. He tried to take out the driver, but that man was wily, swerving left and right to avoid bullets.

 

“Amos, you’re up.” The switch must have worked. He had to admit he was a little surprised that Alex and Avasarala had pulled it off. He had to stop underestimating her. But when he looked to the car, getting ready to make the transfer, he felt a little stab in his heart. Avasarala was almost curled up in the front seat, looking more vulnerable than he had ever imagined. This whole thing, a car chase, getting shot at, it was getting to her. It was time to end this.

 

With Alex driving, it was a lot easier to step over to the car. It was a mess. Cotyar looked pale and sweaty, blood still running down his arm. It looked like a through and through, nothing too major hit, but that didn’t make it hurt any less. He was determined to see this through before he started caring about the pain. Avasarala on the other hand looked on the verge of going into shock. She was shaking and hyperventilating. Amos had seen other people go through it. It was natural, but this wasn’t the best moment. She could break down later.

 

“Hey Chrissie, how have you been?” he asked lightly, in an effort to snap her out of it. She removed the hand from her face and gave him a look that would make most people tremble in their boots. From the corner of his eye, he could see Cotyar looking at him as if he were suicidal.

            

“Call me that again and I’ll staple your dick to your anus,” Avasarala snapped. Even with blood on her clothes, glass in her skin and her ponytail an absolute mess, she was still good old Avasarala, crass and flinging insults around. Alex was giving her a look of complete shock, as if he had forgotten just what she was like. Amos just grinned. Shock averted for now.

 

“Alright, let’s finish this.” He went to turn around so he could hang outside the car for a good shot, when Avasarala grabbed his arm. He could feel the faint sting of the glass in her palm digging in his skin. She was not going to like getting those out with a pair of tweezers. With Cotyar in need of more serious medical attention, he had a feeling he was going to be nominated for the job. Good thing he liked hearing her curse.

 

“Don’t kill her.” Oh for fuck’s sake. She was stopping him from killing another Mao. She had done it the first time, because she wanted Jules-Pierre to suffer for a long time and there was a sadistic sort of pleasure in knowing that he was alive and behind bars, unable to do anything while Avasarala dismantled his empire. This girl just wanted to kill her, as far as Amos knew. There was no way for Avasarala to get any sort of fun out of dragging that girl in front of a judge. If she died, the problem was over.

 

“You got a real hard on for keeping the Mao’s alive, don’t you?” he asked. He could see Alex’s expression, but he decided to wisely keep himself out of the discussion and focused on driving instead.

 

“She’s a child being manipulated by her father. If I say she lives, she fucking lives.” There was no arguing with that tone. He almost felt as if he should be saluting her. The lady was in charge.

 

“Whatever you say. Chrissie.” He added her newly made up nickname just to annoy her a bit more. She looked good when she was angry, better than when she was scared for her life anyway. He grabbed the seat for some hold and leaned low outside the car, hoping that nothing else would fall off without warning. With a few well-aimed shots, he took out the front tires. The car swerved and with a satisfying crash came to a stop against a tree. There, they were still alive. He pulled himself back in the car and sat down. That was easier than he had thought.

 

“Happy?”

 

“Ecstatic.”

 

“Let’s ditch this ride and get you somewhere safe.” Alex drove them away from the crash site to the edge of the industrial area, away from prying eyes. The car came to a stop with a groan. It was probably officially dead. At least it had died doing something good. Amos jumped from the car as the van pulled up. Alex immediately rushed to it, assessing the damage. Chrissie, he was calling her that from now on, and Cotyar were a little slower to get out.

 

Chrissie pushed her door open and slid out. She looked unstable. Amos immediately reached out and steadied her. The woman was a hardass, but this had been just a little bit more than she could handle. She didn’t even snark at him when he helped her, just held on to his arm as she took a few deep breaths. She hadn’t looked like this on Mao’s yacht, there she had been able to at least convincingly fake being totally in control. That mask was smashed to pieces right now. There was just raw emotion on her face.

 

“Cotyar,” she breathed and pushed him away to go to her boyfriend. He did not look good, but Amos could see the relief in his eyes when Chrissie reached him. He dumped the bag of weapons he was holding on the ground. Cupping her cheek, he pulled her in for a kiss. Amos knew that propriety rules said he ought to look away, like Holden and Naomi were awkwardly doing. He didn’t care. It was nice to see them like this, the strong, stoic bodyguard and the small, foul-mouthed politician. It was straight out of some shitty movie. “I told you the plan sucked.”

 

“It worked perfectly, didn’t it?” Cotyar countered, pain creeping into the small smile he gave her. He bent down to pick up the bag again, but Amos got there before him. The man needed to focus on his wound and on Chrissie.

 

“I beg to differ,” Chrissie said, giving his arm a dirty look, but she still slid an arm around his waist, giving him support that he didn’t need, but judging from the softness in his eyes, he definitely wanted. They made their way to the van, Alex already back in the driver’s seat where he belonged, Holden beside him. Naomi had taken up a seat in the back, their emergency kit on her lap. That left two seats for three people. “Exactly how will we fit in there?”

 

Which was how Amos ended up with an annoyed former ambassador in his lap. With Holden and Alex up front, and Naomi trying to take care of Cotyar’s gunshot wound, it was the only option. It also gave him the opportunity to look at her injuries. The smear of blood on her cheek was Cotyar’s, put there when he had kissed her. The blood on her shirt was also Cotyar. The pieces of glass in her arm were only superficial, easy enough to get out.

 

She hissed when he took a hold of her hand, inspecting how much damage she had done there. The glass there was dug in a lot deeper, but she didn’t seem to care. She just kept her eyes on Cotyar, listening to Naomi explain that she would stitch him up when they were home, how he was lucky that the bullet seemed to have missed bone and the brachial artery. It had just torn up some muscle. He would definitely need to visit a hospital once this shit had blown over.

 

Their little car chase had taken them through their own neighborhood and Alex was forced to take some back roads to avoid the cops that were suddenly everywhere. The bullet holes in their van would be enough to arouse suspicion. The last thing they needed was to be pulled over with a bleeding man and a wounded former ambassador in the backseat. And of course, they were all wanted criminals. Avasarala’s immunity deal only covered their crimes up until that moment, not everything they had done in the eight years since.

 

The sun was starting to set when they pulled into the garage of the place that had been their home for the past years, an old brewery converted into a living space with enough room for the six of them, the team and Prax and Mei. The latter of which was waiting for them when they got out of the van, worry etched in his frown. He never did like it when they came back with bullet holes and left blood all over the stairs that led to their living quarters.

 

“Prax, you wanna help out here?” Naomi asked as she helped Cotyar up the stairs to the kitchen. Amos wondered if normal people would consider it problematic how often she stitched people in the same place they prepared and ate their food. Prax had only complained once and after that he just resorted to mumbling under his breath about making sure all the blood was gone before they did any cooking.

 

“For the last time, I’m not that kind of doctor,” Prax shouted after her. Amos smiled and wrapped his arms around him, the smell of dirt and plants filling his nose. He’d spent the day in his greenhouse again. Amos loved that smell. It smelled like home. A mission never felt truly over until he was with Prax again.

 

“But you have hands. Jim and Alex aren’t delicate enough. I need you.” Damn Naomi, always interrupting at the worst moments, but Cotyar did need help. He gave Prax a quick kiss and released him. He didn’t look pleased that he was going to have to help sew up another wound.

 

“Jesus, just because I can thread a needle,” Prax muttered and went upstairs as well. Amos locked the van and followed them. Upstairs things were chaotic, Holden was trying to grab everything Naomi was telling him to get. Cotyar and Chrissie seemed to have some quiet argument about who of the two of them needed medical attention more. Alex was keeping out of it and Prax just looked miserable, not being one for too much noise.

 

His eyes drifted towards the picture of the boat hanging on the far side of the room, Holden’s boat. Their boat, the one they were going to see the world with, once they were done. Every once in a while they would go down to the docks, fix her up piece by piece. The Rocinante. It had become synonymous with their group, using it as names for fake companies as covers to take down corporate assholes. Their motivation to keep doing this, until Holden stopped saying ‘just one more mission’.

 

“You all caused a lot of ruckus in this town,” a familiar voice said behind it, a voice Amos hadn’t heard in years. He grinned, thoughts of the Rocinante forgotten. The party was complete now.

Chapter Text

Fucking Martens. She knew she shouldn’t have trusted his holier than thou attitude, the way he had supported her when she had first been placed in the agency, helping her adjust to no longer being in the Marine Corps, teaching her all the tricks she needed to go from a fighter to a thinker, giving her the tools to transition into this new job successfully. He had been nice, but nice in a way that made her wonder when the other shoe was going to drop.

 

Well, the other shoe had dropped. She didn’t even care if Mao had bought him months ago or if he had been playing the long game. He had sold out two people who had never done him any harm, betrayed his country working for a man like that and had betrayed all of his colleagues. He was lucky she had only broken his nose, even though she probably shouldn’t have done that. Her anger had just gotten the better of her.

 

It had been sheer dumb luck that she had overheard his hushed conversation, ratting out Chrisjen’s location. Bobbie thought she had been so careful. She hadn’t thought that anyone was on to her. But she had underestimated how clear it was that she still cared about Chrisjen and Cotyar. The asshole had tracked her phone, had seen where she had been, from their house to the safe house and he had been passing all that on to his contact in Mao’s organization.

 

With her boot on his throat she had called Cotyar and then Alex, a hail Mary, hoping that his crew would be willing to help her after all these years. She had hoped that dropping Mao’s name would do the trick. They liked taking down corporate assholes, and Mao, even in jail was still the biggest corporate asshole of them all. And they had a history, so it might work out.

 

Of course, dragging Martens’ ass through the office and dropping him in front of Yao’s feet also meant that her boss would know that she had been covering up working with Chrisjen and Cotyar, lying to her about their whereabouts. She had never seen Yao look so disappointed. Bobbie hated that she broken the woman’s trust, but the whole Martens situation proved to her that it was the smartest decision to not tell anyone.

 

As Martens was being dragged off to an interrogation room with Souther’s men on their way to assist in the interrogation, Yao had suspended her, pending investigation. That had been expected. Bobbie was happy she wasn’t fired, yet, but she doubted it would take long. As soon as Martens folded, they’d focus on everything she had done.

 

“Draper!” She sighed and turned around. She just wanted to get out of here and find Cotyar and Chrisjen. She needed to know if the Rocinante group had found them, had been able to rescue them. She needed to know if everybody was still alive and in one piece. Talking to some junior agent really wasn’t a priority right now.

 

“What Sinepoli? Kinda on my way out of here.” She had handed in her company phone and her credentials. The sooner she got out of this building, the better. She was going to miss this place, but it would be easier to deal with getting fired if she had already cut ties with it, easier to think about what she was going to do next, if she weren’t charged with anything. Maybe Chrisjen needed an extra bodyguard.

 

“I get it, why you didn’t tell anyone. Listen, I want to help.” She frowned. She hadn’t expected that. She thought he was going to give her some ‘sorry to see you go’ speech. He had a soft side to him, and he was loyal to the bone. Why would he offer to help, to go against his superior officer to help a suspended colleague? That didn’t make sense.

 

“Why?”

 

“It’s the right thing to do,” Sinepoli replied, his voice unwavering. He was serious. He wanted to help her? Help protect two people who weren’t even from the same country, people he had never met. People who up until seven years ago had been the enemy. She looked over her shoulder, but the lobby was thankfully empty.

 

“You could lose your job, you know that, right? I’m only suspended for now, but it wouldn’t surprise me if I was out on my ass by the end of the week. You want to risk that for people you don’t know?” They weren’t friends. Not really. They had gone out for drinks a few times as colleagues, but that was it. She didn’t even know where he lived.

 

“I know you. That’s good enough for me.” She raised her eyebrows. That was quite a statement. But it was exactly the kind of thing she would have said years ago. She would still say it now, given the right people. Sinepoli was sincere, she could tell. And she needed an ally. If Chrisjen and Cotyar survived Clarissa coming at them today, she needed someone to keep her up to date on the case. She shoved the thought of either of them dying away and nodded.

 

“Fine, you have my private number. Call me if anything changes or if Martens gives anything up.” If Martens broke, if he knew where Clarissa and her Protogen men were, this could all be over very soon. She wanted to be the one to tell Chrisjen and Cotyar it was over.

 

“Will do.”

 

---

 

Cotyar hadn’t turned off his phone yet and it wasn’t hard to track him to what she assumed was the base of operations of the Roci crew. It led her to an old brewery on the canal. She spotted the security camera pointed at the garage door. She gave it a wave in case anyone was looking before she pulled open the large door. Not locked then. Interesting choice, considering they were harboring some people on the run from Mao. Unless something more urgent had happened that would make them forget. Locking the door for them, she went up the stairs, two steps at a time, not missing the drops of blood, nor had she missed the bullet holes in the van.

 

The door to the living area was ajar. She could pick out both Chrisjen’s and Cotyar’s voice from the noise that greeted her. She breathed a sigh of relief. They were still alive and talking. The images she had conjured for herself with one or both of them being dead or bleeding somewhere on the side of the street disappeared. They were alive.

 

“You all caused a lot of ruckus in town,” Bobbie said, announcing herself to everybody and it really was everybody, all four of the Roci crew, the quiet botanist and Cotyar and Chrisjen, sitting at the kitchen table, arguing about something. Suddenly it was like nobody else was there, the relief of the confirmation that they were alive, was nothing compared to what she felt when she saw them. They both looked at her at the same time. She pushed past Amos, unable to do anything but give into the impulse to touch them, to hold them.

 

In a few short strides she had closed the distance. Chrisjen looked up at her with a mix of gratitude and admiration, as if she had just saved the day, when all she had done was make a phone call. Judging from the state they were both in, Cotyar and Chrisjen had done a hell of a lot more. Without thinking about it, she leaned down and kissed her. Even with blood on her face and clothes, with her hair a mess, she was still one of the most infuriatingly beautiful people she knew and she was damn happy she was alive.

 

Chrisjen responded easily to the kiss, curling one hand in the shirt Bobbie was wearing to pull her closer, their lips sliding against one another. She resisted the urge to grab Chrisjen by her ridiculous ‘Fashion stole my smile’ shirt and pull into a bedroom with Cotyar. She was pretty sure she was feeling a little adrenaline rush about finding them both alive and mostly well.

 

Bobbie didn’t realize the rest of the room had fallen silent until she pulled back. Chrisjen just raised a bemused eyebrow at her. She had never given a flying fuck what people thought about her. Everybody was looking at them, wondering what the hell was going on. In for a penny, in for a pound, she figured, turning towards Cotyar. He was pale and sweaty, but he still had that same smug expression. Cupping his jaw, she kissed him as well, his lips dry and warm as he kissed her back.

 

“Good to see you, Marine,” he said after he broke the kiss and slumped back in the chair, wincing as he pulled his arm into his lap. The bullet wound in his arm didn’t look too good, but she assumed it wasn’t life-threatening or Chrisjen would be yelling at people to do something already. He had gotten himself shot again trying to protect Chrisjen’s life. One of these days he was going to have to stop that or it wasn’t going to end well.

 

“You too, Spy.” A familiar warmth settled in her belly, the same warmth she had felt when Chrisjen had looked at her like she was the only person in the world for the first time. No matter what happened, she would always love these two. They were worth potentially losing her job over.

 

“If you two are done, Naomi needs to stitch him back together,” Chrisjen remarked, gesturing at his arm. Around them, she could hear people moving again, gathering up the stuff they needed to take care of Cotyar. No one of the Roci crew seemed to be injured. That was a minor relief. She’d have to deal with the wrath of Naomi or Jim if that had turned out any differently.

 

“Not before someone takes that glass out of your arm.” Bobbie did a double take. She hadn’t even noticed that Chrisjen was injured as well. She had assumed the blood was all Cotyar’s, but now that she looked closer, she saw the scrapes on her arm, the glass in her hand. What the hell had happened to them when they left the apartment? Whatever it was, it hadn’t stifled their ability to bicker about the absolute worst things.

 

“And you say that I’m difficult,” Chrisjen shot back. Bobbie snorted. They were both difficult, incredibly difficult and stubborn.

 

“For God’s sake. Amos, you take care of Avasarala. Prax, help me stitch Cotyar up,” Naomi ordered, already fed up with her house guests. She hadn’t changed much. Bit more ink than before, but the same recognizable faux-hawk, the same no nonsense attitude. She started laying out towels and all the equipment to sterilize and close the wound. Bobbie had a feeling she didn’t want to know exactly why they had all this stuff on hand.

 

She grabbed a free chair and dragged it so she was close to Cotyar and Chrisjen. It was interesting to see how Amos, with his broad shoulders and bulging biceps, pulled on a pair of latex gloves, took up a pair of tweezers and very carefully began removing the pieces of glass from Chrisjen’s arm, wiping the scrapes and cuts clean with a sterilized wipe. Cotyar’s arm was in worse shape, the through and through looked painful, but probably not as bad as stitching it up without anesthetics.

 

“I leave you two alone for one day and you end up wounded and start throwing grenades,” she remarked, trying to get their attention away from what was happening. She could see the discomfort in Chrisjen’s face. Cotyar’s complete lack of any expression was more telling than he thought. She couldn’t take the pain away, but she could try to distract them.

 

“Wait, that explosion was you?” Alex asked. So the Roci crew hadn’t been there when that had happened. The two of them must gone through some shit. No wonder Chrisjen looked like that. She had heard about a car being blown up on the radio and with the way she could track Cotyar’s movements, she had put two and two together and assumed he had used the grenade he had brought with him. Cars didn’t just blow up because you shot at them. Cotyar simply tilted his head in confirmation. Bobbie had to admit, she was mildly impressed he had managed to do that.

 

“You knew he brought a grenade with him?” Oh shit. Chrisjen had that tone that meant she had to be very careful about what she said next, because the woman would verbally eviscerate her where she sat.

 

“Uuuhm, no?” she tried unconvincingly. She swore she heard Amos try to hide a laugh and Cotyar was smirking. Chrisjen just narrowed her eyes, clenching her hand into a fist when Amos dug a particularly nasty piece of glass. Bobbie squirmed in her seat. That look never failed to make her uncomfortable.

 

“It’s a good thing you have a lot of different talents, because lying isn’t your strength. God fucking dammit!” She turned towards Amos who had to dig in a little deeper to get a teeny piece of glass out. He didn’t react to her outburst, simply pressing a piece of gauze to the bleeding cut and dumping the bit of glass in a bowl with the rest. It was macabre sight, blood-stained pieces of glass in a brightly colored cereal bowl.

 

Cotyar wasn’t fairing much better, but at least he didn’t curse. He was gritting his teeth, trying and failing to suppress groans of pain as Naomi slowly stitched him up with Prax’s help. It wasn’t going to leave pretty scars. He ought to be in the hospital, being checked out for nerve damage where he could be sewn up while anesthetized, instead of this amateur work in a kitchen. She reached out and grabbed his free hand and did the same for Chrisjen.

 

“What happened after I called?” she asked Cotyar. She didn’t like not knowing what had happened to them. Grenades, gunshot wounds, glass. It looked like they had a hell of a time after leaving the safe house and they were lucky to be alive. She wished she could have been there herself to help them. If she ever got her hands on Martens again she was going to break more than his nose. Perhaps his fingers, one by one.

 

“Imagine everything that can happen during a car chase with guns in ‘95 Renault Espace. And now imagine it with her driving.” Bobbie didn’t know whether she should laugh or be pissed off, but she could without a doubt picture that car chase and it was chaotic and disastrous. It explained so much about their appearances. It also left her with even more questions, one which was the most pressing.

 

“You let her drive?”

 

“He made me drive,” Chrisjen corrected, taking her hand out of Bobbie’s grip, pulling her hair free from her ponytail and trying to smooth it back into some semblance of a normal hairstyle. She was just trying to distract herself from the discomfort of Amos’ work, but Bobbie was damned if she wasn’t a little mesmerized by the action. She tried to shake herself out of it. The whole group had already seen her kiss both Cotyar and Chrisjen, she didn’t need to add blatant gawking to the list. Chrisjen hadn’t noticed, or pretended not to as she took Bobbie’s hand again.

 

“And you’re both still alive? Well done.” Honestly it was well done. She wouldn’t have bet on Chrisjen to be able to do that. She couldn’t believe that Cotyar had trusted her with that. She supposed that somewhere it made sense if they had a crappy and slow car, Cotyar having his hands free to shoot was smart, but still, trusting an old woman who had held a deskjob her entire life to deal with a car chase and not kill them both was a risky move.

 

“We probably wouldn’t be if it weren’t for these people.” Chrisjen looked at the four of the Rocinante crew. They had been uncharastically quiet during the whole exchange, listening to what the two of them had to tell, taking care of their wounds. Cotyar looked at her as if she were going to launch into some thank you speech. She was good at those, speeches that made people feel important. But she didn’t, she just squeezed Bobbie’s hand.

 

“It’s what we do,” Jim replied with an uneasy shrug. He suffered from a white knight condition. Driven to do the right thing, even if it wasn’t always the smart thing, but unable to deal with praise and gratitude. It was good that he was the leader of this group. He had the right set of morals, the right mindset to make sure that what his group did, was always done for good reasons.

 

“You pull elaborate heists to make sure corrupt businessmen and politicians get their comeuppance. This isn’t what you normally do. So thank you. You’ve saved our lives again,” Chrisjen calmly said, fixing Jim with a pointed look that conveyed she wasn’t going to tolerate any protests or attempts to diminish what his crew had done today. She wasn’t in a mood to discuss it either.

 

“You’re welcome.” Leave it to Chrisjen to force people into accepting her gratitude. Bobbie looked at Alex who just shook his head with a smile. Last time Jim and Chrisjen had been in the same room, she had manipulated him into getting her exactly what she wanted and he hadn’t liked it. This time she wasn’t out to stop an all out war. She just wanted Cotyar and herself to stay alive, and she still had to pull out that politician’s persona to get him to accept her thanks.

 

Cotyar didn’t add anything, perfectly okay to let Chrisjen do the talking for the both of them, but Bobbie suspected he was just as grateful. He kept glancing at Chrisjen as if to check that she was still there. The bullet through his arm was a small price to pay to keep her alive. But Bobbie had a feeling Chrisjen was going to confront him about that later, about taking a second bullet for her in less than a week. Those two would sacrifice their lives to save the other. She just hoped it wouldn’t come to that.

 

“And Clarissa Mao?” Bobbie asked as Naomi moved on to the exit wound on Cotyar’s arm, which was predictably more of a mess than the entry wound.

 

“Chrissie wouldn’t let me kill her,” Amos commented almost petulantly, putting a bandaid on one of Chrisjen’s deeper cuts. He still had to do her hand and that looked like a right mess. The glass there looked like it was pushed in. Bobbie couldn’t believe her ears though. Chrissie? Had Amos Burton just dared to call Chrisjen ‘Chrissie’? The man didn’t feel fear, but this was downright suicidal. She suspected Chrisjen had made people disappear for far less.

 

“Chrissie?” she asked incredulously. Chrisjen sighed and rolled her eyes.

 

“He has fucking tweezers in my hand. Don’t ask.” Amos actually clicked the tweezers at her with a grin before continuing his work. Bobbie was left speechless. Eight years ago it had been clear that Chrisjen had liked Amos best in the Roci crew, since he had been the only one who treated her like a person instead of an ambassador with a scandal hanging over her head. That didn’t make it less surprising that she was giving him this kind of leeway. She looked to Cotyar for any clues about what the hell just happened, but he was just amused, even through the pain. Sometimes she felt like these people were a total mystery to her. Fine, she wouldn’t ask then.

 

“She’s alive then?” And Chrisjen had asked that she wasn’t killed. How Bobbie wished she didn’t understand why she had done that, but she did. Even though the girl had been responsible for a mass shooting, was actively trying to murder Chrisjen, not caring who got in a the way, she was still a young woman who had been manipulated by her father from a tender age and brainwashed into believing that he had been the hero of the story and that Chrisjen had ruined him for her own gain. It didn’t make Clarissa innocent, but it made her deserving of at least being brought in alive.

 

“Her car crashed, but I checked, she’s alive and kicking. She did not look happy that you got away,” Jim chimed in. The girl was alive and even angrier than before. She was going to try again. She hoped that Martens would give her up and put an end to all of this. Sinepoli hadn’t called, so it hadn’t happened yet. The lying piece of shit had to crack, with Souther’s best interrogating him, he just had to.

 

“So it’s not over.”

 

“I suspect it isn’t,” Cotyar stated with a groan. Naomi shot him an apologetic look, but he didn’t see it. Chrisjen looked as if she wished she could take his pain away, but she was dealing with her own. Bobbie felt useless, she didn’t care that alternatively her hands were squeezed to the point of pain. It sucked. On Mao’s yacht, she had been able to shoot, fight, do something. Now she could just sit and wait for something to happen. With her suspension, she couldn’t even get information. She was fully dependent on Sinepoli.

 

A loud banging downstairs made her jump and look at Jim. She felt Chrisjen and Cotyar tense up, the fear in the room palpable. Amos dropped the tweezers and pulled a gun from his waistband. Bobbie really regretted not bringing a gun as well. Jim immediately turned on the large screen on the other side of the room where the sitting area was, pulling up a live feed from the security camera Bobbie had spotted outside. Instead of a small woman with Asian features, it showed a man in his late forties, wearing a ridiculous hat.

 

“Shit, it’s Miller. I’ll get rid of him.”

Chapter Text

He adjusted his hat as he looked up at the security camera.  Paranoid people. He had half a mind to flip the thing off. He knew they were watching. They rarely locked their door which only confirmed his suspicion that they definitely had something to do with the car chase that had happened, crossing through multiple neighborhoods, including this one. Aside from a few crashed cars and a handful of people in the hospital, the damage wasn’t that bad, but that didn’t mean he had to be happy about it.

 

“Miller,” Holden said as he appeared in the doorway of the garage. He had the kind of posture that told Joe he didn’t want him to come in. He just tilted his head and pushed past him. Holden wasn’t in any position to stop him, not today. He immediately spotted the bullet holes in the van. They were definitely involved then.

 

“Do you want to tell me why bullets were flying through my streets today?” He traced one of the bullet holes with his finger, before looking at Holden. The man looked nervous, as if he were trying to hide something. He let his gaze wander to the closed door at the top of the stairs. He heard the faint murmur of voices, nothing unusual there. The blood on the floor was unusual. Someone had gotten hurt.

 

“Sorry Miller. Forgot to give you a call. It’s been a crazy day.”

 

“I’ll bet, but crazy day or not, you cannot pull this shit and not let me know. Fred Johnson is up my ass about it. Try it again and you, your buddies and the little botanist can find another hide-out in a different city.” Fred Johnson had been livid on the phone, yelling about those damn Robin Hood types messing up his neighborhood when he was trying his best to clean it up. He had helped Holden and his people secure this old brewery as a home and base of operations, close to the greenhouse where Meng did his work, far enough away from the city centre that they wouldn’t get caught too easily. The police rarely entered this part of town anyway. It was run by Fred.

 

But Fred’s patience with Holden was running out. There were times they worked together well enough, but the way they kept trying to save the world was jeopardizing Fred’s carefully thought out plan to put this slum on the map as a place where everybody was welcome and could get their lives together. It was a nice initiative. A bit naive for Joe’s taste and he didn’t really care for Fred’s methods.

 

“Motherfucker, watch how you handle those tweezers.” A deep, raspy voice floated downstairs. It raised the hairs on the back of his neck. Holden froze. The outburst was followed by a different, softer, but still clearly heard “Keep your voice down, my daughter is upstairs.”

 

“I know that voice,” Joe said through gritted teeth. He would never be able to forget it, even if he tried. He had only met the woman once, at some important function to honor local cops years ago. It had been brief, but it wasn’t a voice one was prone to forget. Especially since his former captain had later named her as the one who had blown his unit apart.

 

He shoved Holden aside and ran up the stairs, slamming the door open. Chrisjen Avasarala. In his neighborhood. The bitch that had ruined his career. She sat at a kitchen table, cursing at Amos as he pulled a piece of glass from her hand. His blood boiled and he would have reached for his gun were it not that he would have to deal with seven witnesses if he shot the woman then and there.

 

“Why do you have that woman in your house? Why is she in my neighborhood?” he snapped. Avasarala just raised an eyebrow at him, the faint glint of recognition in her eyes. She remembered him. Good, that would make this much easier. He recognized the strange man from the leaked pictures of her affair, the bodyguard turned loverboy. He did not look like he was ready to play around, even as Naomi was stitching up his arm. The tall woman that sat between them looked vaguely familiar, but he couldn’t place her, but she appeared to be ready to tackle him at a moments notice. Holden’s people just looked like he had lost his mind.

 

“Surprise?” Holden tried and Joe entertained the notion to knock him on his ass, but he knew Amos would end up protecting his boss and that man had an uppercut he had no desire to feel again. First he doesn’t call about a shooting in his streets and then he hides that woman in his home. No doubt those bullets were meant for her as well. What in the world was Holden playing at? Because at this rate, Fred would chase him out of the neighborhood before the end of the week.

 

“I hate surprises. Especially if they come in an Avasarala shaped package. That’s 100 pounds of trouble stuffed into a 50 pound bag. She’s goddamn evil.” The fact that she didn’t even react to his insult only strengthened his believe that she was evil. He had an intense dislike for people in government positions to begin with.

 

“She threatened to staple my dick to my anus,” Amos said casually, not looking up from what he was doing. A complete silence fell over the room, everybody stared at him, wondering what the hell Amos thought that was going to add to the conversation. When he realized that the rest of the room didn’t think his words were helping the cause, Amos seemed genuinely surprised. “She didn’t do it. She’s not that evil. Chrissie is playing nice.”

 

Joe threw his hands up. There were times he wondered if these people weren’t certified insane. Nothing else explained why they were this weird. The situation was only made worse by having a foreigner, loverboy and a former ambassador in their home, who had apparently already received a nickname from Amos. Avasarala didn’t care about what Amos had said and patted his thigh. “I am nice. Your dick and your anus are quite safe.”

 

Insane, definitely insane. “I want you out of here within the hour.”

 

“Do that and you’ll have her blood on your hands,” the tall woman threatened. Suddenly it clicked where he knew her from. If he took a few years off her, she was definitely the woman who had shown up in a few of those leaked pictures, caught in bed fucking the enemy. That certainly explained why she was appeared so cosy with Avasarala and loverboy.

 

“You’re making it more attractive,” he sneered. Immediately the tall foreigner shot up, her hands clenched into fists. Loverboy held out an arm to stop her, but there was murder in his eyes as well. Joe didn’t miss the way even Amos had stopped cleaning Avasarala’s cuts, his hand resting to next to his gun. He raised an eyebrow. A group of do gooder criminals standing up for a snake of a politician. Had he ended up in the upside down?

 

“Everybody relax.” Holden stepped between Joe and the rest of the group, arms outstretched, playing a peacekeeper once again. Joe held up his hands and took a step back. He wasn’t stupid enough to get into a fight when he was completely outnumbered. With just Amos, it already wasn’t a fair fight, throw in the foreigner and loverboy, who despite the fact that he was injured, looked like he knew how to throw a punch, and he’d be on his back in less than a minute.

 

“Which one of y’all wants to tell me what the hell is going on?” Alex’s twang cut the tension somewhat. Holden and his people didn’t know the story of how he had lost his job. They knew he had been a cop before working for Fred Johnson. He had never given them anything more. As far as they knew, he was an enforcer, nothing more.

 

“Detective Miller blames me for going from working for the police force to being a mere enforcer for a local gang. I’m surprised you figured out I was behind it,” Avasarala explained, wincing as Amos pulled another piece of glass from her hand. It gave him a cruel sort of pleasure to see her in pain,but it didn’t dampen his anger any. He had had ten years to let his anger fester, it wasn’t going to go away very easily.

 

“Blame you? You set the whole thing in motion. It was absolutely your fault.” He hadn’t been the one to figure out it was her. Shaddid had been the one with the connections in the government. Some bigwig politician had slipped her the knowledge that Avasarala had had enough of their games. Shaddid had practically broadcast that little tidbit to the entire unit, to everybody who had lost their job because of Avasarala.

 

“Oh please, you and your colleagues were turning a blind eye to your boss running an illegal prostitution ring, taking bribes and breaking the law. If captain Shaddid and some of your colleagues  hadn’t become greedy, trying to blackmail the politicians and diplomats with their pillow talk, I wouldn’t have minded it so much. Those idiots were always easier to deal with after some pretty women fawned over them.”

 

Joe narrowed his eyes. He had only ever taken a few bribes, made sure the girls got home safe. He hadn’t blackmailed anyone, hadn’t even known they had been doing that. But he had a feeling he knew who, Shaddid, Dawes, they were opportunists, always wanting more than they already had. She had taken down his whole squad because of a few rotten apples?

 

“Some of those detectives were honest men. We took care of those girls.” He still remembered Havelock’s face when the order had come down, so young and already his career was over. He had just played along, doing what everybody was doing. He had barely questioned if what they did was wrong. It was just normal. The number of cops who weren’t a bit corrupt didn’t even come close to those who were.

 

“Spare me the sob story. Your squad became sloppy and greedy. I wasn’t going to risk international relations, because a few local cops wanted to make an extra buck. You broke the law, you got caught. Grow a pair and own up to your mistakes. I did what I did for my country and unlike you, I don’t leave  a mess. The girls that were voluntary sex workers were placed in a legal escort service. The others were helped to get their lives back on track. I made sure they were taken care of.”

 

Avasarala had a captive audience. She had a way of speaking that made people listen. Holden and his crew were hanging on to every word, soaking up knowledge about him that he had kept buried for years. Somewhere he had known about the few girls that had been coerced and he hadn’t done anything to stop it, content enough with the extra money he made to not ask too many questions.

 

She had hit him exactly in his weak spot, ripped open a scar he had tried to ignore. All those years he had managed to fool himself into believing they hadn’t harmed anyone. Somehow she had managed to find the one thing he hadn’t wanted to think about and exploited it in a few sentences, pointing out that she had actually done right by those girls, even when she hadn’t known them. If only she had taken the same care when getting rid of the cops who were the actual problem. He still held that against her.

 

“I thought you were an ambassador,” the botanist Meng remarked, breaking the heavy silence in the room. Avasarala’s eyes briefly flicked towards the blood on his gloves, before she gave him a smile that bordered on condescending. Joe scoffed. Ambassador. When he had met her she was working for the government, introduced as working for the president and that was it, a public servant of the highest order, with more power than the average politician.

 

She had been all fake smiles then, perfectly put together in one of her signature brightly colored suits and statement piece of jewelry. So unlike now, bloody, bruised, a mess, but still with her head held high, like she was holding court, queen of the damn universe. She even had Amos carefully bandaging her hand. He couldn’t stand types like her. He prefered Fred’s methods. They were a little more bloody at times, but at least they were honest, predictable, on the surface.

 

“Ambassador is just a title they slapped on me because they needed me at the negotiations to prevent the Cold War from turning into an actual war. The position happened to be free. My actual job was to know everything about everybody. If I wanted something to happen, someone made it happen.” What a great way to say she had held a lot of power without being accountable to anyone.

 

“That’s...vague.” Meng seemed even more confused than before. Joe couldn’t blame him. The higher one got into the government, the more muddled it became. The transparency it claimed to have was a joke. It was why he tried to keep away from it. He didn’t care for the games that were played. He preferred it when it was straightforward.

 

“What a great lesson in the fucked up way this country is run. You’re still getting the hell out of my neighborhood.” Avasarala was the personification of everything that was wrong with the government in his opinion. He knew he was letting his personal history with the woman get in the way of thinking clearly. He was being unreasonable, but he had ten years of anger, be that misplaced or not, and it felt great to get it out.

 

“Miller, it’s Mao. He’s using Julie’s little sister to get revenge. Keeping Avasarala safe might be the only way to help Clarissa before it’s too late,” Holden interjected. If Avasarala had torn open an old scar, Holden had just suckerpunched him in a wound that had never healed. He felt his anger disappear and make way for the familiar ache he felt whenever he thought about Julie. Beautiful, enigmatic Julie.

 

He had loved her once, still did, even eight years after she had died. The girl who had walked away from a life of wealth and prosperity to do good in Fred Johnson’s slum, a way to translate her anger towards her father into something useful. She had caught wind of something happening at the Protogen lab, had gone to check it out and had never returned. Her body had shown up in Eros.

 

“You’re an asshole, Holden. A fucking asshole.” He threw his hat on the table and sank down in the only free chair, right across from Avasarala. He had never gotten over Julie, with her wide smile and stubborn side. They hadn’t been together long before she had disappeared, but she had talked about Clarissa, the baby sister she hoped one day would follow in her footsteps. That clearly hadn’t worked out.

 

“Is that why people are still trying to kill her even though she’s retired?” Meng asked quietly after a moment where nobody had said anything, still hung up on the revelation that Avasarala hadn’t just been an ambassador. The tall woman kept her eyes firmly on Joe, not trusting him for a second. He didn’t care. He wasn’t in a mood to argue or fight anymore. Hell, he wished he had never gone to check up on Holden after Fred had chewed his ass out.

 

“She also has a personality that rubs people the wrong way. There are probably a lot of people who would love to take a shot at her,” the loverboy said, looking at him as Naomi finished up the last stitch. Must be love if he were willing to take a bullet in the arm for Avasarala who was currently glaring at him, none too pleased with his remark.  

 

“Though you know this time, it does actually have something to do with her former job, not her cheery attitude,” the foreigner chimed in. The botanist just frowned disposed of the gloves now that he was done helping Naomi and disappeared upstairs, probably to see his daughter. The tension that Joe had brought into the room, was slowly slipping away. They weren’t pretending that he wasn’t there, they simply didn’t bother to let him affect the situation.

 

Joe inclined his head. Were the three of them still fucking? If that were true, life was definitely unfair. A woman like Avasarala having not one, but two younger, good looking lovers at her age. That was as good a reason as any to no longer believe in karma, even with Julie’s little sister trying her best to kill her.

 

“Fuck you both.” Avasarala delivered the curse casually, inspecting the bandage on her hand. This close he could see a few days old bruise on her chin, could see that the dried blood on her cheek wasn’t hers. Loverboy had a bandage on his other arm as well. Whatever they had been through, it had been going on for longer than today. He wondered if they were connected to the mass shooting that had occurred during the weekend. It was too big of a coincidence to have both a shooting and a car chase with bullets happen in the span of five days. If Clarissa was behind both, she was in deep trouble.   

 

“If you’re offering,” the tall woman returned with a downright dirty grin. Definitely fucking. How on earth had Avasarala managed to get a woman like her? He rubbed the side of his head. His brain had too much to deal with. Avasarala, the shooting, Julie, Clarissa, it was enough to give him a headache. Holden and his people had done the smart thing and kept themselves out of it, cleaning up everything blood-stained and medical. Alex was keeping himself busy with heating up leftovers, trying and failing to look as if he weren’t listening. Holden and Naomi were quietly talking amongst themselves while Amos just stood and stared at him, making sure he wouldn’t do anything rash.

 

Joe was tired, just tired all of a sudden. Tired of watching what passed for flirting with the three outsiders, tired of trying to deal with Holden’s group, tired of having Julie’s ghost coming back to haunt him at the most inopportune moments. He wasn’t looking forward to trying to explain all this to Fred either. The man would think he was insane.

 

“I think Detective Miller is right. We should leave.” Joe looked up when he heard Avasarala say his name. Ignoring the stab of pain he felt at his old title, he decided to focus on the positive. She wanted to leave. That would take one problem out of his hands, if the other two agreed that was. It didn’t look like they were going to.

 

“What? Why?” The tall woman asked, completely taken aback by Avasarala’s suggestion.

 

“Because there is no guarantee that Clarissa won’t find me again. These people were also involved in taking her father down. It would be an added bonus to kill them as well. There’s also a child here. I will not risk her life. If she manages to track me again, I’d rather have it not be to this place.” That was a shockingly reasonable explanation and here he had been wondering if she actually had a heart, but the small tremble in her voice when she mentioned the botanist’s daughter hadn’t escaped him. He remembered reading somewhere that she had a dead son. Everybody had their weaknesses, even a woman like her.

 

“Chrisjen.” Loverboy’s tone was placating, so was his gesture, placing a hand on her arm, but something told Joe he was already in agreement with her. The mention of the child, it would have convinced him as well. Avasarala didn’t bother to give him an answer, but turned towards him, conviction in her dark eyes.

 

“You work for Fred Johnson. You must know a place, an abandoned building or something where we could stay. You want me out of the neighborhood, give me a somewhere I can stay and I will do my best to help Clarissa Mao.” He chuckled ruefully. She had gone straight for the kill. His reaction to Julie’s name had given her all the information she needed to push exactly the right buttons. Even when she was retired she was still manipulating people to do what she wanted.

 

“I know your form of helping, lady.”

 

“You really don’t. Pull your head out of your fucking ass for a second and listen to me. She doesn’t know the truth about Julie, about what her father did to her. I think there’s a chance she can be helped, one way or another. I may be out of the game, but I’ve still got plenty of strings I can pull. I am the only one with the motivation and power to help her.” He was beginning to understand how she managed to wrap people around her finger. She could make a compelling case and there was something in her eyes that was downright hypnotic. Worst of all, he realized she was right. He could almost hear Julie in his ear, telling him to listen to her, to trust her, to save her little sister. Shit.

 

“I hear she died or ends up in prison for life...”

 

“You’ll hunt me down and put my head on a spike,” Avasarala filled in for him with a smirk. She knew she had won. Her lovers, cronies, whatever they were, visibly relaxed.   

 

“I still don’t like you,” he said pointing at her, before he grabbed his hat and got up, searching for his phone in his pocket. There was only one person he could call about Fred’s buildings without notifying the man himself. It wouldn’t take Avasarala out of his neighborhood exactly, but she’d be right at the edge, far enough away from Fred Johnson and Holden.

 

“How will I ever cope?” she shot back sardonically. In that moment he knew, that despite her quest to  get away from anything to do with power, corrupt or otherwise, Julie would have liked her. That was enough for him. It would have to be. Taking a deep breath, fortifying himself for what was going to be another unpleasant conversation, he called Fred’s number two.

 

“Drummer, it’s me.”

 

“No.” He blinked. That was quicker than she normally was to shoot him down. There was no love lost between the two of them. She didn’t like him, because he was a corrupt former cop and didn’t take things serious enough. He, well, he didn’t dislike her, but she was so serious all of the time, only letting her guard down for a few select people. He wasn’t one of them.

 

“Don’t be like that. Help me out and I’ll owe you one.”

 

“You already owe me plenty, you useless sack of shit.” She wasn’t wrong there. Another reason she didn’t like him, too many IOU’s to a lot of different people. She didn’t trust him enough to think that those were worth anything anymore. She didn’t trust him enough period and he didn’t think that would ever change.

 

“Woah, alright, so start cashing in already. Come on, Drummer. You won’t even have to see me.” There was a beat of silence and then a deep sigh.

 

“Fine. What do you need?” He was no Avasarala, but there were times he managed to get exactly what he wanted as well. There was one building that was perfect as a hide-out. He didn’t think Avasarala was going to like it, but it was the best he could do on short notice. And it was sort of fitting, bringing the whole Mao disaster full-circle.

 

“The old Protogen lab, is that still empty?”

Chapter Text

Cotyar sized up the building as they approached the back entrance. Per Miller’s agreement, Alex had dropped them off at the end of the street and left. Apparently this Drummer did not like it when things didn’t go exactly according to plan. To the right of him Bobbie adjusted the bag of weapons on her shoulder and on the left, Chrisjen walked close to him, shivering against the cold night. Without a jacket, just wearing a t-shirt, he couldn’t blame her. Amos had stuffed a blanket in his weapon’s bag, along with some of Alex’ cold lasagna, but hopefully it was warmer inside.

 

“You Miller’s people?” a thin woman with a heavy accent that he couldn’t quite place asked, appearing from the shadows of the building. Protogen’s old laboratory. It had been scrubbed clean, all the equipment seized or destroyed after Mao had been arrested, but he couldn’t help associate that name, the place with death. It seemed ironic that they would seek asylum here of all places.   

 

“Yes,” Chrisjen answered. He could hear how cold she was in her voice and wrapped an arm around her shoulders, hoping to give her some warmth, but with the recent blood loss and his body trying to mend the throbbing wound in his arm, he didn’t think he had any to spare. He had his arm in a sling that for some reason Naomi had lying around. Even though the bullet had missed the bone, his muscles were torn to shreds and he wouldn’t be surprised at all if he had some nerve damage. The sooner this was over, the sooner he could get himself to a hospital.  

 

“You’re late. Follow me.” She was a happy person then. The heavy eye shadow didn’t help matters. She led them through to a door, the protogen insignia faded, but not gone. Into the lion’s den, he thought. Despite what he knew, it still surprised him when he only saw piles of boxes and not the equipment that had created the deadliest bioweapon known to man. They followed her obediently to the bottom of a staircase where she flipped on a light.

 

“Downstairs isn’t interesting for you, so don’t go there. We’ve used the upstairs to house people before. There’s places to sleep, water and electricity. No food, no luxuries,” she eyed Chrisjen when she said the last part. He wondered if she recognized her or if even in jeans and bloody shirt, Chrisjen still exuded an air of wealth. Both were viable options. “Any questions?”

 

“How many entrances?” Bobbie asked before he could. Drummer clenched her jaw, annoyance on her face. How much did she hate Miller that it pained her to answer a simple question, one she had opened the door to? Or perhaps she was always like that which was an even more depressing thought. She held up two fingers.

 

“Two entrances, two staircases.. There are also several emergency exits, but those only open from the inside.” If he had learned anything through the years, it was that all doors could be opened from both sides. They just had to hope that Clarissa wouldn’t come for them here. There was no way the pair of them could cover all entrances and exits.

 

“Alright, thank you.” He tried a smile. It didn’t work. Drummer just gave him a flat stare. If this was Fred Johnson’s second in command, he doubted he ever wanted to meet the man himself. Drummer was small, she looked like Bobbie could easily snap her in half, but she was intimidating. He was pretty sure she could give Chrisjen a run for her money when it came to their death stares.

 

“Hmm. Try not to get any blood on the carpets. It’s difficult to get out.” With that she turned around and left the building, slamming the door behind her. It was just the three of them again and no matter how grateful he was for Holden and his people and everything they had done, he was glad that they weren’t here. He needed some quiet to think, to focus on keeping Chrisjen safe while his good arm was useless.

 

“She seems nice,” Bobbie commented dryly as she walked up the stairs where it was considerably less cluttered. It was just an office space with an open floor plan. There were still a few empty desks and bookcases scattered around the place, but it was clear that it had been used as a sort of halfway house to God knows where. A battered old sofa, a clumsily installed microwave and hotplate where the lab’s coffee corner used to be, a couple of blankets stuffed in an empty bookcase.

 

“Camina Drummer could take over Fred Johnson’s entire operation if she wanted to. Everybody would follow her blindly,” Chrisjen commented, taking in the space with a feigned disinterest.

 

“Are there any people you don’t know?”

 

“I’m sure there are plenty. It’s probably better for them that I don’t.” It wasn’t a threat, but a statement. Cotyar was inclined to agree. Chrisjen had a knack for remembering everything about people who mattered and sometimes even when they didn’t matter. It wasn’t a photographic memory, more like she had trained herself to make it her priority to remember everything that could be useful to her, no matter how far down the line. Everybody had something they wanted to hide, Chrisjen had made it her job to know what.

 

In the corner of the office space lay some mattresses with threadbare blankets and no pillows. Drummer hadn’t been lying when she had said no luxuries. It was barely the bare necessities. At least it was a roof over their heads, it was warm and it was a place to sleep, away from Prax’s daughter.  

 

“This is fucking bleak,” Chrisjen said flatly. “Squatting in the building where it all began. I’d say the universe was trying to tell me something, if I believed in such things.”

 

“It won’t be for long.” That was what he hoped anyway. He wasn’t sure how much longer they could do this. Chrisjen still held on to her mask of being able to weather this storm, but the cracks had started to appear. He had seen her nearly go into shock, had felt the way her fingers had squeezed his sides so hard, she might have left bruises on him after the chase when he had kissed her. The fear, the stress, the running, it was getting to her and she couldn’t shake it off quite as easily as she hoped.

 

Even now, the set of her shoulders, the straightness of her back, everything told him she was doing her best to keep herself together, just for a little bit longer, just until this was over and then she would allow herself to fall apart. He had seen it after he had woken up in the hospital after Guanshiyin. Away from prying eyes she had held his hand and cried, her fear of losing him finally coming out. He had hoped then to never see it again, but her emotions were close to the surface and the only thing he could do was be there for her when she finally broke. She was only human after all.

 

Chrisjen turned her back on the ‘bedroom’ and walked over to one of the windows overlooking the river. She looked tired, small, uncharacteristically so. Bobbie noticed it as well, if the look she gave him was anything to go by. A soft buzzing rang throughout the otherwise quiet space. Bobbie pulled her phone out of her pocket and with curt smile, disappearing downstairs to answer it.

 

“I can’t stand this fucking silence,” Chrisjen muttered, fiddling with an old radio in the windowsill, turning it on so soft music filled the air. Cotyar decided not to say anything about it. He knew where her restlessness came from. He rubbed a hand over his beard and moved to stand behind her, placing a hand on her hip. He could see their faint reflections in the window. They both looked tired, weary, ready for it to be over.

 

“You’re going to help the Mao girl then.” It wasn’t a question. Chrisjen didn’t make empty promises, even to men like Miller. Though, knowing Chrisjen, she had already made that decision in the car when she had ordered Amos not to kill Clarissa. The girl’s age fell almost exactly between that of her daughter and her eldest grandkid. In Chrisjen’s eyes, she was a child and she would not stand for any harm to come to children.

 

“If I can. She’s only a pawn in Jules-Pierre’s game. He’s the one with the blood on his hands. I don’t want to add hers to it.” Powerful people playing a powerful game, except she had stripped Mao of his power and had quit the game and yet people had still died for no reason other than that Mao wanted her dead. If she could save one, it would make the guilt more bearable. It was the same line of thinking he had followed when he had signed on to be her security detail. Save her and lighten the burden of her son’s death.

 

“And what if it’s your life or hers?” She had been willing to risk her own life to save his on the Guanshiyin. He needed to know she wasn’t going to pull another stunt like that again.

 

“I’m counting on you and Bobbie to keep me safe.”

 

“And if we can’t?” Chrisjen didn’t reply, she just looked out the window, a tightness around her mouth that Cotyar didn’t like. He knew she could pull a trigger in the heat of the moment, but he didn’t know if she could knowingly shoot a girl she saw as a victim despite everything she had done. He tightened his hold on her hip when he realized she had the same doubts. That scared him more than any gun ever could. “Dammit, Chrisjen.”

 

“The doors downstairs are secure,” Bobbie said, unaware of the conversation she had just interrupted. He released Chrisjen, turning around so he could face Bobbie. “As secure as they can be anyway. But I’ve got good news. Martens, Mao’s spy, he broke. Souther is preparing a raid on Clarissa’s location as we speak. By tomorrow morning this could all be over.”

 

She was smiling, almost beaming. Cotyar didn’t believe things were over until they were, well, over, but this was good news, really good news. If they managed to arrest Clarissa, it would be alright. They could go home, he wouldn’t have to worry about Chrisjen dying. He could start working on getting rid of the nightmares where she died in his arms. It was cause to be hopeful. Beside him Chrisjen managed a smile as well, her posture becoming a bit more relaxed.

 

“Good news indeed,” she said, leaning back against the windowsill.

 

“I don’t have anything for a celebratory drink, but how about celebratory lasagne? I’ll heat it up for us.” Bobbie seemed genuinely happy, her steps light as she walked to where she had ditched the weapons bag to retrieve the food. Realizing how hungry he was, he made a mental note to thank Amos later for giving them food. He moved to follow her, but Chrisjen caught him by the back of his shirt.

 

“Stay. For a minute.” Her voice was soft, vulnerable even, but in her eyes he could see hope. She was trying to keep it hidden, afraid that it would turn out to be misplaced, but that didn’t stop Cotyar from seeing it. Placing his fingers under her chin, he tilted her head up until all he had to do was lean down to capture her lips in soft kiss. She wrapped her arms around his waist, getting as close to him as she could with his arm in the way.

 

He let his hand wander to her neck, fingers tracing her jaw as they went. They were both scared to have hope, scared that it would all turn out to be a lie and that tomorrow they would be forced to run again. But for now, in this moment, he allowed himself to think that it would be over soon. This was the last night they would have to spend away from their home.

 

With soft sigh, Chrisjen broke the kiss and leaned her head against his shoulder. Curling an arm around her, he held her close, swaying gently to the sound of a woman singing, crooning about love on the radio. From the kitchenette Bobbie watched them, a warm smile playing on her lips.

 

---

 

A soft buzzing pulled him from his sleep. He blinked against the early morning light and carefully extracted himself from the way Chrisjen had curled around him in her sleep. She looked peaceful, relaxed in her sleep, so did Bobbie who had her arms wrapped around her, her nose buried in Chrisjen’s hair. It was sweet to see them like this, still sleeping heavily, even if circumstances had forced the situation.

 

Somehow the three of them had managed to fit on a single mattress. He had fallen asleep to the gentle rhythm of Bobbie’s and Chrisjen’s breathing, her bandaged hand resting on his chest, Bobbie pressed against her back. He had actually slept well, knowing that Chrisjen was secure between them, just knowing that Bobbie was there.

 

His back cracked when he straightened up. First the bed at the safe house and now a bare mattress on the floor. He was getting himself a massage after this. His arm wasn’t fairing much better, now that the blood was pumping again. He tried moving it, but was met with a stabbing pain. Somewhere he half-regretted not taking Naomi up on her offer to find him some painkillers. He had done it to keep a clear head, now the pain was threatening that anyway.

 

The buzzing that had woken him up persisted. In the corner of the room, Bobbie’s phone was lighting up with messages. Good thing she had decided to charge it then. He crouched beside the damn thing, wondering who the hell would message her this early, when he saw that most of them were in all caps, ranging from DRAPER, CALL ME BACK NOW to SHE’S COMING . He scanned the messages quickly, his heart beating faster. Clarissa hadn’t been there when they had raided her suspected location, just one wounded lackey who had disclosed that Clarissa knew where Chrisjen was. And that she was coming.

 

Shit.

 

He went to get up to wake Bobbie and Chrisjen when he spotted movement from the corner of his eye. A split second later a shot rang out and the window above him shattered. He dove for the two women who had shock written on their faces, before the realization dawned upon them. Bobbie immediately dragged Chrisjen with her, flipping a desk to hide behind. Cotyar reached them a second after, the bag of weapons out of reach.

 

“Why is she here? How the fuck did she find us?” Chrisjen asked, her voice still rough from sleep. She and Bobbie both looked dazed and confused, but Bobbie managed to snap out of it when a few bullets burrowed their way into the wall opposite them. She reached behind her and pulled out two guns, tossing one at him. He knew she had grabbed a couple of weapons from the bag last night. He had no idea she had actually slept with them tucked in the waistband of her trousers.

 

“No idea, but Bobbie, your buddy Sinepoli knew she was coming. Backup is probably on its way.” At least he hoped. Not that it mattered much. They were pinned down and outgunned. They’d be dead long before the backup reached them. Blindly he fired a few a times over the edge of the desk, hating how unfamiliar it felt to shoot with his left. He knew he shouldn’t have neglected his left hand on the gun range in recent years.

 

“That doesn’t help us now,” Bobbie said, echoing his thoughts.

 

“It doesn’t. I think I spotted three, possibly four men, no Clarissa yet. You take right, I’ll go left. Chrisjen, stay low and don’t move.”

 

“Cotyar...” Chrisjen started, but he didn’t listen to what she was going to say. She was probably going to try to convince him to not risk his life. With the way the bullets were flying, he didn’t have time to hear her out and argue with her. He shot a few times over the desk, making sure that whoever was shooting at them would find their own safe place before he moved out of hiding. Bobbie ducked and ran for a bookcase.

 

Someone appeared in his line of sight, barrel of a gun pointed right at him. Without hesitating Cotyar pulled the trigger, one, two, three times. One of his bullets found its target, right above where the man’s heart was. He crumpled to the floor like a sack of potatoes. That was number one. He didn’t even feel any relief. He glanced back to check if Chrisjen hadn’t decided to do something stupid, but he could only see the desk. Must be one of those rare times when she had listened to him.

 

He pressed himself against the back of a bookcase. Steadying his breath, he prepared himself to take down the next guy. He had only planned to take a quick peek around the corner when he saw an arm holding a gun turning up out of nowhere. Cotyar reacted before he could think, ramming the butt of his gun down on the man’s wrist. He heard a yelp and the hand released the gun. Of course the other guy had been hiding on the other side of the bookcase, he thought, before rounding the corner.

 

The other man was holding his wrist, but still managed a mean kick before Cotyar was fully prepared to dodge it. A heavy boot landed, thankfully, just above his knee. It would leave a nasty bruise, but at least his kneecap wasn’t shattered. Stumbling backwards he raised his gun and fired. He missed. Goddamn wound in his right arm.

 

He wanted to fire again, but before he could the man made a grab for his gun. Cotyar managed to pull it away in time, but his face caught the punch his opponent had thrown. Bracing himself, he squeezed the trigger a few times, firing blindly. A bullet slammed into the man’s leg, giving Cotyar the reprieve he needed to take aim and put an end to it once and for all. He was going for one between the eyes, it ended up more in the man’s cheek, but it got the job done.

 

Sucking breath into his lungs, Cotyar looked up. He wasn’t hearing gunfire or screams, just the sound of fists and groans. Chrisjen was peeking around the edge of the desk. Stubborn woman. But if no one was shooting, she was safe for now. Bobbie, on the other hand, was fighting two men at once. Ignoring the pain in his leg, the throbbing of his face and the fact that he had probably torn a few stitches, he moved a little closer.

 

Bobbie rammed her elbow into one of the men’s faces and he went down, knocked out cold. Her other opponent would not go down so easily. He was tall and strong, but moved with an agility that did not fit with a man his size, dodging most of Bobbie’s punches and kicks and landing a few of his own. How had they ended up in a fistfight to begin with?

 

Cotyar raised his gun, but he was too afraid to fire. His aim was off and they were moving too fast. He could easily hit Bobbie instead. Shit. He wanted to advance on their position, but the big man evaded another of Bobbie’s punches and retaliated by driving the heel of his hand into her nose. In the few seconds she was dazed, he grabbed her and swung her against the wall as if she weighed nothing. She crashed into it with a dull thud and landed like a ragdoll. She didn’t get up. He heard a shout, but ignored it.

 

Immediately Cotyar fired at him, pushing the fear he felt for Bobbie away. He could worry later, he had to deal with the threat now. As he fired, he spotted Chrisjen ducking out from behind her hiding place, moving towards Bobbie. Goddamn, did she have no survival instincts at all? As the big man fell down, a hand closed around his wrist, a face he had memorized by now appearing to his left. Clarissa. She drove her forearm straight into his elbow.

 

He heard a sickening snap and a pain exploded in his arm, resonating through his entire body. A scream echoed through the room which he only vaguely registered as his own. Unable to stop himself, he fell to his knees, clutching his arm to his body. Through the haze he saw Chrisjen standing frozen on the other side of the room, utter terror written on her face. He had failed her, after everything that had happened, he had failed to keep her safe. Something hard hit him on the side of the head. Everything went black.

Chapter Text

She sat up so quickly, she almost thought she had imagined the loud noise that had woken her up. Glass shattered and before she could fully realize what was happening, Bobbie was dragging her off the mattress, towards a desk. Somehow she ended up sitting on her ass, against a flipped desk, Bobbie and Cotyar on either side of her with the sound of gunfire ringing through the office space.

 

Her brain was painfully slow to catch up to reality. She was in the old Protogen lab, as some sick cosmic joke. They were supposed to be safe here. Bobbie had said Souther was going to raid Clarissa’s hide-out. Then why was she currently being shot at with her heart going a million miles an hour? She knew she should have squashed that bit of hope that had flared up when Bobbie had given them the good news. “Why is she here? How the fuck did she find us?”

 

She ran a shaking hand over her face. That had been by far the worst wake up call she had ever received, from deep sleep in the arms of a strong, beautiful woman to being in the middle of gunfire for the third fucking time in the span of a week. Bobbie tossed a gun at Cotyar which was when Chrisjen realized neither of them had the bag with weapons. She was no tactician when it came to situations like these, but two guns against however many Clarissa and her men had brought, didn’t seem like a great position to be in.

 

Cotyar said something about the possibility of backup arriving at some point. She had a hard time focusing on his words when all she seemed to hear were gunshots. Backup sounded great, but they would never get here in time, not at this rate. There was only one way they all had a chance of surviving, but that would entail Bobbie and Cotyar going out there and risking their lives. The thought alone made her blood run cold.

 

Cotyar had had the same idea, already discussing how many men there were, which way the two of them were going to go. She knew what they were capable of, knew they were trained for situations like this, but she didn’t want them to go. She wasn’t sure if she could handle Cotyar taking another bullet for her or Bobbie getting wounded.

 

“Cotyar,” she started, turning towards him, but for once she couldn’t find the words. They needed to do this to survive, she was well aware, but her heart ached to stop them. It didn’t matter either way, he wasn’t listening to her. He was already gone, they both were, going into the fray, leaving her behind. She took a few deep breaths, forcing back the wave of fear she felt and moved onto her knees, vaguely recalling that Cotar had told her stay low.

 

Well, fuck that. She was useless in all of this, when a battle was fought with guns instead of words, but she’d be damned if she would sit here curled up, eyes closed, ears covered, waiting until it was over, hoping that the two people she loved would make it out alive. She didn’t have good memories of hiding behind a table with gunfire happening the first time around. She had no desire to add another.

 

She crawled to the end of the desk and peeked around it. The first thing she saw was a gun sliding over the floor, followed by Bobbie viciously kneeing a man in the balls. A quick look told her that neither Bobbie nor the two men were holding guns anymore. Fists were decidedly less deadly than bullets. She still had to stifle a gasp when she saw Bobbie take a punch to her face and continue on like it was nothing.

 

Bobbie’s fighting style was brutal and efficient. She didn’t make any movements she didn’t need to and she punched as if she were trying to break a wall with her bare hands. She might need to be able to, judging from the enormous man she was fighting. He was tall even in comparison to Bobbie and she feared for the woman, having to take down a man like that without a weapon. And then there was a second man as well. She debated about crawling to the gun, but she wasn’t that good of a shot on the range, moving targets were well above her abilities.

 

Fuck. Chrisjen hated being unable to help. One hit from either of those men and she would be knocked out. She wasn’t clamoring to get involved in a physical fight, quite the opposite. She just couldn’t stand feeling like this.

 

A shot rang out on the other side of the room and she saw Cotyar stumbling backwards, breathing heavily, two seemingly dead bodies on the floor. She had to resist the urge to run towards him. It wasn’t over yet and if she ended up distracting him, it could end in a disaster, just when the odds seemed to be tilting in their favor. She turned her head just in time to see Bobbie floor one of her opponents, blood dripping from his disfigured nose.

 

But the impossibly large man was still standing and he wasn’t giving up. He seemed to have an unstoppable energy, easily matching Bobbie’s skill, Chrisjen dug her nails into the carpet. She was trembling, fear and adrenaline pumping through her veins as she watched Bobbie fight. It couldn’t have taken long, but it felt like hours, frozen on hands and knees, terrified that one of those big hands would find its intended target.

 

“No!” she shouted when the man hit Bobbie in the face, her head snapping back. Chrisjen’s breathing stopped, any form of rational thought leaving her brain as she watched Bobbie being thrown against a wall with such violence, she was almost surprised the building didn’t shake to its foundations. She was scrambling, stumbling, running towards her, barely registering the sound of a gun being fired. Bobbie was bleeding, wasn’t moving and Chrisjen had to be with her, had to see if she were alive.

 

A bloodcurdling scream made her stop in dead in her tracks and she whirled around to see Cotyar falling to his knees, complete agony on his face, his arm bent at an odd angle. Clarissa Mao was standing over him. Just like that, it was over. Where she had held a shred of hope, they might make it out of this alive, now she felt nothing but panic. With a detached expression, Clarissa plucked the gun from Cotyar’s hand and hit him hard on the side of his head with. He fell to the floor and didn’t move.

 

Clarissa turned towards her, hate written across her face. Chrisjen tried to consider her options. Two people she loved were knocked out and she was trapped like a rat in a cage. She couldn’t save them, couldn’t save herself. Running for the stairs would get her shot and then nothing could guarantee that Clarissa wouldn’t execute Cotyar and Bobbie. It was a risk she couldn’t take. She even thought about going for the gun that was only a few steps away, but her thoughts must have been written on her face.

 

“Don’t.”Clarissa’s voice was clear, harsh and commanding. Her gun was pointed right at Chrisjen as she walked towards her. Chrisjen closed her eyes briefly and raised her hands, taking a few steps back, until she was almost against a wall. Bobbie and Cotyar still weren’t moving and Clarissa was so close. Was this how she was going to die after everything? A bullet to the head, not knowing if the other two would live? She couldn’t accept that.

 

“Clarissa,” she tried, her voice shaking as she spoke. In an instant, the girl was on her, backhanding her, the blow hard enough to bounce her head against the wall. Pain rattled in her skull, her vision turning black for a moment as she slid to the floor.

 

“Don’t ever say my name again,” Clarissa said harshly, her face twisted in anger. Chrisjen tried to push herself up, attempting to shake off the dizziness. She never even saw the boot coming. She couldn’t stop herself from crying out when the kick landed squarely in her ribs. She collapsed back to the floor, fingers scratching against the carpet as she writhed in pain.

 

“You took everything from us. My father, my life, and all because what? You wanted the war to go your way?” Clarissa was screaming, punctuating her words with more kicks, savagely hitting her ribs and her back as Chrisjen curled in on herself. She couldn’t hear the girl anymore. All she could focus on were the blows and the pain that bloomed when they hit. Chrisjen thought they would never stop. “You couldn’t even let him save my sister.”

 

The kicking stopped, leaving her feeling broken, overwhelmed by pain. Her head was pounding, breathing hurt, everything hurt. It would be a fucking miracle if nothing was broken. Her throat felt rough. Had she been screaming? She hadn’t even realized it. From the corner of her eye she saw Cotyar lying face down, out cold, blood trickling from a cut on the side of his head. Bobbie was on the other side of the room, also not moving. Even through the fog of the pain, she could see that her nose was broken, blood pooling on the carpet.   

 

The toe of a boot pushed its way underneath her shoulder and flipped her over on her back. An inhuman noise came from her mouth, the pain shooting through her entire body. Her vision went blurry for a moment, but when it came back into the focus, she found herself staring down the barrel of a gun. After all of that, it would still be a bullet that would end her.

 

“He killed your sister,” she managed through gritted teeth, as a last desperate attempt to tell Clarissa the truth. All that misplaced hate and anger, the girl deserved to at least know that. She ought to know the truth. Chrisjen had no idea if it would stop her or enrage her more. Normally she knew exactly what her words would do, but she couldn’t think that far ahead, couldn’t anticipate Clarissa’s actions.

 

“You’re lying.” The girl’s voice had the smallest of trembles, but she noticed it and latched on to it. She attempted to maneuver herself into a sitting position, but barely managed to get halfway. The truth. She had to tell Julie’s story, no matter how much it hurt to even speak.

 

“I wish I were. She broke into Protogen’s lab, intent on destroying his research. She got infected. And instead of curing her, your father used her to infect an isolated city to test its effectiveness,” she paused to catch her breath. It was like she couldn’t get enough air into her lungs. Clarissa stared at her, tears pooling in her eyes. The gun seemed to lower slightly. “He could have saved Julie. The pay-off for his weapon was more important.”

 

“No. He said you were a manipulative old bitch. You’ll say anything to save your life or theirs.” The gun was back in her face again. She raised her hands instinctively, the pain that flared up in her sides nearly causing her to black out. Jules-Pierre had done his job well. Getting between a father and his daughter was impossible like this. But she hadn’t failed to hear what Clarissa had said. She was planning on murdering Cotyar and Bobbie after she was done with her. Tears stung in her eyes when she spoke again.

 

“You can kill me. It won’t change anything. It won’t undo anything that has happened. But I’m asking you, find out what happened. Kill me, but please, don’t kill them. They have nothing to do with this.”

 

“Chrisjen, don’t do this.” Cotyar’s voice sounded weak compared to her heart pounding in her ears. She could see him from the corner of her eye, his arm looked sickening, broken. The cut on the side of his head was still bleeding. He was trying and failing to get up. She took an unsteady breath, pain shooting up her side. Clarissa’s eyes were filled with rage and tears. She was unstable, but Chrisjen knew, somebody had to give their life. This girl wasn’t going to stop otherwise. She silently apologized to Cotyar. She had nearly watched him die in her arms once, she knew the kind of pain he was feeling.

 

“My life for theirs.” She looked Clarissa straight in her eyes, her voice unwavering. Signing her own death warrant made her feel surprisingly calm. If she could save Cotyar and Bobbie, her death would be worth it. Clarissa would get what she wanted and so would she. A stalemate. It was the best she  could hope for.

 

“No deal.” She wanted to scream, but something moved very fast and Chrisjen barely registered what it was. The gun disappeared from her line of sight, a bullet shattering a window. Cotyar was still on the other side of the room, trying to get up, an almost impossible task with his arms in the state they were in. Bobbie. Bobbie was gone, fighting with Clarissa Mao. Her vision was starting to blur and suddenly everything hurt more, the remnants of adrenaline quickly leaving her body.

 

Taking a rattling breath, she tried to figure out what was happening, but ended up with a coughing fit instead, blood staining the off-white carpet. Coughing up blood was never a good sign. She saw Cotyar looking at her, panic in his eyes. The world began to spin.

 

“Fuck.” The word was barely a whisper before the world went black, a faint voice shouting her name being the last thing she heard before there was nothing at all.

 

----

 

She felt like she had been hit by a truck. Several times. Her limbs were so heavy and her eyes might as well have been sewn shut, the way they refused to obey her when she tried opening them. Her mouth tasted like she had gone on the world’s shittiest bender. Not to mention that breathing hurt like a son of a bitch. And that fucking beeping was giving her a splitting headache. Or was the beeping just making it worse? It was all so fuzzy.

 

“I think she’s waking up.” The voice seemed to come from very far away. Trying to locate where it was coming from caused a wave of nausea to roll through her body. Waking up sounded like a terrible idea, something she was going to regret. Why did she feel so much pain? Her memory was failing miserably. It almost never did that. It was one of the few things she could count on, trained by her father, perfected by herself.

 

“Chrisjen?” Something, somebody was touching her, holding her hand. Why were they so intent on her waking up? She felt like she was buried in an unending mountain of pillows. It would be so easy to just let go and sink further back down instead of struggling to find a way out. The touch on her hand, it was like an anchor, pulling her to a reality she had no wish to face. The pain was everywhere and even with her eyes closed, it felt like her bed was twisting and turning. As if she were drunk and had closed her eyes. It was nauseating.

 

“Fuck off,” she tried, but it came out as an almost incoherent mumble, the words tripping over her lips.. They must have understood her if the relieved chuckles were anything to go by.

 

“What happened?”

 

“You got the shit kicked out of you and then offered to sacrifice yourself. That was a stupid plan,” a man said. Cotyar. He sounded scared, relieved, happy. His words caused vague flashes in her head, the echoes of gunfire in her ears. The face was blurred, gone, but she could feel something hitting her, her ribs, pain exploding through her body. A fight? She had been in a fight? It was all so hard to reach, like swimming upstream through a thick sludge.

 

“Worse than stupid,” the female voice said. It took all over her concentration to put a name to it. Bobbie Draper. Words like punctured lung, concussion, broken ribs, surgery reached her ears, but the full sentences eluded her. It did explain why she felt like complete shit. If someone had broken her ribs, if she had needed surgery, it made sense why everything hurt, why breathing felt like a chore, rather than a basic function.

 

A burst of images hit her, of Cotyar lying broken and useless on the floor, begging her to not do something. Of Bobbie being slammed into a wall far harder than a human being should ever meet a wall. For her. They had risked everything for her. She felt a lump in her already dry throat. With an herculean effort she finally managed to open her eyes somewhat. Everything was blurry, she could barely make out the shape of their faces, but they were there. They both were.

 

“Hey,” Cotyar whispered, the hold on her hand tightening. She tried to grip back, but her fingers wouldn’t obey her. A hand landed on her other arm, just a light comforting touch. As if they both knew she needed them close, needed constant confirmation that they were there.

 

“What happened with you?” she asked, tried to ask, the words didn’t come out quite like that. It was more a garbled mess of consonants and vowels that they somehow made sense of. Through the pain in her head, she tried to focus on the reply, desperate to know how they were, what their injuries were.

 

“He’s got a broken arm, a nice cut on the side of his head and a matching concussion. I’ve just got a broken nose, some bruises.” Bobbie delivered it very factually, no emotion, but a feeling of guilt settled in Chrisjen’s chest nonetheless. The beeping in the background increased and her eyes fell shut again. So many injuries all because someone had wanted her dead. They had almost died. Clarissa would have killed them. Her breath didn’t come in right, pain shooting up her side.

 

“What she is saying is, we’re fine. Relax. All of us survived. We’re fine. We’re going to get better, all of us. Relax.” Cotyar’s voice was placating, trying to sooth her. They were fine. They were alive. It became a mantra in her head until she felt like she could breathe again, until beeping slowed. She felt herself becoming weightless, being dragged away from consciousness. She caught the word ‘morphine’ before she fell back into the darkness again.

 

Chapter Text

It was the softest of touches that pulled him from his sleep. For a split-second, he didn’t know where he was and then it all came flooding back to him. Clarissa, the fight, Chrisjen. God, Chrisjen. If he wasn’t eternally grateful for the fact that she hadn’t died, he had half a mind to kill her himself for pulling that crap on him, offering up her life in exchange for his and Bobbie’s. He thought he had lost her.

 

But it were Chrisjen’s fingers very carefully tracing the edge of the bandage on his head. Slowly he lifted his head, waiting for the dizziness to go away before looking at her. His gut clenched when he did. The bruise around her eye looked ghastly and painful. She looked so small and vulnerable. It terrified him, even though he had been assured by multiple doctors, that while it was going to take a long time to recover, she was going to make it.

 

“Hey,” he whispered, careful not to wake Bobbie who was sleeping, uncomfortably curled up on a chair that was too small for her, one hand holding Chrisjen’s. She had a large bruise on and around her nose. It had been set and with a bit of luck, it would be unnoticable after it healed. She had been the most fortunate of the three of them, but that didn’t make it hurt any less when he looked at her the bruises on her knuckles, arms and face.

 

“Hi,” she managed, her deep, resonating voice reduced to a pathetic, broken whisper, but she sounded marginally better than she had that afternoon. She looked more lucid as well, her eyes clearer. Those hours he had waited while she had been in surgery had been the longest of his life. He had barely paid attention to what the doctors were doing to him, setting his arm, putting it in some brace that he was already hating. They had fixed up his right arm as well, told him that it would heal just fine with some physical therapy. Against their wishes he had refused a sling, needing some mobility in at least one of his arms.

 

He hadn’t noticed the pain, still didn’t, his thoughts constantly with Chrisjen. Not knowing what was wrong with her, how long the surgery would take, if she was even going to make it, it had been agony. He was sure he had worn out a circle in the floor from pacing, unable to deal with the waiting. When the surgeon had come with good news, he had broken down. He had cried, everything coming out, the fear, the relief. It had overwhelmed him. Bobbie had held him, her cheeks wet with tears as well.

 

“You scared the shit out of me,” he breathed, pressing a kiss to the palm of her hand. Every time he closed his eyes, he saw her lying there, ready to die, bargaining for his and Bobbie’s life with the only thing she still had. He saw her coughing up blood and pass out as Bobbie beat Clarissa into submission. He heard the echoes of Chrisjen’s scream that had managed to worm its way into his memory as he had fought his way back to consciousness.

 

“I couldn’t let her kill you. Either of you.” Her fingers curled around his, her grip weak. Her eyes briefly flicked towards Bobbie, before she closed them, clenching her jaw. Cotyar sympathized, sudden movements made him want to throw up as well. Having a concussion brought a lot of annoyances with it.

 

“So sacrificing yourself was the only logical option?” Her eyes flew open and he sighed, regretting his choice of words. He had just never felt fear like that, the words burned into his brain forever ‘my life for theirs’. They would haunt his nightmares for years to come. He softened his voice when he spoke again. “You’d be dead if it weren’t for Bobbie.”

 

He still had no idea how Bobbie had managed to recover from being slammed into the wall that quickly, but he would be forever grateful. That made it two times she had saved their lives, on the Guanshiyin eight years ago, and two days ago in the Protogen lab. She had managed to push Clarissa away at exactly the right moment. A second later and he’d be planning Chrisjen’s funeral. No matter how much it had hurt to see her broken body being wheeled off to surgery, the thought of her dead was infinitely worse.

 

“You would have done the same, if you were me.” She licked her dry lips. Trying to form coherent sentences was taking so much effort, he could see the frustration written clearly on her face. For a woman who used to make or break people with her words, not being able to speak freely was the worst injury she could have suffered. Cotyar held her hand and waited patiently, giving her all the time she needed. “I knew she was going to kill me. Saving you and Bobbie was the only thing that mattered.”

 

A tear rolled from her eye into her hair. Ignoring the ache in his arm, dulled by painkillers, Cotyar wiped it away, his throat thick with emotion. She was right. In her position, he would have done the same. He wouldn’t have bargained for his own life, but for hers and Bobbie’s. He would have begged to save the woman who owned his heart and the woman he hoped wouldn’t disappear from their lives again.

 

He looked at Bobbie, strong, loyal, beautiful Bobbie who had held Chrisjen in her arms so gently after she had dealt with Clarissa, who bruised and bleeding had only cared about Chrisjen’s and his well-being, who hadn’t known who she should help first when he made his way over to them. Bobbie who had carried Chrisjen outside when Souther and Yao had arrived with backup, who had come back for him to help him downstairs and load him in the same ambulance as the woman they both loved.

 

“I love her too.” Chrisjen’s voice was soft and her words surprised him. Had his thoughts been that obvious? He looked back at her to find her watching him, the traces of a faint smile playing on her lips. “It’s written on your face. That’s not gratitude. That’s love.”

 

“I know.” He leaned closer to Chrisjen and pressed a kiss to her forehead. He knew they both loved Bobbie. He never thought it possible to love two people at the same time, two women so vastly different, but here he was. Here all three of them were. It shouldn’t make sense, the public servant, the marine and the spy, and yet it did.

 

“Sleep, heal. We can talk about this later,” he said when Chrisjen’s eyes were closing again, just being awake for a short moment was exhausting for her. He waited until her heart rate slowed enough for him to know she was asleep again, her breathing even, before he got up, his back protesting at the movement. He had spent practically every moment in that chair by her side, only leaving when Bobbie had pushed him to clean himself up, or when the nurses had made him leave. He had been waiting for this moment, when Chrisjen would wake up properly, however short, just to know for absolute certain she was going to be alright.

 

---

 

“I’d just like to say that this is a really bad idea and I do not agree,” Cotyar grumbled as he watched Bobbie and a nurse help Chrisjen into a wheelchair. She was trying and failing to hide how much pain the moving caused. He had finally seen the extent of her injuries now that the nurses didn’t chase him  out of the room anymore whenever they had to do something involving partial nudity. He had had to leave every time, not being married to her.

 

But Chrisjen had recovered her voice and a little strength. He was allowed to stay now, hold her hand. He had seen the bruises covering her ribs and back, barely a patch of unmarred skin left, had seen the neatly stitched up wound the surgeons had left. He was constantly reminding himself that she was going to be alright. The bruises would fade, broken bones would mend. Eventually there would be nothing left but bad memories and scars.

 

“Thank you for your input. It’s still happening.So you can either stay here and mope or shut the fuck up and come with me.” Her voice was strained, but there was a force behind her words again. She had found enough strength to strongarm both her doctor and law enforcement into letting her visit the woman who had tried to kill her. And he didn’t think that was the best idea she’d ever had.

 

Bobbie just looked at him and shrugged.“You once said it was easier to let her win.”

 

“Fine, lead the way,” he acquiesced with a sigh. He didn’t agree with her ideas a lot, but he would be damned if he wasn’t going to be there when she talked to Clarissa Mao. They had all ended up in the same hospital. The crash after the chase and the way Bobbie had beaten her up, driven by a desperation that had taken away her ability to know when to stop, had led to Clarissa’s hospitalization. She was apparently on the mend and would be transferred to a prison soon enough.

 

Bobbie pushed Chrisjen’s wheelchair, her knuckles still bruised and chafed. She didn’t like that Chrisjen was adamant on doing this any more than he did. Neither of them had gone to see Clarissa, too occupied with Chrisjen at first and then because they didn’t trust themselves with her. Her age, the fact that she had been a pawn in her father’s game, it didn’t matter. All Cotyar could think about when someone mentioned her name was Bobbie’s broken nose, the sound his arm had made when she had broken it, Chrisjen’s scream.

 

But the girl in the hospital bed was just that. A girl, young enough to be his daughter. She didn’t look like a woman capable of all the hurt she had caused. She was just a bruised girl, handcuffed to the bed, shock and fear in her eyes when she saw who had entered her room. She seemed to shrink back against her pillow. She had two armed officers flanking her bed who right now looked more like they were there to protect her than they were to make sure she didn’t try to escape.

 

“You can leave,” Chrisjen ordered, barely sparing the men a second glance. They looked at each other, clearly aware of who she was, but they didn’t make a movement to obey her. One of them took a step forward, trying to look tough and authoritative. Idiot, Cotyar thought before any words had left the officer’s mouth.

 

“Ma’am, the prisoner is dangerous. It’s not safe without us here.” Cotyar looked the man up and down. He had enough confidence, not enough brains. Chrisjen didn’t bother to raise an eyebrow. Her expression spoke volumes without it.

 

“She’s handcuffed to a bed and I have marine with me that could knock you two out while blindfolded. Get the fuck out.” The officer opened his mouth to reply, but his partner grabbed his elbow and led him out of the room, an apologetic look on his face. Smart man. Bobbie waited until the door had closed behind them before she wheeled Chrisjen closer to Clarissa.

 

“Why are you here?” Clarissa asked. There was no hate or anger in her voice, nothing that betrayed she had once been willing to burn everything to the ground if it meant Chrisjen burned with it. Something had changed since the last time he had seen her, something that made her look at Chrisjen, at Bobbie, at him with fear in her eyes, as if anyone of them would kill her where she sat. She was like an animal caught in a trap.

 

“I wanted to see how you were doing. And I wanted to talk to you.”

 

“I almost killed you and them.” Cotyar tried to ignore the way he flashed back to the moment she had broken his elbow. If Clarissa hadn’t been so singularly focused on killing Chrisjen, he would have been dead. She had only needed to pull the trigger.

 

Bobbie’s expression, which had been perfectly blank up until that moment, changed into one of scepticism. She disagreed. It had been a giant man who had nearly killed her. She had nearly killed Clarissa with her bare hands and judging from her expression, she’d gladly go another round to prove that the girl had not come close to killing her. Underneath it all, she was still a bit of a hothead. But she kept her mouth shut, leaving Chrisjen to do the talking.

 

“You did. Do you still want to kill me now?” She was so calm, like a mother talking to a child who had pushed another kid over on the playground, wanting to know what had happened. Clarissa shook her head. “What has changed?”

 

“My mom finally told me the truth about my father, about what exactly happened those years ago, that he killed Julie. She made me see that he had used me for his own personal revenge. I thought I was doing it for my family. She told me she didn’t want this. My brothers and sister didn’t want this.” There were tears in her eyes when she leaned forward and practically begged Chrisjen. “My mom didn’t know. You have to believe me. My mother had nothing to do with any of it.”

 

“I’m not here to interrogate you or persecute your family.” Cotyar stiffened and saw Bobbie do the same when Chrisjen reached out and took Clarissa’s free hand. The girl looked at their hands for a moment, letting it all sink in and then the tears started running down her face. She was falling apart right in front of their eyes, undone by the unexpected kindness of the woman she had nearly murdered.

 

“I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. I was sure that you were the root of all evil. I thought if you were gone, it would make the world better. I thought that my problems would go away. I was so wrong and I’m sorry.” He hadn’t been expecting that. The girl had hunted them down, had had a group of henchman at her disposal. She would have stopped at nothing. But here she was, apologizing, crying, and it seemed sincere. She was clutching Chrisjen’s hand, her knuckles white with effort.

 

“You were skillfully manipulated. He’s your father and you love him. He is supposed to love you as well, unconditionally. Parents are not supposed to use their children as puppets to fight their battles for them. Especially when they’ve already lost.” Chrisjen couldn’t keep the hint of anger out of her voice and Cotyar stepped forward to place a hand on her shoulder, offering support, trying to ensure she didn’t overexert herself more than she already was.

 

Jules-Pierre Mao had used the fact that his wife had protected Clarissa from the truth. He had twisted the facts, made himself the hero of the story and Chrisjen the villain. He had made his daughter do the dirty work for him. What sort of person did that? Cotyar couldn’t wrap his head around it, that anyone could be willing to destroy their child’s life for revenge. He understood Chrisjen’s anger, he felt it himself, saw it on Bobbie’s face as well.

 

“Desperate for daddy’s approval, what a cliché. I was never going to be good enough for him anyway. I wish I could take it all back. If I hadn’t been so blind, sixteen innocent people would still be alive.” The guilt weighed heavily on her shoulders. She wasn’t evil or a cold blooded killer. She was a girl who thought she had been right and her whole system of belief had collapsed in front of her eyes. Now she had to face the consequences of her misguided actions.

 

“You’ll atone for your own sins. We all do eventually.”

 

It wasn’t until they were outside of Clarissa’s room that he realized why Chrisjen had been so intent on visiting the girl. He saw it on her face as she adjusted the big, fluffy robe she had been wrapped in with an unsteady hand. She was trying to put all the puzzle pieces together, searching for a way to help Clarissa. There was a determination there that nobody could argue with. She had gone to visit her to see if she was beyond saving. She had her answer.

 

“What are you going to do?” he asked. Bobbie gave him a quizzical look. He simply gestured towards the woman in the wheelchair. “You know she’s planning on doing something. She has her scheming face on.”

 

“You’re not going to like it, but it’s the best I can come up with on short notice and with a fucking brain injury.” When had he ever liked one of her plans, especially if it involved that face? It tended to involve something illegal and a big risk of getting arrested.  

 

“I’m not on board with helping the woman who nearly killed you,” Bobbie stated forcefully as she pushed Chrisjen back into her own room. Cotyar waved off the nurses and closed the door behind them. They didn’t need anybody listening right now. He had an inkling of what Chrisjen was planning and she was right. He didn’t like it.

 

“That’s why I’m not asking for your help.” He watched as Bobbie very carefully lifted Chrisjen out of the wheelchair and placed her back on her bed. She was so gentle, but it didn’t stop Chrisjen from biting back a gasp of pain, eyes closed, brows knitted together. Cotyar felt useless just standing there, with one arm out of commission and the other as good as, he couldn’t do anything but stand there and wait for the pain to pass. They made some little group the three of them, all bruised, broken and in pain, too stubborn for their own good to know what was best for their recovery.

 

“Are you asking for mine?” he asked when her face relaxed and her eyes opened, suspecting that she would. She could think up dangerous and illegal plots like the best of them, but she needed someone to be the linking pin and that was him. Bobbie’s ethical standards were simply too high.

 

“Do you want me to?”

 

“Do you truly believes she deserves your help, after everything?” If he were going to be breaking the law or help people break the law, he needed to know that Chrisjen was doing it because she believed Clarissa deserved a second chance, that she would be able to redeem herself. He needed to know for certain that Chrisjen believed it was the right thing to do.

 

“It’s not about deserving. She needs it, and no one else who can, will help her.” And here he thought Holden’s weakness was trying to save lost causes. But he could see her point, putting Clarissa away for life wasn’t going to help her. If the girl was going to ‘atone for her sins’ as Chrisjen had so aptly put it, locking her wasn’t the way to do it. Her father had been beyond redemption, but for Clarissa there was still hope.

 

“Then I’ll help. What do you need?”

Chapter Text

“Mao, you have a visitor.” Jules-Pierre looked up from his book and frowned. A visitor? Now? The only people who visited him outside the allotted hours were all the branches of law enforcement, the DA’s office and his new lawyer. But the tone of the guards was always vastly different when one of those showed up. He hadn’t had a regular visitor since the whole Avasarala debacle either. Maybe something interesting was finally happening.

 

He patiently waited for the door to open, ignored the way his cellmate gave him an annoyed look. They had never gotten along much. That had only cooled when the interrogations had started and he had been granted more time out of his cell. Or at least that was what Soren thought. It didn’t matter that those talks were both boring and exhausting.

 

The guard led him to the room where he normally met his lawyer, the kind where they only had cameras and no audio. But the person waiting for him wasn’t his lawyer, not even close. Chrisjen Avasarala. He wondered if he should have known that she would show up eventually. She had clearly come here to make a statement, wearing a crimson suit, heels that could kill a man, not a hair out of place. It had been her armor before she retired, making people notice her.

 

She looked good, better than he would have expected. He had seen the pictures some lowlife had sold to the press where she was being carried out of the Protogen building, unconscious in the arms of sergeant Draper who hadn’t looked a lot better. Clarissa had failed and Avasarala was still alive. And now here she was, looking healthy and ready for a confrontation. Well, almost healthy. He didn’t fail to notice that she moved a little stiffly when she sat down.

 

“Monsieur Mao,” she said with a smile that was supposed to pass as warm, but didn’t reach her eyes, a fake smile she had used on many unsuspecting victims. He had never been one of those, but for now he was willing to play along. He wasn’t granted a lot of politeness in this place, real or fake,but he was curious to see what kind of game she was playing that she was willing to come all the way down to visit him in prison.  

 

“Madam ambassador. To what do I owe the pleasure?” He plastered on a fake smile that rivaled hers. He had been playing games as long as she had and they had both been sure that their reasons, their goals were the right ones, but she had come out as a hero, had been handed the presidency on a silver platter and turned it down, while he had been sent to prison for life, sentenced for genocide.

 

“It occurred to me that I never came to visit you here, neither before nor after your trial. Orange isn’t your color.” It was like they were having a goddamn tea party with pleasant, meaningless conversation, because she had all the time in the world. He was here, talking to her, because she wanted it and he wouldn’t be able to leave until she was done with him. She would have made sure of it. Suddenly, he didn’t feel like playing along and listening to her thinly veiled insults.

 

“And this occurred to you eight years later? You have never been one for sparkling conversation, Chrisjen. Why are you really here?” His fake smile slipped, while hers stayed firmly in place, like a predator playing with its prey. He was at her mercy, something he had sworn would never happen again. He had wanted to make sure of that by getting rid of her completely. Just dead and gone. Trying to ruin her reputation eight years ago hadn’t worked, but maybe killing her had been worth a second shot.

 

“It seemed fitting to look the man in the eye who tried and failed to have me killed twice. It’s been too long.” She fixed him with a look that would have made lesser men tremble in their boots. How he wished he could have been in Clarissa’s shoes. His lawyer had managed to get him details about everybody’s injuries. He would have shot Cotyar after breaking his arm, killed Draper as well, he would have watched Chrisjen suffer, before slowly finishing her off. He didn’t understand exactly what Clarissa had been thinking. And he never would. Stupid girl.

 

He should never have trusted her, thinking she could actually kill a woman like Avasarala, but he needed someone who was easily manipulated, not driven by money, but someone who would do it all for him, for the family. It had left him with Clarissa, sweet, but naive Clarissa, who didn’t have Julie’s fire or drive. Or her brothers’ wits. She just had what he needed, a desperation to please him, to be the favorite daughter. That didn’t matter anymore now.

 

“And now that you have?” She wasn’t the type of woman to come all the way to this prison to visit him just to look him in the eye. She wasn’t the type of woman to do anything without an agenda and at least three different ways to execute her plan. He doubted retirement and nearly dying had changed that. She tilted her head and tapped her nails on the table, as if regarding some alien species.

 

“I still wonder how I managed to miss that you were the type of man to sacrifice two of his children for personal gain.” He barely managed to suppress a snort at that. Straight for the kill then, bringing up the daughter who had abandoned him, who had tried to sabotage his whole operation and whom he had allowed to die for the greater good, no matter how much it had hurt him, still hurt him.

 

And then there was the daughter who had always tried to do exactly what he wanted and had failed spectacularly. Her death hadn’t been surprising, but it still stung. It was his lawyer who had come with the news how Clarissa was being transferred from the hospital to a prison when her transport had been ambushed. The guards had been rescued, but they had left her in the burning wreck. A targeted attack the police thought, retaliation for the mass shooting. Another daughter dead.

 

“We all do wrong by our children at some point. You ought to know that.” He could hit where it hurt as well. He knew the story of her son, how she had made him join the marines, how he died in a firefight that could have been prevented. But she never talked about him. It was a small comfort that she could feel guilt just as well as every other person. If she was willing to drag his dead daughters into this, then he could do the same with her son.

 

No matter how well she had secured her impassive mask in place, she wasn’t that good. He saw it flicker over her face, hurt, grief, guilt. He had seen it on his own face often enough whenever he thought about Julie. Chrisjen’s wounds were older than his, but they were the kind of wounds that never healed, the kind that ached and festered when poked and prodded. She had yanked the scabs off his, it was only fair that he returned the favor.

 

“No parent is infallible, but most of us haven’t made the choice to consciously send our children to their death.” He could hear the anger in her voice, noticed the lack of obscenities in the conversation. He didn’t know her well, but he knew her well enough that a lack a of curse words meant she was trying to keep control. She wouldn’t give him the satisfaction of knowing that he was pushing her close to snapping. He saw it anyway and smiled, full of teeth and malice.

 

“You had your reasons, I had mine. It’s just a matter of doing what has to be done.” That was the difference between the two of them. He had lost two children, but that was a risk he had been willing to take. It made the guilt bearable that he had done it for his company, for his family, for revenge. But for Chrisjen, if she could, she would go back in time and change it.

 

But she wasn’t going to break down in front of him and watching her hide her anger and grief wasn’t interesting for long. He had wanted her dead, still wanted her dead. Playing verbal games wasn’t enough. It grew boring very quickly. “You aren’t here to reminisce over our dead children either. Really, Chrisjen, it’s so unlike you to postpone getting to the point.”

 

“Fine, no more bullshit. I came here to tell you that you lost.” Jules-Pierre chuckled at that. Because he hadn’t been aware of that? He had spent so long convincing Clarissa, manipulating her to do his bidding, he had used his lawyer to hire back some trained idiots to help her, had used up a large portion of the money he had managed to keep hidden and all he had to show for it was a dead daughter, a lawyer being charged right alongside him and the woman he wanted dead right in front of him. He knew he had lost.

 

“You’re still alive and I won’t ever get out of here. What exactly did I lose that I wasn’t aware of?”

 

“Everything else. Your hidden funds, your remaining children, your wife. Ariadne asked if I could give you this.” And there it was, the real thing she had come here to do. He had tried to take her life and she retaliated by taking away everything of importance in his. She dropped papers in front of him, divorce papers, already signed. He pressed his lips together and watched how Chrisjen folded her hands together and leaned just a little closer. “She never wants to see you again. Neither do Petyr, Anthea or Michael. They no longer consider themselves your family.”

 

“What did you do?” He curled his hands into fists, anger flaring up. They hadn’t abandoned him after Julie or during the trial. They had stuck with him, visiting him regularly. Even when their fortune had been taken from them and he had been found guilty, they were a family. He was their father, Ariadne’s husband. They wouldn’t suddenly stop all of that, because he had tried to get rid of the woman who had taken everything from them.

 

“Not a fucking thing. This was all you. Losing another daughter, another sister was just the last straw.” She must have had something to do with it. She had the goddamn divorce papers. And she kept shoving his daughters’ deaths in his face. He didn’t have anything to do with Clarissa’s, not directly. If he could get away with it, he would reach across the table and throttle her where she sat. Instead he slammed his hand against the table. Chrisjen didn’t even flinch.

 

“Clarissa was foolish enough to get caught. It was her own fault,” he snapped, losing control for just a moment. It was so easy to blame him for everything. He had set everything in motion. He had not made Clarissa’s decisions for her. Chrisjen just sat there, watching him like he was a petulant child, patiently waiting until he got his temper under control.

 

“She told me she was never going to be good enough for you. I guess she was right,” she said quietly, disappointment clearly written on her face. He felt as if he had failed some sort of test she had devised for him. He raised his eyebrows. He didn’t need to prove that he loved his daughter or his family to her. She had taken them away and he just wanted to leave.

 

“Are we done?”

 

“Almost. Do you remember James Holden?” He sighed and leaned back in his chair. He was done with her games. Of course, he remembered Holden and his motley crew of thieves. Without them Chrisjen would have been dead for years, there would have been a war that they would have won thanks to his weapon. He would still be free and one of the most powerful men on earth. He had briefly entertained the notion of sending Clarissa after them as well, but Chrisjen had been the one to nail him to the cross. He wanted her gone more than a few criminals who would eventually get caught anyway.

 

“How could I forget?” He hadn’t met them, but he had had his people do some research, get profiles on them. He knew who they were, what they looked like, everything except where they hid out or how they were somehow able to evade capture. But no, he wouldn’t ever forget them.

 

“He has always had a soft spot for lost causes. I appealed to that soft spot,” she calmly explained as she pulled out her phone and began searching for something. Jules-Pierre exhaled slowly.

 

“Is there a point?” Chrisjen didn’t look up at him, just casually scrolling through her phone until she found was she looking for.

 

“The fucking point is that James Holden has acquired a new team member. She’s a bit young, but she has experience breaking the law, except now she is doing it for the right reasons. Meet Melba Koh.” She turned the phone towards him. There was a goofy selfie on the screen and he recognized all of the faces. The Rocinante crew, smiling widely at the lens. In the corner was his daughter who was dead. It had been confirmed by his lawyer, the police and the news. She was dead. But the picture was dated a week ago, seven weeks after her supposed death.  

 

“She’s alive?” he asked incredulously. Her body had been officially identified, dental, DNA, the works. She couldn’t be alive. She had died for his revenge. She wouldn’t work with Holden and his people. But she was there in the picture and she looked happy. He reached for the phone, but Chrisjen pulled it away and pocketed it, out of his reach.

 

“She is. She’s following in Julie’s footsteps, paying for her sins by helping victims of corporations like yours. She has even befriended Joe Miller. He has been telling her what her sister was like the last year of her life. She has found a new home, away from your influence, where she can be happy.” And that was her trump card, the final twist of the knife, driving home the point that he had lost to her. The last time she had taken his freedom, most of his legacy. This time she had obliterated what he had left, salted the earth.

 

“Why?” Why would she save the girl who had tried to kill her? Why would she tell him of all people? He couldn’t do anything with the information. This conversation wasn’t recorded and he held no evidence. What was she expecting him to do? Fall to his knees in gratitude?

 

“Because knowing she has turned away from you hurts you more than her death. Because she deserves a chance to right her wrongs. Because you deserve to rot in here, alone, for the rest of your days, knowing that your family has turned away from you. You have nothing left.” This was it. This was why Sadavir had warned him about going toe to toe with her. She had read him like a book, figured out his weaknesses and capitalized on them. And what was worse was that she was right. It hurt more to know that Clarissa had betrayed him rather than dying for his cause.

 

He stood up and suddenly there were guards flanking him. Of course she would have taken care of that. Not even a chance to lash out at her. If he even raised his voice now, they’d drag him away. He just stood there, looking at her as she quirked an unimpressed eyebrow before she got up. Chrisjen looked him dead in the eye, her expression cold but victorious and Jules-Pierre knew that, aside from her testimony at his upcoming trial, he would never speak to her again. This was it.

 

“Goodbye, monsieur Mao. Don’t forget to sign the papers.” In another life he had beaten her. He would have gotten his war, earned billions. She would have perished on the Guanshiyin. But in this life, he could only watch as she left the room back to her freedom, in the full knowledge that she had won, she had beaten him and there was nothing he could do about it. She had made sure of that.

 

Chapter Text

It was a captivating sight, seeing Chrisjen slide the suit jacket down her arms and tossing it on the bed. It was like she was shedding a uniform, stripping away layers of protection, the public persona that came with the suit. It had been interesting to see her get dressed that morning, but it was fascinating to watch the mask melt away. Something softened in her face, changed in her posture. Hopefully now that she had had her confrontation with Mao, she wouldn’t have to put on that mask again.

 

Bobbie had acted as her chauffeur since Chrisjen wasn’t allowed to drive yet with the remnants of her concussion, which Chrisjen had thought absolutely ridiculous, but had listened to the doctor’s orders anyway. Cotyar didn’t quite trust his ability yet with his left arm barely healed. Chrisjen had been oddly quiet during the drive back. She’d been sort of pleased, but Mao must have said or done something that didn’t quite sit right with her. Bobbie had decided not to press her. When Chrisjen had said it had gone well, she had believed it and that was that. It was done. But she couldn’t blame Chrisjen for wanting to take the suit off.

 

She felt her mouth go dry when Chrisjen started unbuttoning her blouse, revealing more soft skin as she went. She caught Bobbie leering, rolled her eyes and turned around as she slipped out of the white fabric. Her movements were still a little stiff, but the sickening bruises were gone, aside from the red scar on her ribs, which would fade over time, nothing visually betrayed what she had gone through. Just beautiful skin that she could touch whenever she wanted.

 

Pushing herself away from the wall, she closed the distance between them, wrapping her arms around her waist. Chrisjen sighed, but still leant back against Bobbie’s chest. Fastening her lips to Chrisjen’s shoulder, she started kissing her way up to her neck, enjoying the way Chrisjen twitched and shivered whenever she touched a sensitive spot. And with Chrisjen still in her heels, she didn’t have to bend down as much. She liked that a lot, there was so much easy access.

 

“Bobbie?” Chrisjen breathed, her voice low and downright sinful. Bobbie felt her body respond to it. It had been too long, so long since she’d been able to fuck Chrisjen or Cotyar. A familiar throb settled between her legs and she pressed her thighs together in a weak attempt to control herself.

 

“Hmm.” She was determined not to be distracted. She had been aching to touch her like this for weeks. Moving a hand up, she traced the intricate lace of Chrisjen’s bra. Her fingers brushed over a nipple and she could feel it harden underneath her touch. She bit down gently on a tendon in Chrisjen’s neck and rolled the nipple between her fingers. She was rewarded with a soft moan that Bobbie swore she felt travel down her spine.

 

“Remember what the doctor said.” Ugh, the damn doctor. Bobbie had been given the all clear pretty quickly. Her worst injury had only been a broken nose and she was used to having a few bruises. Cotyar and Chrisjen on the other hand, no strenuous physical activities until the doc told them otherwise. That included sex, which Chrisjen had apparently asked the doctor rather unceremoniously, if Cotyar’s recounting of the moment was to be believed. She would have paid good money to have been there to witness it. But that was weeks ago and she was beginning to get impatient.

 

“We’re not having sex,” she muttered against Chrisjen’s throat. She rolled the nipple between her fingers and moved her other hand down, unbuttoning Chrisjen’s trousers. In three days both Cotyar and Chrisjen had another appointment with the doctor. They’d probably get the all clear. And what were three measly days? She’d been aching to touch both of them in more than a platonic way. Those few intense makeout sessions that were cut woefully short didn’t quite do the trick.

 

“Yet.” Chrisjen caught her wrist just before she managed to slip her hand inside her underwear. Fuck. If she had balls they’d be turning blue right about now. She couldn’t resist a little payback and pinched the nipple between her fingers. The reaction was instantaneous. Chrisjen inhaled sharply and arched into her touch, her nails digging into the wrist of her other hand. At least she wasn’t the only person on edge and desperate for sex.

 

“Stop teasing her.” Cotyar said. Bobbie hadn’t even heard him come home, let alone climb the stairs to the bedroom. He wore a bemused expression as he took in the sight of Chrisjen trapped in her arms. Bobbie was tempted to invite him to join, but he had been quite the stickler for the ‘no sex until the doctor says so’ rule as well. Pouting, she let Chrisjen go and the older woman immediately distanced herself, unsteady in her high heels.

 

“But she’s so fun to tease.” And it was great to see Chrisjen try to compose herself when she wore the flush of arousal, the slight blush on her cheeks and chest. Cotyar seemed to linger on it as well, there was an undeniable hunger in his eyes as he looked at Chrisjen and then at Bobbie. How she wanted to slam him against a wall right now. Both actually, she wanted to drag both of them into bed right now. Three days until the appointment. Three days.

 

“I know. But it’s less dangerous to try and diffuse a nuclear bomb than it is to tease her and not be able to follow through.” Bobbie blinked. She hadn’t considered that. Teasing was all well and good, but Cotyar was right, without an orgasm or two to make up for it, it really wasn’t the best thing to do right now. Her hands still itched to touch them both, Cotyar in that deliciously tight shirt, Chrisjen half-undressed. She felt like a teenage boy, just getting turned on by looking at them. She needed a cold shower, or two.

 

“So is talking about me as if I’m not here. You’d think you would have gotten that through your thick skulls.” She glared at them, hands on her hips. Bobbie snickered which only made Chrisjen raise an eyebrow as a warning.

 

“I feel like that look would be more impressive if I couldn’t see your nipples.” Cotyar snorted. Really, that bra didn’t leave much to the imagination and the fact that her trousers were undone, barely clinging to her hips, it made a truly scary look a lot less scary.

 

“You’ve never seen her hurl obscenities at some poor intern on the phone while naked.” Bobbie felt her mouth fall open. No, she definitely had not, but she could picture it, vividly. She’d be tempted to try and convince Chrisjen to come out of retirement just to be able to witness that. Chrisjen did not seem to care for Cotyar’s revelation in the slightest. Her eyes widened as she fixed her gaze on Cotyar. Half-naked or not, that actually was a scary look. Suddenly they were both being pushed out the door by an irate former ambassador.

 

“Out, both of you. Get the fuck out.” Bobbie let herself be pushed and found herself outside of the bedroom, the door being slammed behind them. She cringed. Cotyar just chuckled and scratched his beard.

 

“She needs to get laid,” Bobbie said, only half joking.

 

“Don’t we all?” he replied wistfully, glancing at the closed door. Three days. It was becoming a mantra for her. Three days. It had been over eight years since she had last had sex with either of them. She was allowed to be a little impatient, especially when the pair of them, now that they had mostly healed, walked around looking beautiful and gorgeous and just very, very sexy. She needed to take her mind off it. She used to be a marine, for fuck’s sake. She had some mental discipline somewhere.  

 

“How was physical therapy?” she asked Cotyar, following him down the stairs and into the kitchen. His right arm was doing alright. She knew that. The wounds had healed nicely, leaving behind raised scars. It was the left arm that was causing him some problems. It kept aching and its strength wouldn’t return quite as quickly as Cotyar wanted it to. He did his exercises diligently, but it wasn’t going fast enough and she could see the frustration building as the time passed.  

 

“As unpleasant as it is necessary.” Bobbie felt for him. Chrisjen had been in the worst state by far, but Cotyar had suffered some truly nasty injuries. He didn’t complain, too worried about Chrisjen, but Bobbie had known how much pain he was in. It had taken Chrisjen and herself ganging up on him to make sure he put his own recovery first. By now, he could do the basic tasks, but anything that required strength from his left arm, he had to pass off to Bobbie. He’d get there, eventually. He was stubborn enough.

 

The nightmares on the other hand, those were proving to be a difficult hurdle. Once Chrisjen had regained enough energy to send the two of them home to sleep, they had shared a bed, trying to find some rest while trying and failing to ignore who was missing. He had woken up almost every single night, shaking and sweating, fear in his eyes. It had improved when Chrisjen had come home, even more when they could all sleep in the same bed, but it still happened. Their way of dealing with it now included Chrisjen muttering they were alive, they were alright, while Bobbie covered his hand, intertwining their fingers. It was a strange life she had found herself in, integrating into their relationship, but it felt natural, like she belonged.

 

She and Chrisjen dealt with their fair share of nightmares as well. She wouldn’t very quickly forget the night Chrisjen’s scream had woken them up and Cotyar had been out of bed, holding a gun in a flash. That had been the moment Bobbie and Chrisjen had decided that therapy maybe wasn’t such a bad thing. PTSD wasn’t to be taken lightly. And it helped, was helping the pair of them. They just needed Cotyar to go as well.

 

How’s the job hunting going?” Cotyar asked, changing the subject as he grabbed a couple of beers and everything needed for Chrisjen’s favorite drink out of the fridge. Bobbie made a face at him. Job hunting. Because it was so easy to find a job as a former marine who had been fired from her last job. She wasn’t mad about that. She had been expecting it after her suspension. At least she wasn’t being charged with anything, unlike Martens who was facing several charges that would see him locked away for a very long time.  

 

“You know she can get you back into the good graces of Yao or the Marines, if you want,” he continued, gauging her reaction. She’d be lying if she said she hadn’t thought about it, simply going back to what she knew. Chrisjen had offered to help her, but she had very quickly realized that going back wasn’t an option, not one she liked anyway.  

 

“I know. But no. I love my country, but I’ve realized my loyalties lie elsewhere. I’m glad I won’t be charged with treason and that I can visit my family whenever I want, but I don’t think there is a chance I’ll go back to any form of military service.” She was oddly at peace with it. She’d miss it, but it didn’t suit her anymore, no matter how much she had trained to be a marine. But blindly following orders, not allowed to think for herself, she couldn’t do that anymore.

 

She watched Cotyar dump a few slices of lime in a glass and she cracked open the new bottle of gin for him, receiving a grateful small smile in return. The past weeks spending in this house with Cotyar and Chrisjen, helping them recover had been good, working past the trauma as well, but even with the visits to Sinepoli, who thankfully still had his job, and to Alex and the Roci crew, she was going a little stir crazy. She needed to do something, but so far only one thing had even slightly appealed to her and she had no idea how Cotyar or Chrisjen would react.

 

“Y’know Holden actually asked me if I felt like joining his crew.” Cotyar looked up at her, his expression once again unreadable. It was better than anger, but she still felt a little uneasy. With Clarissa there, it just felt sort of wrong. And of course she’d resign herself to a life outside the law.

 

“Really?”

 

“Hmm. Don’t know if I’ll take him up on it. I am not moving into that weird dorm thing they have going on though. Don’t worry.” She liked most of the Rocinante group well enough. Alex made her feel like coming home, like he could be a great friend. Amos, well, he had actually snuck into the hospital on behalf of the Roci, bringing some gorgeous flowers that Prax had created. He also had a weak spot for ‘Chrissie’, that helped. It had actually been sweet to see a man like Amos sit by Chrisjen’s bedside, talking quietly.

 

Holden and Naomi were fine. Holden was a good leader and Naomi was brilliant with technology, but she didn’t think they would ever be her kind of people. The only problem she really had was Clarissa. After Holden and co had spectacularly staged her death, with a corpse that she didn’t want to know how they had came in possession of and Naomi’s abilities to hack into almost any database, the girl had nicely transitioned into a more functioning member of society.

 

But something in Bobbie still felt resistant to trust her and work with her. She had to find a way to deal with what happened, one way or another. Chrisjen had, Cotyar had, mostly. They had set up Clarissa’s rescue. If they could do it, so could she. It would just take time. But she sure as hell wasn’t going to move into that brewery. That was just too much, to have those people around her day and night.

 

“Good. We’d miss you if you moved out.” Bobbie stopped in the doorway and stared at the back of Cotyar’s head as he made his way into the backyard. Move out? She’d have to move in first. She still paid rent for her place and she very much considered this house Chrisjen’s and Cotyar’s.

 

“I haven’t moved in,” she countered, following him to the lounge set where they usually spent the late afternoon. Cotyar sat down in his spot and she picked the place next to him where she would stay until Chrisjen joined them and claimed the middle spot. It was their little routine. Oh God, maybe Cotyar was right.

 

“When was the last time you slept at your place?” Bobbie blinked. The last time had been the day she had set up Chrisjen and Cotyar in the safe house. That was more than eight weeks ago. She had gone home to get clothes and some personal stuff, but she hadn’t spent the night there. It had made sense to return to the hospital or this house, to make sure that Cotyar and Chrisjen were doing alright. Huh. She hadn’t even realized she had been living here. Cotyar just grinned. “Thought so.”

 

“Alright so I’ve practically moved in. I’m blaming you two, being severly injured and all that. I couldn’t leave you two fumbling around this big house alone, breaking any more of your brittle bones,” she said with a smug smile, elbowing him in the ribs. In all honesty, she simply hadn’t considered leaving them, even after they were back on their feet. Something in her wanted to keep protecting them. Something in her just wanted to stay.

 

“Did you just imply that we are old?” He managed to sound suitably insulted. He did have more than a decade on her, which was nothing compared to the age difference between her and Chrisjen, but still, as the youngest in this relationship, she felt she was allowed to poke fun at their advanced ages.

 

“Compared to her, we are fucking old.” Grinning, Bobbie turned towards the sound of Chrisjen’s voice and almost dropped her beer. Damn her. Of course she would show up wearing a loose summer dress that somehow showed a lot of cleavage, like a lot. And she was still wearing that fucking bra. Cotyar had been right, teasing her hadn’t been the smartest idea. Suddenly the mantra was back. Three days. Only three days.

 

“Oh that’s not fair,” she whined, not caring that she sounded like a petulant child. She was supposed to keep her hands to herself when Chrisjen looked like that? And then that awful woman purposely leant down in a way that afforded Bobbie an excellent view down the front of her dress to pick up her gin-tonic. Bobbie regretted ever making it clear that she was a boobs-girl, especially to a woman like Chrisjen who knew how to exploit weaknesses.  

 

“Payback for teasing me. It’s completely fair. Just a reminder that I can make you just as sexually frustrated as you make me.” Chrisjen sat down between Bobbie and Cotyar, who looked far too pleased that she was the target of Chrisjen’s torture. Bobbie groaned and was rewarded with a low chuckle and Chrisjen’s hand landing on her thigh, high enough to keep her thoughts from returning to the PG kind. Damn her.

 

“Three days. Just three more days.” She said it out loud this time. And if the doctor didn’t give her approval, she would give that woman a piece of her mind. Chrisjen gave her a wide-eyed look before she started laughing, a full laugh that sounded great and didn’t have her reaching for her ribs in pain anymore. For a moment Bobbie didn’t care that she was sort of laughing at her. It was good to see her like this. Cotyar agreed if his wide smile was anything to go by.

  

“Counting the days?” she asked, enjoyment clear in her eyes. Bobbie felt herself smile as well. She made it very hard to stay annoyed when she looked like that. She just shrugged and took a sip from her beer, not missing how Cotyar had put his hand on the back of Chrisjen neck, gently caressing her skin. He didn’t even seem to be aware that he was doing it. Chrisjen squeezed Bobbie’s thigh and she suddenly looked mischievous. Uh-oh. “Don’t worry. We’ll make it worth the wait.”

 

---

 

The wait had definitely been worth it. She wondered if the doc would have given the green light if she had known it would be like this. They had been overcome with relief, but also a desperation to touch each other, to get naked. As if the pain and the happiness of still being alive had only just caught up with them. She knew what they could be like in bed, but this was a whole other level. Even with the initial edge taken off, they weren’t done, not willing to stop until they were all exhausted.

 

Chrisjen’s breath was hot against her skin, occasionally cursing and moaning as Cotyar slowly fucked her from behind and yet she was somehow still capable of fingering Bobbie to the edge of insanity. The woman’s multi-tasking skills were intimidating to say the least. Bobbie could only lie there, writhing, craving somehow more and less at the same time. The sheet stuck uncomfortably to her back, her fingers were twisted in Chrisjen’s hair, the inside of her thighs was already slick with come and they were all covered in sweat.

 

“Jesus Christ,” she whimpered when Chrisjen’s tongue flicked over her nipple. A hint of a grin flickered over Cotyar’s face. Bobbie applauded his stamina. She had no idea how he was still going, how he hadn’t spontaneously combusted yet. She had come three - or was it four? - times already and Chrisjen was very quickly pushing her towards another orgasm. Cotyar on the other hand had managed to keep it off, wanting to see it through to the end.

 

Chrisjen shot her a wicked smile and added a finger. Bobbie moaned and threw her head back. A hand landed on her knee and without looking she knew it was Cotyar’s. It was so much, too much, a thumb flicking over her clit, lips wrapping around her nipple, the soft moans and groans that reached her ears, fingers curling up and she was a goner, clenching around Chrisjen’s fingers as she came, tightening her hold on the dark hair.

 

It wasn’t as intense as the first or the second orgasm, but it still travelled through her entire body, her muscles tensed, eyes shut, toes curling into the sheets, still enough to drown out everything but the sound of her heartbeat in her ears and the feeling of Chrisjen’s fingers inside of her, dragging out every last second before they disappeared, leaving Bobbie to catch her breath.

 

“Fuck me harder,” she heard Chrisjen order and Bobbie managed to open her eyes in time to see Cotyar grab one of the older woman’s shoulders and snap his hips forward, causing another profanity to fall from the woman’s lips. It was something else to witness that with Chrisjen between her legs, where she could practically feel every thrust herself, watch the arousal in the older woman’s eyes, could see the way Cotyar’s muscles flexed with every movement.

 

Coaxing Chrisjen’s arm up, she curled her tongue around her fingers, sucking them into her mouth, tasting her own come. Cotyar’s eyes widened at her move while Chrisjen just moaned and let her head fall forward, her hair tickling Bobbie’s sensitive nipples as she gave in to the sensation of being fucked. She caught Cotyar moving his hand from her knee and slipping it between Chrisjen’s legs, his teeth gritted. He was holding on until she came. Stupid man, noble, but stupid. The least she could do was help him out.

 

Untangling her fingers from Chrisjen’s hair, she worked her hand between their bodies, cupping a full breast. The angle was a bit awkward, but she made it work, rolling a hard nipple between her fingers. She bit down on the finger in her mouth and pinched Chrisjen’s nipple hard at the same time. The older woman’s back arched, fingers practically tearing the sheet, a cry escaping from her mouth. Cotyar thrust his hips a few more times and let out an almost inhuman sound, his grip on Chrisjen bruising.

 

Chrisjen collapsed on top of her. Bobbie could feel the faint spasms that travelled through her body and wrapped an arm around her as Cotyar, thankfully, fell on the bed next to them, muttering a quiet fuck as he landed on the discarded bottle of lube, which he tossed to the floor in an uncoordinated movement. Bobbie managed a smile and placed a hand on his rapidly moving chest. He glanced at her and took her hand, pressing a kiss to the back of it. He looked properly fucked, they all did.

 

With a groan she rolled over to her side, carefully maneuvering Chrisjen to lie on her back. She could already feel the ache in her thighs, the burning and throbbing from the marks on her body. She could only imagine how the other two were feeling or would be feeling. Chrisjen was still looking a little blissed out and Cotyar wasn’t really moving a lot. They both had their fair share of hickeys, scratches and bite marks as well. Bobbie chuckled. She supposed that was what happened when you had to wait nearly two months for a ‘I’m glad we didn’t die’ bang.

 

“Something funny?” Chrisjen asked, opening her eyes. Was there something funny? Well, the fact that three months ago she would never have dreamed she would be here, back in bed with them, living with them. Or how about that she was without a job and considering the very real possibility of becoming a vigilante and she was okay with that, because she had them? The whole situation, this, them, it was ridiculous. But that wasn’t why she was smiling.

 

“Nope, nothing funny.” Bobbie leaned down and brushed her lips against Chrisjen’s shoulder who made a content noise in the back of her throat as she absentmindedly caressing hers and Cotyar’s thighs. Bobbie looked at the pair of them, their imperfections, their scars, the faint bruises that were already forming and it made sense that she was here. Despite it all, it felt right that she was here. “Just happy, I suppose.”

 

Cotyar and Chrisjen exchanged a look. They had a way of silently communicating that Bobbie didn’t fully understand and maybe never would. Whatever it was that look had meant, it was something positive, because they both smiled. Chrisjen raised herself up and pressed a quick kiss to Bobbie’s lips and then did the same for Cotyar. Bobbie watched how she stretched, arching her back, and she’d be damned if she didn’t want her again. She’d have plenty of times for that in the days to come.

 

“Come on, let’s go take a shower.”



Epilogue: Chrisjen Avasarala

 

There was a really annoying buzzing sound that reached her ears even though she was currently wrapped in two pairs of arms. She cracked open an eye. Fuck. It was still dark. Pushing herself up, she reached over Bobbie and grabbed her phone from the nightstand. The tall woman mumbled something in her sleep, but didn’t wake. She would soon. Chrisjen was effectively trapped by Bobbie and Cotyar. Getting up to answer her phone would wake them, so would staying in bed. She squinted at the number and sighed.

 

“It’s the middle of the fucking night. Someone had better be dying or someone will be very fucking soon,” she said as she answered the call. Cotyar’s hand tightened on her hip. He was awake then. The annoyed groan coming from the younger woman told her that she was waking up as well.

 

“Not a morning person, are you Chrissie?” She wasn’t when it was four in the morning, no. Nor was she particularly happy to be woken up with not enough sleep under her belt to recover from the fucking amazing evening they had just had. Though judging from the ache in her muscles, no amount of sleep would help her completely recover from that in a single night.

 

“Amos.” That definitely got the attention of her bed companions. Bobbie sat up, her hair a mess. Cotyar moved out of bed, turning on a soft light. She couldn’t help but take in their naked forms for a moment, the marks on their skin. She hadn’t taken a particular good look at herself after the shower, but she dreaded to find out the state she was in. They may have gone a bit overboard last night.

 

“We need your help. From all three of you. Can you let us in?” The doorbell rang. Fuck.


THE END…?