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Shrine of Lies

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Kadara.

It could be beautiful if it could get its shit togetherLola Ryder wrinkled her nose in disgust. The smell of liquor and puke permeated the heavy, humid desert air. Drunks stumbled all around them slurring everything from insults to sexual invitations. And if that wasn’t unpleasant enough, Vetra was quickly making Lola regret agreeing to bring her along every step of the damn way.

“You’re more frustrating than Syd, and that’s saying a lot. Believe me,” Vetra said.

“We are not getting into this agai-” Lola began before stopping short. In front of her were a small group of exiles armed to the teeth. They were brutally beating an unarmed man unconscious.

The fucking Outcasts.

 Sloane’s little band of fucked up misfits.  

“Now may not be the best time, Ryder,” Liam called. 

“Don’t,” Vetra warned.

But it was too late. Lola was already approaching them.

“What’s going on here?” She asked, her voice full of authority. She placed a hand on the dagger she had strapped to her thigh.

A dark woman with short, bright blonde hair turned to Lola scowling, her eyes immediately registering the Nexus Pathfinder symbol on Lola’s combat suit. “So it’s true, a Pathfinder finally decided to grace us with their presence,” the blonde said, a toothy grin forming on her mangled face.  “You’re a little late, darling, you missed all the fun on The Nexus.” 

The rebellion. Blondie was talking about the violent uprising that had occurred  on The Nexus long before The Tempest had even docked.

“Yea, being lost in space has a way of making you late for important engagements,” Lola responded with a shrug, meeting Blondie’s gaze with an even one of her own.

“Oh, you have jokes, Pathfinder? How about this one. You have no jurisdiction here. This is an Outcast owned port.”

“One. I fail to see how that in any way resembles a joke. Two. I honestly couldn’t give a flying fuck if the Goddess herself owned this port." Lola stared her down. "You’re beating unarmed people unconscious. And see, that concerns me. I am now extremely concerned," Lola said, stepping closer to the woman. The space between them now closed. Blondie scowled down at her, and Lola scowled right back, her biotics flaring.  Vetra and Liam take up posts beside her, ready to follow her lead. They'd chew her out and call her reckless later.

Worth it.

As though sensing the incoming ass beating, the other two Outcasts stopped their incessant abuse on the unconscious man and stepped beside their fellow idiot in arms.

Ryder, I would like to point out that it would be difficult to meet with Shena if we were to be barred from Kadara port,” SAM chimed in, just as she was preparing to unleash a biotic blast.  Lola paused, each of the six of them were all patiently waiting for the other to make a move, all itching for a reason to slaughter the other. Lola let out a loud frustrated sigh, before muttering “fine” under her breath.  She turned to leave, shooting the Outcasts the most intimidating scowl she could muster.

“I don’t like this, SAM. I don’t like this at all.” She felt physically ill.

Blondie was right; Lola had no power here, no authority. No clear way of aiding those that might need her. None of this sat well with her, it all felt wrong.  She cursed under her breath. If the Initiative didn’t need the aid of the Angara as badly as they did, she would have gladly taken her chances and slit those degenerate’s throats, but unfortunately there was so many lives at risk, that she had to leave one behind.

Shit job. Shit decision. 

Needless to say, she was in an extremely sour mood by the time she reached the bar. Filled with disappointment over her inability to help, irritation over Vetra mother henning her and over Liam’s new role as her self-appointed bodyguard, Lola had about had it. She was feeling a severe loss of control, and seedlings of self doubt. 

Who the fuck thought I could pull this off?

Your father,” SAM replied.

“Stop answering my thoughts, SAM. It’s creepy as hell.”

Lola looked around the dingy bar; it was full of a surprising amount of patrons, especially for the middle of the damn day. The place was simply bursting at the rim with unsavory types, but she couldn’t identify anyone that might’ve been her contact.

She felt Liam’s eyes boring into her from across the room. She shot him an annoyed look, which he returned, clearly unbothered by her irritation. She turned her back to him. If he wouldn’t stop drilling her with his stares, then he could do it to her back. She didn’t need to witness him attempting to intimidate any and every person that just happened to look in her direction. He behaved as thought the whole damn galaxy was interested in her. Shit, she wished she was that alluring.

She drummed her painted fingernails on the countertop.  

Now where the hell was Shena?

 


 

Reyes walked into Kralla’s Song, looking at his Omni-tool. He was more than a few minutes late. No matter. He was certain The Pathfinder would still be here.

He looked around the full club and was immediately struck by a woman standing alone at the bar.

Now, who is this? He thought, his interest immediately piqued. He was certain he’d never seen her here before. Granted, he didn’t know every single resident of Kadara. But her? Her, he would’ve surely noticed.

She had thick, dark curls that cascaded playfully down to her pert, tight rear, and a black combat suit that hugged her like a glove. Every curve was on display for his viewing pleasure.

Coño.    

Reyes cocked his head to the side for a better view. How anyone could manage to fit into such a snug combat suit was beyond him, but he was thankful for the act all the same. She was drawing in more than her fair share of looks and whispers. Not that he could blame them.   

He couldn’t see her face from his position on the upper level of the bar, but if how she looked from the front was even a fraction of how she appeared from behind, pursuing her would be more than worth his time.

The Pathfinder would just have to wait a few minutes more, he decided, heading her way. It wasn't until she turned that he saw The Nexus symbol on her suit. He froze.

The symbol was that of a Pathfinder.

He fell back into the crowd, not wanting to be noticed just yet. Was she his contact? He fought the urge to laugh out loud. Mierda, the reports hadn’t mention how attractive she was. But, then again, why would they? He could see it now: Pathfinder. Female. Fuckable. 

When Evfra told Reyes he would be meeting with a Nexus representative, he imagined some stodgy older veteran unfortunate enough to be tasked with appeasing the Angara.  He had been busy with other matters and had only briefly skimmed through the information that had been sent to him. Sloppy, his lack of preparation was sloppy. He wasn't expecting this. He wasn't expecting her.

She shifted from one foot to the next, her full hips swaying from the small transfer of weight. He smiled to himself. This was going to be much easier than anything he could've hoped for. After all, if there was one thing Reyes had in spades, it was charm. He smoothed his hair back, and moistened his lips. For better or worse, manipulation and deceit came as easily as breathing to him, and although Reyes didn’t necessarily enjoy it, he had long ago accepted that is was a necessary evil if one wanted to survive.

And he intended to survive.

“Liam.” He watched her call to a tall, slim, dark male a few feet behind her. Her voice was naturally breathy, honeyed. “Five more minutes than we’re gone.” The man named Liam nodded.

Yes, she was definitely his contact.

He headed her way.

She could change everything.

 


 

Ten minutes had turned to fifteen which eventually had turned to thirty, and Lola was still standing at that unpleasant, sticky, and slightly wet bar waiting for her Angaran contact. She was on the verge of telling Liam to grab Vetra so they could head out, when a husky, lightly accented voice called out to her.

“You look like you’re waiting for someone.”

Lola smiled to herself. It took balls for an exile to approach a Pathfinder on duty, especially one like herself. Her ‘resting-bitch-face’ was known to scare off pretty much anyone that looked her way.

Lola turned to him. She sucked in her breath, caught completely off guard by the man standing in front of her.  

Well, Damn.

This man was the ‘tall, dark, and handsome’ cliche personified, and he was offering her a drink. Her eyes drifted over him as she looked him once over. He had golden eyes, broad shoulders, toned arms, and hint of rock hard abs that showed right through the fabric of his shirt…. she received the strong impression that he rarely got turned down, if ever.

She looked at the drink in his leather gloved hands. Her contact was late, and her spirits were down. One drink with a handsome stranger couldn’t hurt.

“I have time for one drink,” she responded, casually. She took the drink from his hand. His hooded bronze eyes met her grey ones, a smug smirk playing at the corner of his full lips.

This man is completely aware of his own good looks, she thought to herself, taking a sip. And something told her that he is not shy of exploiting said good looks for his own personal gain. So, what exactly did he want from her?

 

 


 

 

Reyes quickly downed his drink.

“Shena?” He asked searching her face. She looked amazing from afar, but she was even more striking up close. And all that hair, it simply tumbled off her shoulders in dark, silky bunches.

Mierda!

He wondered what it would be like to tug on it while in the middle of a down stroke. And judging by the way she just looked him over, the feeling of attraction was mutual. He took note of how her pupils had dilated, and her lush lips had parted ever so slightly upon seeing him. The slight intake of breath... Pathfinder or not, she was still a hot blooded woman.

Reyes held her intense, inquisitive gaze, taking in the delicate upturn of her grey eyes and the slight rouge of her full lips. He marveled at the way her dark honeyed skin seemed to positively glow in Kadara’s setting sun... she must be a distraction nearly everywhere she goes, he mused. 

He offered her his most charming smile, his mind running rampant, devising up ways to get her in his bed, on a table in his room at Tartarus, on his couch… Down boy. Business first, he scolded himself, then pleasure. Women were his achilles heel, and his downfall would be caused by one, he was sure of it.

Don’t make the same mistakes you did with Zia, he thought, frowning at the memory.

 Zia Cordier was the last business partner he had bedded, and she had been a pain in his side ever since. With all the trouble she caused him….was still causing him, you’d think he would have completely sworn off mixing business with pleasure.  

But …  Fuck, he could never deny himself a beautiful woman. Reyes watched as Lola brought her glass to her plump lips, she took a long drag of the alcohol, tilting her head back ever so slightly. The motion revealing a long, slender neck, and more of that beautiful copper skin.

Any trouble she’d cause would surely be worth it, wouldn’t it?

Only one way to find out.

“But you could call me Reyes,” he said, reaching his hand out to shake hers, if only for a reason to touch her. “I hate code names.”

 

 


 

 

Lola raised her eyebrows in disbelief.

 He was truly her contact?

He gripped her hand firmly, but gently, his large hand engulfing her small one. She bet they were rough and calloused under the glove. This man is no stranger to manual labor, she thought with growing interest. His body was probably molded by it. She wished his hands were bare instead of concealed.

Their embrace lingered, hands intwined, and his attention remained focused only on her. His touch sent electricity pulsing through her. Goddess, he was sexy. Confidence radiated off him, like heat from the sun.  Lola had to force herself to focus. Force herself to remove her hands from his.

“I was expecting someone more….Angaran,” she said.  He chuckled, a deep, confident rumble that filled her up and warmed her core. Her attraction to him palpable, she was sure he sensed it. Even so, she attempted to conceal it.

His golden eyes gleamed with mischief.  It’s as though he held the most devious of secrets, Lola was entranced. His eyes were incredibly alert, yet full of so much humor.

He’s the one in control, she realized. It was all calculated: his words, his actions, and yet...

He leaned on the counter, moving slightly closer to her. Close enough that she could take in his scent. It was of whiskey, and the earth, smoke ...and gun powder. But Lola was too mesmerized to accurately analyze why someone would smell of something so archaic.

“The resistance pays me to supply information, among ...other things,”  he said. His voice low, conspiratorial, as though he was letting her in on one of those many devious secrets she was sure he harbored.

“So, you’re a smuggler?” She asked, trying to make sense of his vague explanation.

Vetra was technically a smuggler herself. Drack too, if she was really counting.  

She momentarily wondered if The Nexus knew that their salvation rested on the shoulders of such shady characters. Except Cora, Cora was as straight laced as they came. A damn Saint.

Reyes’s smirk tugged at the corners of his lips. He tilted his head side to side, neither confirming nor denying her suspicions. Instead, he left his place beside her and walked over to an open viewport, one that was overlooking Kadara Port. She followed.  Vetra threw her a look that clearly said: “who the hell is that?” Lola gave her a small shrug, and shook her head as she went to join Reyes.

She listened carefully as he told her about Sloane and her unsavory ways. He expressed doubts about Sloane’s ability to play nice (no surprise there), her need to appease Kadara’s resident Angara (Sloane seemed to understand  how precarious her position as 'top dog' was), and her plans for Vehn Tehven: death.

Well, Evfra and The Moshae wouldn’t want that.“I’ll have to take him with or without her permission,” she decided. There was no other choice.

She crouched down slightly to place her elbows on the sill, hands clasped, frowning at the drunks stumbling around below. This couldn’t be how their people ended up. 

The Initiative had failed them.

Exiled or not, they were their people, and they deserved better. 

She saw herself in them.  How often did she find herself on the precipice of destruction? Weekly? Daily? In another life, she could have easily found herself here, among the lost and renounced.

 


 

 

Reyes studied her profile. She was looking at that mess of a port below them. He wondered if that frown meant that she was as unhappy with the state of affairs here as he was. Perhaps, they weren't so different, even if they did represent opposite sides of the same coin. Maybe she did understand. 

The Initiative had failed them. Failed them as whole, he thought, remembering the shit show on The Nexus he had left behind.

He knew she was younger than him, he could tell, younger by a few years. But there was no naïveté in her eyes. No, they seemed hardened. As the only Pathfinder she held a tremendous amount of power, her decisions were going to literally shape mankind’s future.

He needed her in his side, by any means necessary. It didn’t hurt that she was easy on the eyes.

Helping her free Vehn could be the first step in gaining her trust.

“There may be another way to get Vehn,” he began. “You work Sloane, and I’ll look into my connections with the resistance.”

He turned to walk away, not wanting to give her a chance to respond, a chance to turn his offer down.

 


Surprised by the abruptness of his departure, Lola turned to watch him go. His walk was confident, and relaxed, with a slight swagger. He was at complete ease with himself and his environment. Lola almost envied him for that.  

“How do I contact you if things go south?” She asked, calling after him. All he had left her with was his name, and a noncommittal, extremely vague promise about possibly aiding her.

But instead of answering, he only looked back, smiled that cocky smile that she was beginning to think was permanently stuck on his face, and winked at her. She stood there frozen in place as he disappeared from the club.

He actually responded with a wink. A damn wink. Despite herself she couldn’t help but smile.  Trouble, that man is complete and utter trouble. Just her type, she had the worst taste in men. She was about to follow after him when Umi, the bartender, reminded her of the bill he had left her with. The sly bastard.  She quickly paid and left the bar, Vetra and Liam trailing behind her. Lola hoped that that wouldn’t be the last time she’d ever see him.

 


 

 

After some finagling, Lola was able to convince her crew to allow her to handle Sloane alone. After all, she didn’t want Sloane to feel intimidated, she was sincerely hoping they could come to an agreement, if only because the alternative would require further finagling, and, honestly, Lola didn't enjoy being purposely dishonest, though she had long ago accepted the fact that sometimes in order to do some good, you had to be bad. 

Needless to say, her meeting with Sloane didn’t go well. Sloane had refused to compromise. Lola laughed to herself as she left the Outcast headquarters. It was absolutely insane, Sloane actually sat on throne, a shitty homemade throne, sure, but a throne nonetheless. She was a  complete pompous, self-indignant bitch.

Who the fuck did that? Who the fuck sat on a throne? What was this, medieval Europe?

 That's when she heard someone call out her name, and not her last name, but her first, which no one did.

 


 

 

Reyes was able to quickly retrieve the information needed to help Lola.  He knew Sloane wouldn’t play ball, so he situated himself right outside her headquarters, ready to catch Lola as she left.

He didn't have to wait long.

The doors opened and sure enough Lola sauntered out. She stood out. She was like a shiny new penny surrounded by grime filled, tarnished ones. He watched as she raked her hand through her thick head of hair, and a part of him toyed with idea of being the one to sully her.

“Lola, have a nice chat?” He called out, getting her attention.

She turned to him, surprised, a look of amusement on her beautiful face. “I think she likes me,” she joked, placing a hand on her hip and cocking it to the side, a look of pride on her face. 

Reyes laughed. He enjoyed a woman that could roll with the punches. “It’s ok, I think I found a work around.” He quickly filled her in on how she could break Vehn Terev out without alerting Sloane, and provided her with the passcodes necessary to complete the job. Reyes stepped closer to her, his shoulder brushing hers. She tensed at the touch.

“Here,” he said, his voice low. He took her hand in his and pressed a small capsule into her palm.“This will eat through the bars.”  Once again, he lingered. He rubbed the capsule into her palm with his thumb and was pleased when she didn’t pull away, but allowed him to hold her.

She’s so small, he thought, her hand practically disappearing in his. Reyes stood at a little over six feet tall. She had to be at least 8 inches shorter than him 5’ 5”? 5’ 4”? He could easily throw her over his shoulder and run off with her. He could easily overpower her. How was such a small woman expected save them all?

He let go of her hand, and prepared to leave when she said: “There’s still the matter of the tab you left me with.”

“I am usually the model gentleman,” he lied.

“I don’t believe you.

“That’s because I’m lying,” he replied, his voice deep with implication. She arched a perfectly groomed brow, and hummed in approval at his comment .

So, Tann’s little Pathfinder likes brutes. The thought turning him on. 

“When you’re done, come to Tartarus,” he said, trying not to think of how foolish pursuing her was. So much was at stake, and yet all he could think about was finding a way to touch her.

“I’ll think about it,” she said, a small smile on her face, a playful glint in her lovely eyes.

He wanted to fill those grey pools with lust for him. “First drink’s on me, promise.”



 

 

Chapter Text

Lola sat in her quarters on the Tempest replaying the day's events in her head as she finished her report for Tann. By all accounts, it had been a successful day, and she had Reyes to thank for that.

Mr. Vidal...His honeyed voice still rang pleasantly in her ears.

There was no doubt about it, he was a dangerously handsome man, a shameless flirt, a bit of a scoundrel. ..

And trouble she reminded herself, don't forget trouble.

"SAM, could you gather all available intel on Reyes Vidal and have it delivered to my terminal?" She needed more of him, even if it was only in the form of words on a screen, plus, she doubted many truths left those lips of his. Lola sat back in her chair, crossing her feet at the ankles as she placed them on the desk.

"You're thinking of Mr. Vidal,” SAM announced. "Does he interest you?"

"He does.” Why lie to someone who could read your thoughts? She did, at first, lie, but had given up all attempts at privacy once she’d fully realized how utterly futile it truly was.

Lola thoughts strayed back to Reyes. His rich brown skin, his strong jaw, his broad shoulders. And his voice, that voice! Melted chocolate. Pure, ecstasy. She thought about his invite for a drink at Tartarus, in Kadara's slums. An area completely outside of Sloane's "protection.” Why there? It was a dangerous place to choose to get drunk. 

In truth she hated alcohol, it made her face red, which was no easy feat with her brown skin, and it made her sleepy, which she felt practically all the time already. All the same, Lola decided to go. She wanted to thank him for his help, and mine him for any knowledge he may have on this Charlatan she kept hearing the exiles whisper about. But most importantly, she needed to settle Kadara. A place full of people that hated her and whatever the hell they believed she stood for. If they knew that she hated Tann as much as they did, would they still detest her? She sighed. She needed any and all allies she could find on this dustball of a planet, shady smugglers included. 

She showered. Washed her hair. Kadara was just so dusty. She sprayed on her favorite perfume (a gift smuggled out by Vetra as thank you for the time Lola had helped Syd out of a dangerous  situation), and slipped into one of her better ventilated combat suits. Even though the sun was starting to dip below the horizon, that Kadaran heat never let off.

She strapped guns to her back and daggers to her thighs, then thought better of it. Worst case scenario, she had her biotics.

"Should I alert the crew of your departure?" SAM asked.

"I don't really think that's necessary, SAM. I'm just going to pay Mr. Vidal a quick visit." She paused, zipping up her leather boots. "I'm going to thank him for The help he provided me,  and see if he has any information on The Charlatan. You know, just quick, easy business." She checked her reflection in a mirror. She frowned at herself suddenly feeling self conscious. Her brother had often accused of her being vain. Which wasn’t exactly fair. He's all charm and witty banter. Socializing came easy for him. Everyone adored himShe had to work twice as hard as him to build connections, and thrice as hard to keep them.

"You use sex appeal to draw people in," he would say, his words echoing in her head. "You're more than your looks, you don't need to dress yourself up as a present to get people to draw nearer." She studied her reflection Was he right? Was that what she was doing?

"I estimate that the chances of you being fired at increases by seventy percent once you leave Sloane's protected area," SAM announced, pulling her from her thoughts.

"Damn. Really? Seventy?"

"Yes, Pathfinder. Seventy."

"Shit." They'd really ride her ass if she snuck out to such a dangerous place alone, at night, while on duty. 

"I was given strict orders to look after your safety. I will be alerting the crew now."

Lola groaned. "Yea, fine. Tell whoever's coming that I'll meet them at that elevator shaft thingy."

She momentarily hoped it wouldn't be Liam, because.. awkward.

 


 

Upon returning to his private room at Tartarus, Reyes immediately went to work finding out everything he could about the Pathfinder. A golden opportunity had fallen into his lap, he wouldn't squander it.

He told Kian, Tartarus' owner/bartender, to alert him immediately not if, but when a beautiful woman came looking for him. Reyes was feeling confident.

"Many women come looking for you. Many of 'em beautiful" Kian replied, his Irish accent apparent in every word he spoke. "Should I just send 'em all your way or is there a specific one ye be wanting to stop by?"

Reyes narrowed his eyes at Kian. Kian was loyal but also a smart ass. Reyes appreciated the former much more than the latter. “She's The Human Pathfinder,” he replied.

 Kian's eyes widened in surprise. "So, it's true? One finally showed?" 

"One finally showed.”

Kian whistled to himself. "Alright, all business then?"

"Business." Reyes confirmed even as he wondered if she was screamer. "She has grey eyes and curls that fall to her ass. Créeme, you cannot miss her."

"Alright then," Kian replied.

 

Back in his private room, Reyes searched the extranet for more information on her. He had already received a healthy amount of data from his sources, but he still needed more. He wanted more. 

Not surprisingly, he found an excess of articles on her instantly, the arrival of a Pathfinder being monumental for The Initiative.

'Lola Ryder arrived to The Nexus after inheriting the role of The Human Pathfinder following the death of her father, Alec Ryder, on Habitat 7. Alec Ryder's decision to pass the role to his daughter is a controversial one as the role originally belonged to his second, Cora Harper'…. Yes, yes, he knew all this.

He clicked on a video. In it she was giving a speech. She had just succeeded in making Eos viable, and the outpost  seemed to be flourishing.

Impressive for a person with no official Pathfinder training.

She was smiling in the video, clearly proud of what had been accomplished. Her demeanor wasn't stiff or reserved, instead she spoke as though she was speaking to a room full of friends. She made sure to give her crew their due credit, mentioning each by name. They stood bunched around her, like planets orbiting their sun. One male crew member in particular had thrown an arm around her shoulders, and drew her nearer. Her smile widened at the action, brightened even.

Reyes paused it, and zoomed in.

They were staring into each other's eyes, beaming. Reyes frowned at the image. Their smiles resemble those of newly weds. Intimate, yet bashful, and aimed just at each other. Reyes zoomed further in on the male's face. He tapped on his Omni-tool, pulling up the male's name.

Liam Kosta, he read.

Si, it was the same guy that had been intently watching her at the bar. His look was protective, territorial even. Reyes himself had been on the receiving end of such looks on more than one occasion. And it was always from a lover, current or past.

He made a mental note to find out the exact nature of Kosta's relationship to Lola. He was about to do more digging into Kosta's personal background when his omni-tool chirped.

"Your Pathfinder's ‘ere,” Kian's voice carried through. "Asked me if you'd come down. She's a hot lil’ thing. Business only my ass."


 

Reyes slowly descended Tartarus's metal stairs. The sound of his footsteps drowned out by the music. He enjoyed how invisible he felt here, lost in a sea of strangers, and submerged in the music. Here, he was nothing more than a shadow shifting about in the dark. One monster of many.

Reyes reached the last landing and scanned the room for her, finding her almost immediately. She was sitting alone at a table in front of a pair of male Turian dancers, not paying them an ounce of attention.

Reyes considered this...she was sitting alone. What was the likelihood that someone of her calibre would be permitted to travel to such dangerous places, at night, unarmed, and alone?  None. He searched the room. Someone was here with her, he was sure of it.

There.

In the far corner stood the male Reyes recognized as Liam Kosta. Kosta had his head dipped toward a female patron he was chatting up. An Asari named Shandra. A regular, if Reyes remembered correctly, but despite how attractive and underdressed Shandra was, Liam's eyes kept wandering back toward Lola.

Lover. He was definitely a lover of hers. Now the only question was whether Kosta was a past or present one.

Reyes shifted his attention and began seeking out the Turian who had accompanied Lola earlier. She must've tagged along as well.

Si, there she was. Unlike Kosta, the Turian seemed completely at ease. She was chatting up a small time smuggler in the corner of the room. 

Reyes turned his attention back to The Pathfinder. She had a drink in front of her, but she wasn't touching it, instead she just ran her long black nails over the rim of the glass repeatedly. She seemed to spend a lot of time in her own head. He could help pull her out. Even in all the drunken movement and excitement of being in a club full of exiles, she stood out. She was stillness amidst a cacophony of movement. Her calm, and relaxed demeanor was like a beacon amidst a stormy sea. He found that it called out to him in a way he didn't quite understand. All he knew was that he desired to be near her. Though he clearly wasn't the only one.

He watched as men and women approached her, only to have her smile politely and wave them away. One of the male dancers ( Zayne… or was it Xander?) in front of her bent down and said something to her through the bars. To Reyes's surprise the dancer elicited a loud, genuine laugh from her. Her head fell back, and her eyes closed. Her laughter rose above Tartarus's music. It was light and melodic.

Reyes felt himself grow irritated. Kian wasn't paying those damned dancers to flirt. He descended the last of the steps that kept him from her.

It wouldn't be until much later that it would dawn upon Reyes that what he was feeling was the smallest twinge of jealousy.


 

Lola looked up just as Reyes approached her. Tartarus's dim lighting accentuated his high cheekbones and strong, angled jaw. His dark, glossy hair, was pushed back and off his face, allowing all an uninterrupted view of his dashing looks. His sleepy, golden eyes met hers and he motioned for her to follow him to a more intimate alcove of the club. A spot where the music wasn't as strong, and the crowd wasn't as thick. She followed him and they sat across from one another at a table that resembled an earth booth.

"I hope no one was bothering you,” he said, leaning back comfortably into his seat.

His eyes darted momentarily to the Turian dancer. Had Reyes been watching her?

"Why? Would it bother you if someone had been?" She responded. She was about to ask if he meant anyone in particular when Zeke, the Turian dancer, approached the table from Reyes's side.

"I meant what I said earlier," he said, leaning towards her.

"I'm sure you did," Lola laughed in good nature. She would've been flattered by all the attention she had been receiving if she hadn't seen each person that approached her hit on someone else just before they tried their luck on her, and on another right after her. Zeke, included. Horny Bastards...all of them.

Reyes loudly cleared his throat, immediately getting Zeke’s attention. Upon seeing Reyes, he stiffened and took a few steps back from her.

"Mr. Vidal," he stuttered. "I apologize I didn't realize…" he trailed off, eyes shifting rapidly from Lola back to Reyes. "I was just leaving." He quickly disappeared into the crowd.

Lola looked at Reyes. What the hell had just happened?

Reyes held his relaxed posture, still leaning comfortably back in the booth. He moved to rest one elbow behind him on the seat's back board. His eyes hard steel as they tracked Zeke's exit from Tartarus.

"Mr. Vidal?" She asked. He had insisted that she call him Reyes. Apparently, doing so was a privilege not bestowed upon just anyone.

Reyes's eyes softened upon returning to hers. He smirked and shrugged nonchalantly, as though what had just occurred was of no significance. No significance my ass. One hard look from Reyes literally sent Zeke scurrying away, and more importantly, Reyes didn't even try to hide the fact that he had that power. He was either trying to impress her, an idea that Lola didn't hate, or intimidate her. She narrowed her eyes at him trying to decide.

"Being the man that obtains their personal goods has its perks," he offered as way of explanation, that smug smile slowly returning to his handsome face.

"Right.” Who was this man sitting before her, really? He must've sensed her doubt because he swiftly moved to change the subject. 

"You left your drink," he said cocking his head to the previous spot she was sitting. "Would you like another?" Without waiting for her response, he lifted his hand and twitched his fingers. A waitress immediately appeared by his side with two whiskeys.

One for Lola, one for him.

She arched a brow at him. "More perks?" 

He laughed. A deep, honeyed rumble that barreled right toward her.  There was no denying his voice had an affect on her.

"Indeed. I am also one of their longest standing patrons. Drink,” He said, again. His tone was soft, but it wasn't a question. He slid the drink closer to her.

"No." Lola shook her head, she pushed it back his way, there was no way she was going to make anything easy for this cocky bastard.  Drinking it would give off the impression that she was there for more than just business, and despite the somersaults his eyes on her had her stomach doing, Lola was doing her very best to be a good little Pathfinder and keep things as close to professional as possible.

"This isn't a social call," she said. "And anyway, Kian let me have the last one on the house. He said he'd add it to your tab. So, actually, your debt is repaid."

"No. My debt is not repaid until you drink." He took her drink in his gloved hand, his eyes never straying from hers, and downed it in one go. “So, I remain indebted to you,” he said, returning the now empty glass to the table.  He ran his hand through his hair smoothing back any strands that may have slid free. A sly grin ghosted his face as he watched her watch him. "I guess we'll just have to do this again." His eyes bore into her, daring her to say no to him.

She didn't. She couldn't.

She took too long to respond and that sly grin re-appeared on his face. He won, and he knew it, and she hated herself for being so easy to lure.

 "You're not a man that hears no often are you?" She asked, voicing her earlier suspicion. 

His eyes ran the length of her body in response, and he took his time, completely unabashed by the brazen, wanton act. Lola couldn't help but hold her breathe as he surveyed her. He was caressing her without a single touch. There was something undeniably intimate in the way his eyes scanned her. They consumed her body inch by inch.  

"You certainly are not a woman a man would easily give up on," he replied, his voice an octave deeper, his accent slightly thicker.

Lola imagined the type things a man like him with a voice like that would murmur to her in bed.

She was willing to bet that they'd be filthy and debauched, and she desperately wanted to hear them all. 


 

Reyes watched as she looked away. Had he been too forward?

"Surely, you are aware of the affect your looks have on men.” He offered, hoping to get a better understanding of her. Lola was still looking into the crowd when she responded.

“I'll tell you the same thing I told Kian when he asked if I'd considered dancing here-"

"Momentito," Reyes said, holding up a gloved hand to slow her down. "Kian requested what?" That sly bastard, he laughed inwardly. Reyes knew there was a reason he liked him.

"He asked if I would consider getting into one of the cages with the dancers.'To boost morale.' "

Reyes couldn't hide his exasperation, or amusement, at his friend's efforts.

"Coño,” he breathed, shaking his head and running his hand through his hair. "And what did you tell him?"

"That I don't exist for male consumption."

"Hmmm," Reyes hummed considering her words. And consume her they would.

"And that if I ever were to dance here, I'd require my own cage and eighty percent of the credits made. Because I would clearly bring in a shitload.” She said, smiling broadly. She has dimples. Reyes let out a loud laugh.

She was still smiling when he had stopped laughing, and images of her gyrating half naked with that smile in a cage flooded his mind. He deeply and sincerely regretted that it was something he would never actually get to see. She would look painfully sexy snaking around in a tiny shirt, and even tinier skirt, curls rolling down her back, sweat freckling her rich caramel skin.

But, maybe, he could get her to dance just for him….A private showing, in his private room... the thought sent heat coursing through him. He cleared his throat, chasing the image from his mind before it consumed him.

"Yes, it is a shame you don't live for male adoration." He said, meaning every word. "I would certainly be the first in line to pour my credits into Tartarus for that view."

She scoffed. "Please! You've never had to pay to see a woman in your life."

He smirked. She was right about that, but still…. "What makes you so sure?" He asked, placing his arms on the table top so that he could draw nearer to her. There was an air conditioning vent located directly behind her and it's poorly cooled air blew her scent his way. He inhaled it. She was an intoxicating scent of exotic flowers. Perfume...she was in business with another smuggler. Interesting. He tucked that information away in his mind for later.

"You're the type of man that doesn't hear no often,” she said, repeating her earlier statement.

"Except for tonight," he said, eyeing the glass of her's that he had emptied.

"Except for tonight," she agreed with a small smile. She leaned on the tabletop and rested her head in her hands. Those grey feline-esque eyes stared up at him, the black kohl that lined them making them even more piercing, and enticing. Even with those eyes watching his, Reyes's own eyes slid down to her lips, the red coloring calling out to him, accentuating their fullness. He may have never had to pay for woman in his life, but he'd sure as hell give damn good credits to have her leave red marks all over him with those lips.

He looked up just in time to catch her eyes roaming over his chest. She moved a finger from the hand her chin rested on into her mouth, her teeth lightly grazing her fingertip. She didn't blush when she saw she was caught. She didn't look away. No, she just held his gaze with steady eyes.

His mind immediately filled with the all dirty things he could do to her.

"Anyone ever tell you that you're a handsome man, Mr. Vidal?" She asked, completely oblivious to the lewd thoughts she had running through his mind.

"Why didn't you come to my room?" He asked bluntly, his voice serious. Would he had had her by now if she had?

"Because,”  she said, leaning back and away from him. "All I wanted to do was thank you,"

Bullshit.

“It was my pleasure to assist the first Human Pathfinder."

"Well, I certainly wouldn't have been able to release Vehn without you. Evfra and the Moshae will be thoroughly pleased."

He thought carefully about the next words to leave his mouth. He didn't have a firm understanding of what drove her yet and didn't want to risk chasing her away. If she needed time to warm up to him, he’d give it. Afterall, he could be a patient man if there was something of worth to be gained from it. He needed more time with her. Time to win her trust and confidence. Time to win her onto his side, and onto....other things of his.

He cleared his throat, forcing thoughts of her tone, honeyed body grinding on top of his out his mind.

"Well, Lola -" He stopped, noticing how she smiled bashfully when he said her name. "What?" He asked, intrigued.

"You're the only one who calls me Lola."

Interesting. "Is that not your name?" He asked in mock confusion.

"It is. It's just for whatever reason most people insist on calling me by my last name. Ryder."

He thought this over. The name Lola oozed sex appeal, just like the Lolita in front of him. "No. You are without a doubt a Lola."

She arched an eyebrow at him as though she sensed his meaning. "Am I now?"

"Oh, most certainly," he nearly growled his response. Shit. He hadn't meant to do that. He leaned back, sure he had come off too aggressive, too soon, but  instead of her blushing and looking away like he expected, she subtly bit the inside of her lower lip, igniting an inferno within him.

Business. Focus on business.

"Lola, don't take this the wrong way, but you aren't exactly liked on Kadara."

"Ouch." She said, clasping at her chest in mock injury.

"You'll need someone on the inside. Someone who can give you what you need. I can be that guy, if you'd allow me."

She nodded slowly, considering his words. After a moment, she opened her mouth, seemingly to respond, when Kosta appeared by their table. Reyes fought the sneer he felt threatening to appear on his face. It was his own fault. He should've been keeping a closer eye on Kosta, instead he had allowed himself to become so engrossed in Lola  that now he'd surely pay for it by having her stolen away.

"Lola," Kosta said, completely ignoring Reyes. Kosta placed his hand on her bare shoulder and leaned in to whisper something in her ear. Reyes watched as Kosta's hand lingered, as he ran his thumb intimately over her skin. She sighed and nodded in response. "I'll be right there. Wait outside with Vetra for me?"

Liam turned and eyed Reyes, his face full of distrust.

"Liam." She said more sternly.

"Five minutes," he responded. He slowly turned and left.

"Duty calls." She smiled at Reyes weakly, and rose out of her seat. Reyes rose with her.

"So, I'm not the only one."

"Hmmm?" 

"To call you by your first name. I’m not the only one."

"Hmmm.." she hummed once more in thought. "Maybe not. But with the way you say it? " She paused, biting her lip, her eyes shouldering. "You might as well be."

Well, fuck

She walked past him. "I'll see you around, Reyes."

And with that she disappeared into the crowd.

“Oh you most certainly will,” he said to himself. “You most certainly will.“

Chapter Text

 

“When will we be leaving this wretched planet?” Jaal asked, not bothering to hide the misery from his voice.

“When we’re done with our business here. Or if something more urgent occurs.” Lola responded. How was that not obvious?  “Any other questions?” She looked around at her crew. “Something any of you want to add?” They were all scattered about the meeting room, gathered for a mandatory meeting. “Now’s the time to get it off your chest,” she urged.

There had been nothing but grumblings from them since they had first arrived to Kadara.

Yes, it was wretched, and hot, but they had only been docked on Kadara for five days.

Yes, it had been a long five days filled with their own people trying to kill them at every turn, but it was just five days all the same. Her crew complained like they've been there for years. 

Group of damn babies.

The constant bickering has grown way out of hand. It was to the point that the discord between them was now threatening to rip them apart.

So, as she always did when she felt overwhelmed and incapable (daily?), Lola asked herself: ‘WWLD?’

What would Leo do?

Her twin, Leo, was an expert at forming bonds, and strenthening them. Leo was a natural leader, a natural mediator, a natural everything. Unlike, Lola. Lola was impulsive, and abrasive. Her father would often ‘joke’ that Leo was honey and she was vinegar. Her attitude left a bad taste in people’s mouths. 

“When will we be able to follow up on the lead I have on the Asari Pathfinder?” Cora asked.

“As soon as we can-”, Lola began.

“The humans here are trying to murder us just as aggressively as the Kett are. We could fall back for awhile and return once we have some more help. Like, another pathfinder on our side. Especially, one as experienced like Sarissa...” Cora trailed off, starry eyed. “Her help could invaluable. It could be the push we need to succeed here.” Great. So, Cora didn’t believe she could handle Kadara. 

“I’ve been hearing bad things about the Krogan Colony on Elaaden,” Drack said. “We need to swing over there as soon as we can. Good news is, I here there are plenty of your crappy exiled humans there too. So, you won’t even miss them.”

“Right. And we will get there, we just -”

“Ryder, what about that piece of remnant technology I told you about?” Peebee asked, hopping to her feet.  “I know Kalinda.. Well, I knew Kalinda...” Peebee waved a hand dismissively in the air. “Whatever. The point is that we need to reach that tech before she does. It could unlock so many secrets!” She clapped her blue hands together, excitedly. “But we have to get it before she does, Ryder. Look at what the exiles accomplished on their own. They can go a little while longer without us.”

“Well, I don’t know about that,” Lola said. “ But I do hear you. And we will go after that tech, but -”

“Also!” Gil said, raising his hand like a student in a classroom. “ I am practically done with that Kett transponder, so you know. And you’re welcome.”  Gil finished with a proud smile.

“That’s fantastic!” Lola said, meaning it.  Frightening, considering what fixing that Kett transponder meant for them, but amazing all the same. Progress. “We just need to -”

“Don’t get too excited, yet,” Vetra warned. “He’s only practically done because we’re missing a key component. I have a contact on Elaaden and he says that he has what we need, but we’d need to stop by the Nexus first so I could pick up what he requested in return.” Vetra tapped a long reptilian like finger against her chin ( mandibles? ) in thought.  “And we should do that. Soon. Before we miss our chance. After all, the exiles will benefit from the elimination of the Kett as well.”

“So that’s two for Elaaden,” Drack called out.

“This isn’t a vote, you guys!” Lola said, pinching the bridge of her nose. She could feel the beginnings of another migraine threatening to overtake her. She was losing control of the meeting. It just fucking started and she was already losing control. “Look. I just wanted to -”

“I don’t care where we go,” Jaal grumbled. “As long as it is very far from this abject place. Though, I do suggest a return visit to Aya.”

And that’s when all hell broke loose. Everyone began talking over everyone else. Everyone claiming that their personal missions were more important than the other’s personal missions. It was chaos. 

Lola clutched at the console in front of her in an effort to steady herself. She felt like she was going to pass out and throw up at the same time. Yup, migraine. She watched, powerless, as her team imploded. She didn’t know whether to cry or laugh at her complete lack of leadership skills, and the pain threatening to rip her head apart.

Damn it. It should have been Leo up there, not her. The pounding in her head grew in intensity. Lola squeezed her eyes shut attempting to ignore the room’s rising voices which only added to her pain.

“Enough!”  A voice boomed above the rest. Lola opened her eyes. The room went silent. Liam stood from his spot near Jaal, rage and disgust filling his eyes as he looked at his crew mates. “What is wrong with you guys?”  He asked, looking at each crew member in turn. “These people need us. These are our people! They bet everything on The Nexus. They left their lives, their families, their damn galaxy on a promise for something better.” He walked to stand beside Lola. “These are your people too, Jaal,” Liam said pointing at Jaal. Jaal looked down, having been properly scolded. “Lol- erm, Ryder,” he blushed slightly at his slip up. “Ryder is The Pathfinder. She does the hard work, makes the hard decisions. We are supposed to be supporting her. She’s mending the damn galaxy!” He paused. “So, until Ryder, The Pathfinder, says it is time to move on. It isn’t. It’s that simple.”

Lola looked up at Liam, gratitude flowing through her. He had always been prone to passionate outbursts, in fact his fervor had been what initially attracted her to him, but not in a million years would she had ever expected him to stand with her against their crew. She looked at her team members, their eyes on the floor or a nearby wall avoiding eye contact with her and one another. They actually looked..sorry.

Liam placed a comforting arm around her shoulders, and gave her a small encouraging smile. "Thank you," she said, her voice low. His smile grew.

“Yea, well. I guess the kid is right.” Drack was the first one to speak. “You haven’t let me down yet; I guess I can trust your judgement.” He walked off, but not before patting her roughly on the back with his heavy hand.

“Yea, I’m sorry too, Ryder. I didn’t intend to add any extra stress. You already have a lot on your shoulders. I’m here for you when you need me," Cora said, following behind Drack.

“I guess I’m sorry too”, Peebee said with a roll of her eyes. “Anyway, you know I love you.” She threw her arms around Lola for a quick hug before scurrying after Cora and Drack.

To Lola’s complete surprise and relief, one by one her team members apologized and retreated back to their usual post throughout the ship.

Lola was at a loss for words. Liam’s warm brown eyes searched hers. “Visit me later, yeah? It's been a minute since we had some one on one time.” Liam gave her chin a playful punch before wandering off himself.

Left alone, Lola felt her shoulders relax a millimeter. Damn, she had been tense. She rolled her neck and shoulders before collapsing onto a nearby sofa. Her migraine ripping through her head.

“Ryder, my office.”

Lola jumped from her seat, and clutched at her chest before realizing it was just Lexi. “Oh, shit! Lexi! You scared the absolute shit out of me!”

Lexi rolled her eyes and headed in the direction of the med bay, a.k.a, Lexi’s office.


 

Lola was put on shore leave, a.k.a, time out.

They all were.

“You’re under an immense amount of pressure,” Lexi had said.

No shit. Lola had thought, but was wise enough not to say.

"Take this." Lexi handed her something that looked like a blue vitamin tablet. "It's for your migraine." Lexi narrowed her eyes at Lola knowingly.

Lola had been recently ordered to report every migraine occurrence to Lexi, but the thought of Lexi keeping count made her nervous. You have cancer. You're going to die. Lola was sure that those were the words that would come out of Lexi's mouth if she truly knew how often her migraines had been occuring. Not wanting to receive news of an impending death, Lola would often “fail" to report them. Yet, somehow Lexi always knew.

Lola popped the pill into her mouth, and dry swallowed.

“Your mental health matters just as much as your physical. Why you humans fail to acknowledge that simple fact is beyond me.” She trailed off, shaking her head. “It’s clear to me that you need a break. All of you. A moment to unwind, to let off steam.”

Lola’s mouth dropped open. She honestly couldn’t think of worse timing. So much was happening on this planet alone. She had a whole galaxy that needed righting. She mentally went through a list of things that needed to be done.  Kaetus, Sloane’s right hand man (and definite ex.. ), had just told her about killings that he believed were being carried out by the remaining Kett. And just the other day Lola had stumbled upon yet another body that SAM concluded was part of string of similar killings, possibly being carried out by the same person or group. Then there was the news of Oblivion. A Sloane trademarked drug, that fucked anyone up that took it, and not in the good weee! I’m high! sort of way. In fact,  Dr. Kyoto had asked her to look into getting the formula back to him.

Then there was the matter of The Charlatan.

“Shit! I forgot to ask Reyes about the damn Charlatan!” Lola had exclaimed suddenly jumping out of her swivel chair, startling Lexi into dropping her pen.

If anyone had any worthy intel on Sloane’s main rival for Kadara Port, it would be him.

“Short term memory loss,” Lexi mumbled, picking up her pen then scribbling in her pad.

Lola scowled down at her. Who even used an actual pen and pad these days. It's archaic!

“It’s not really short term memory loss..” Lola argued feebly, crossing her arms and pouting like a child. She re-took her seat in the swivel chair.

Lexi tisked. “Ryder, I just want keep you as healthy as feasibly possible, both physically and mentally. According to SAM, you’re not eating enough, not drinking enough water, having migraines and ..” She paused to refer to her notes. “What is this about nightmares?”

Lola sighed. This was all so ridiculous and unnecessary. “You know, nightmares, Lexi. We all have them. They happen.” Lola shrugged, realizing that she wasn’t sure if Asari actually did dream. She was about to ask Lexi when she stopped herself. Of course they do, c’mon Lola, don’t be an idiot, she chided herself.

“SAM says that you often wake up crying. That you sometimes scream yourself awake?”

“Goddess damn it, SAM! When did you turn into such a snitch?” Lola hissed at him, sinking further down into her chair.

When Doctor P’terro requested me to,” SAM said matter of factly. Lola could have sworn she had detected a bit of sass in his voice. 

“Sit up straight, please. Bad posture can affect mood, among other things.” Lexi said absently as she once again referred to her notes.

“Yes, mom.” Lola mumbled, fixing her posture.

Lexi sighed, looking Lola over. “It’s only for one day. The ship will stay docked here, and tomorrow you can go right back to saving the galaxy. But you need one day, one day to focus on yourself. You all do. It won’t fix everything, but maybe it will stop you all from going insane and trying to murder one another.”

And with that Lola was shooed out the med bay, and straight into Liam.

They slammed into each other.  Oof! Lola backed off him. “Lexi got you too, huh?” She asked, looking up at him.

“Oh yea, I think she’s going through all of us one by one.”

They stood there for a moment, awkwardly positioned in the small hallway. Liam leaned back against the wall.

“Thank you. For what you did earlier.” Lola said, noting how small her voice sounded. She wasn’t used to people defending her, that was a job she usually had to do herself.

“No need to thank me, Pathfinder. It needed to be said.” Liam smiled down at her. Unlike Reyes’s cocky smile which screamed fuck me , Liam’s smile was full of light and hope. She really needed to stop thinking of that man. Both men...alll men, really.

It had been four days since she first visited Reyes at Tartarus; the Kett transponder had quickly taken priority, and she was unable to find a single moment to steal away and visit him again. SAM was unable to find much information on him. So much data had been corrupted during the mutiny on The Nexus and, unfortunately, that included his. All SAM had been able to pull together was information found in staffing emails.

Reyes was a pilot assigned to shuttle N-503. His call sign was Anubis. The Jackal headed god of the afterlife, death, and embalming. She had read it so many times that she had it memorized. She was a pathetic human being.  Lola had no doubt that Reyes had left a trail of broken hearts from the Milky Way all the way to Andromeda, and that if she gave into him she’d be yet another one of his many conquests. More than once since obtaining that small amount of information on him, she had wondered what he had done to earn such a macabre call sign. Any conclusion she could come to had both excited and disturbed her. Leaving her to think of him all the more.

Fuck him and his fucking sexy -

Reyes may be bad for her, but his intel was most likely not. So, maintaining contact with him remained important.

“Liam!” Lexi called from the med bay.

“Uh oooh, your turn.” Peebee sing songed as she passed by. “Keep her busy will ya? She wants me next.” She said, frowning.

Liam chuckled. “C’mon, she’s not that bad.”

“We will have to just agree to disagree on that one.”

“Stop talking about me and get in here!” Lexi’s voice called once again from the room beside them.

Liam pushed himself off the wall he was leaning on and moved toward the med bay’s automatic doors.  Lola was about to wander away when he grabbed her wrist. His grip gentle.

“Wait for me, yea?” He said, his voice dropping down to near whisper. “There’s something I wanna show you.”

Memories of their time together came flooding back to her. He had grabbed her wrist just like that before pulling her back to him for their first kiss.

Lola nodded her head absentedly. “Yea.. ok.”

“Awesome.” He smiled and entered the med bay, the metal doors closing with a soft ‘swoosh’ behind him.

“Haven’t you already seen his something?”   Peebee asked, poking at Lola's side with a finger.

“Peebee!” Lola said, shielding her side. Peebee was wearing a smug smile on her face. “Goddess, you knew.” Of course Peebee knew. 

“Are you kidding me?” Peebee asked, crossing her arms over her chest and cocking her hip.

“So, I’m guessing the whole damn ship knows.”

Peebee nodded. “We are not crew of fools, Ryder.”

“Well, shit.” Lola mumbled turning away. “How?”

“First off, you weren’t exactly quiet that day, and honestly, neither was he,” Peebee giggled trailing behind her. “Gil was the first to hear a ‘Oh Goddess, yes, Liam!’ followed by a  very distinct groan of 'Mmm, Lola', and you know what a gossiping hen he is.”

Lola picked up her pace, not sure if she really wanted to hear anymore. Unfortunately, Peebee picked up her pace as well, unbothered.

“And have you seen the way he protects you on the field? Goddess, he is practically killing himself out there! He doesn’t do that for any of us, believe me.”

Lola turned into their tiny galley. Food. She needed food.  Peebee was right on her heels.

“And most telling of all…" Peebee paused hoisting herself onto the counter to sit. “...is how close he gets to shooting any guy that shows even the teeniest bit of interest in you..like, say that Reyes character.” 

“Wait, what?” Lola turned to her, closing the fridge door she had just opened. A small plate of leftover lasagna in her hand. They had been talking about her behind her back?  What the fuck, man?  

"Hold up. How would you know? You weren’t even there!”

Peebee shrugged. “Vetra was. You should have heard her ranting about how you were throwing yourself all over this man you just met. An exiled smuggler no less!” Peebee exclaimed, grinning ear to ear.

“I wasn’t throwing myself at him,” Lola grumbled, irritated. Yes, she was attracted to him, but who the hell wouldn't be?! He's sex on two very strong, very muscular legs. She sat down at the small table and began picking at the cold, hard, leftover lasagna.

“Her words, not mine.” Peebee said, throwing her hands up in defense.

Lola thought back to when he had caught her staring at his chest. He hadn’t blushed, hadn’t look away; he just held her gaze with steady, calm eyes, almost proud to be on the receiving end of such looks. And that boldness of his had driven her mad. She had to bite her finger just to keep from leaping across the table onto him. A real panty dropper, that one. He either wanted to fuck her ...or fuck her over. She could let him do the former. She was sure he'd be an attentive lover.

“Wait,”  Lola said, back tracking to the important part. “Vetra thinks Reyes is showing an interest in me?" Lola felt a stupid, dopey grin threatening to hijack her whole face. “Is it more of a ' I just want to fuck her' type of attention’, or a 'I want to fuck her and get to know her' type of attention?" Honestly, she could probably work with either.

“Oh my goddess! It’s true!” Peebee squealed hopping of the counter. “You are falling for an exiled smuggler! Oh, Tann is going to just love this!” Peebee erupted into gleeful laughter.

“Tann? What does he even ...? Falling? I’m not falling, I just...Peebee, he's hot but I don’t even know him.” Goddess, she didn't even know where to start with Peebee. Was she? Falling for a smooth talking stranger? No. Of course she wasn't. It was lust, plain and simple.

“Don’t even know who?” Liam asked, waltzing into the kitchen, his session with Lexi apparently over.  He picked up an apple off the counter beside Peebee, tossed into the air, and took a bite of it. Peebee and Lola fell stone silent while Liam looked expectantly back and forth between them.

“Peebee!” Lexi’s voice carried in from across the hall. “Don’t make me come out there and get you!”

Peebee visibly cringed.

“You’re up.” Liam smiled at her. She scowled at him and headed for the door.

“Who don’t we know?” Liam asked again, turning to Lola.

“Reyes Vidal!” Peebee called over her shoulder before Lola could even answer. Peebee shot her a teasing grin before scurrying away. Fucking Peebee! She was going to kill her. Really and truly. Maybe in her sleep. Liam’s bright eyes had darkened at the mere mention of the smuggler’s name. He took another bite of his apple, a little more violently than before.

“I don’t like him. I don’t think we can't trust him.”

“He hasn’t really done anything that would make him untrustworthy,” Lola replied.

Liam growled an indecipherable response before tearing viciously into his apple again.

“You said there was something you wanted to show me?” She asked, desperate to change the subject.

Liam’s dark eyes brightened again. He smiled his kid like grin, and cocked his head toward the door. “You’re gonna love this.”

 


 

 

Liam led her off the Tempest to one of the many street vendors that littered Kadara's Port. The Kadaran sun bore down on them making Lola extremely thankful that for once she wasn’t squeezed into a black, suffocation inducing combat suit.

“You look cute.” Liam said, referring to her dress. It was a simple, short dress. Red silk, loose, with two thin straps and an open back, and plenty of side boob. Chosen purely because she wanted as much ventilation as possible. And yea, it was "cute"... ’cuz you know, just in case... Reyes.  Anyway, she threw on sneakers, and called it an outfit.  

“You look younger somehow, not like the ass kicking Pathfinder I’m used to seeing. I dunno, I like it. It's nice.” He gave her a small smile.

Her face was void of her normal black eyeliner and slightly rouged lips. Her hair was loose, and, frankly, out of control. But yea, she did look younger without her makeup. You were supposed to look younger with makeup, but for some reason it always aged her. Which was fine by her because really how intimidating was a Pathfinder that looked like a teenager instead of the woman she actually was? Zero. She wasn’t intimidating at all.

"Thank you," she said.  Cute is nice, but it wasn't exactly what she was going for. Puppies are cute, kittens are cute... she slit throats and established human settlements in space for a living.. cute, she wasn't.

“Here we are!” He said, spreading his arms in front of one particular street vendor. Lola looked it over. It was smaller than the rest, and more cramped. A grumpy looking Turian sat behind a steel counter watching a foreign show on a tiny, portable tv. Lola failed to see exactly what it was that she was supposed to notice.nLiam’s shoulders slumped.

“Aww c’mon, Pathfinder.” Lola looked harder but all she saw a bunch of crap. Items that looked broken, most she couldn’t even identify.  Lola gave a small shrug, feeling guilty at ruining the surprise he had been so excited to share. Liam frowned dramatically and looked over his shoulder at the vendor.

“Oh, I see the problem. Wait here.” He rounded the counter and ducked inside leaving Lola on her own. After a few minutes of waiting, she decided to looked around. It was crowded on this side of the port, less drunks. There were vendors of every kind scattered in every direction. Everything from weapons, and armor, to spices and food was being peddled. One cart in particular caught her eye. Lola wandered toward it making sure not to stray too far from where Liam left her.

Books, she thought smiling to herself. Piles and piles of books. How long had it been since she’s stepped into a bookstore? Her heart sang as she ran her hand over their spines, taking in the many titles both foreign and familiar. Too long, it’s been too long. If there was anything she missed from her old life, it was cozy bookstores.  She had picked up one book in particular when she heard someone call her name, her first name. Her heart skipped a beat.

That voice.

She immediately knew who it was. She turned around to face Reyes Vidal.

 


 

 

It had been four days since he last saw her.

Four days too long.

The first day, he wasn’t surprised that she hadn’t shown. She was The Pathfinder, after all. She’s in high demand, he had reasoned, and as much as he desired to be the sole recipient of her attention, that wasn’t going to happen. At least, not so quickly.

The second day, he had fully expected her to show. So much so that he made sure to hang around Tartarus much later than usual, just incase she made a late night visit.

She hadn’t.

He was genuinely surprised, and, not surprisingly, the neglect only made him want her that much more. As she had said, not many women reject his advances. It seemed doing so only stoked the flame. When he had checked his omni-tool and saw it was 4 a.m. he had given up the wait. The upside being he was able to complete a significant amount of Collective business.

Such as alerting his people that they were to keep a close eye on The Pathfinder and all her movements. If she spat, The Charlatan wanted to fucking know about it. Reports immediately began pouring in. And they all had one thing in common: Lola was being fired at, constantly. That wouldn't do. He couldn't prevent The Outcasts from firing at her, but he could stop his own people. He swiftly gave the order that his people were to cease firing at The Pathfinder and her people. Immediately.The Charlatan has taken a special interest in her. He sent the order, hoping it would provide her some relief.

By the end of the third day all thoughts about being a man capable of waiting patiently went out the window.

By that morning (the fourth day) he had to force himself out of his room at Tartarus and into the ‘fresh’ air. He needed to distract himself and his normal workload wasn't doing it. He needed to keep himself from messaging her, stop himself from attempting to lure her to him. Reyes was no stranger to taking on the role of the aggressor. In fact, he often delighted in it. He had chased down and caught more beautiful women than he could count, but something instinctual told him to wait. Wait just a little longer. So, he did. And as usual, his instincts were right.

He wasn’t completely sure it was Lola when he had first saw her.  It had been just a glimpse. She seemed smaller, more vulnerable without her combat suit and heels. She didn’t look anything like the red lipped hellcat that had met him at Tartarus, but it was her.  He had been planning on paying Keema a visit, something he rarely did, if ever, when he saw her. Standing alone, in a red dress.

A red fucking dress.

And it took every ounce of the small amount self control he possessed to not push himself up against her.

“Reyes Vidal,” she said, her face immediately blooming into a smile when she saw him, something he honestly wasn’t used to: someone being pleased to see him. He was bad news, and most knew that. Bad things tended to happen when he was around. He pushed down thoughts of how she might react when she finally learned who he truly was. All the terrible acts he had committed. It doesn't matter, he reminded himself. He was trying to fuck her, not marry her.

She was standing in front of a book vendor, one Reyes hadn’t even known existed, despite walking this path many times.

His eyes roamed over her body; there was so little fabric there, and that red played so well against her copper skin. That endless golden skin. He forced himself to focus on something other than how dangerously short her dress was. After all, he couldn't take her there..unless she let him.

A book, she was holding a book.

So, she enjoyed smuggled perfume, and literature, he thought focusing his attention on the novel in her hands. She was clutching it, holding it close to her, like it was precious treasure.

“You never came to see me,” he said, approaching her, allowing her smile to melt his concerns away.

“Everyone wants a piece of The Pathfinder.” She shrugged with a slight frown, a touch of regret in her eyes.

“Perhaps-,” He said plucking the book from her hands.

“Hey!” She protested. She reached up attempting to snatch it back, but even on her toes she wasn’t tall enough.

He turned the book over to look at its cover: Jane Eyre. So, our little pathfinder is a romantic. He tucked the book under his arm.

“- but I’d be satisfied just having a piece of the woman that makes The Pathfinder.” He looked down into her grey eyes. They reminded him of the ice on Voeld. Sometimes, he missed the cold.  “Any chance she might be able to pay me a visit?”

She stopped struggling at that, seemingly at a loss for words.  So, not many people requested her for just her.He cocked his head to the side surveying her dress, he took her bare hand in his gloved one and made her spin for him

"And maybe come in that dress." He wolf whistled, eliciting laughter from her. That genuine, head back laugh he had witnessed once before. It made him smile in return. Not a cocky smile, not a smug grin, but a sincere smile.

He let go of her and they stood close enough for her curls to whip at his arms as it blew in the wind. Close enough for him to pick up her perfumed scent. He watched as she kept trying to secure her hair behind her ear only to have it pop right back out. He was close to reaching out, close to placing it gently behind her ear for her, when once again Kosta appeared out of nowhere.

“Lola, you disappeared on me,” he grabbed her hand. “C’mon, it’s ready -” Kosta stopped speaking when he saw who he had lost her to. His eyes darkened.

“Vidal,” he said simply, not letting go of Lola’s hand.  Reyes looked from Kosta to Lola. Something in her eyes, she seemed conflicted. Reyes didn’t smile; no point in even pretending that he and Kosta could be friends.

“Kosta, verdad?”

“That’s right.” He said, puffing out his chest.

Reyes just nodded, before turning his attention back to Lola.

“You know where to find me, Lolita.” And with that he left, taking the novel with him.

 

 

Chapter Text

Lola was the last to return to the Tempest. She arrived just as the sun was beginning to dip below the horizon.

The day had been long, torturous. She had been hunting down cannibals alongside Liam and Drack.

Actual cannibals. People eating people.

Lola still couldn’t wrap her mind around it, the desperation required to make one person kill and eat another.

But was this really an act of desperation? They had people caged, in wait to be devoured. There was a plan in place...this wasn't a random act of desperation. She couldn't shake the image of the severed limbs that were scattered about the room...the smell alone was enough to... No. Stop thinking about it.

There was no doubt that life on Kadara was difficult (a fact she was actively, and tirelessly working to alter), but was it difficult enough to justify hoarding people for consumption? Every time she thought about it she felt physically ill, and just ..exhausted. It was a never ending queue of shit humans she had to deal with. Was she even making a dent, a difference that would last? The severe emotional strain of the day’s events made her thankful that Lexi had forced them to relax the day before.

She had spent the day with Liam.. thinking of Reyes .

Liam had found a vendor that sold old movies. VHSs. The vendor's stock wasn’t large, and the tapes were located in the back of his little section of Kadara Port, which is why she hadn’t noticed it at first. There were 16 tapes in all.

They had bought all 16.

It was an eclectic mixture of movies for sure. Some of the tapes she had never heard of, in alien languages that contained no subtitles, and some she had watched in more current versions as a kid. They decided to take turns randomly picking out tapes from their newly acquired stash to watch together. Liam had some sort of contraption that took the tapes and projected them as a sort of hologram. They had popped popcorn, sat on that sofa, and watched three movies back to back before Liam fell asleep. Nothing had happened between her and Liam that day. Liam was the perfect gentlemen, and made no moves to repeat what had occured the last time they were together on that sofa, which Lola was thankful for.  Because even though she did find Liam attractive, she couldn’t sleep with one man while thinking about another.

And think about Reyes she did.

Lola entered the Tempest. The cold air from the ship hit her skin, immediately cooling her off.

That Kadaran heat was no joke. She couldn’t wait to get out of her combat suit. She headed in the direction of her cabin.

You have a package awaiting you in the research room, Pathfinder,” SAM alerted her.

“A package? Like in mail?” 

I believe it is similar to a gift.”

Lola perked up at the idea. “Really? A gift? From who?" She ran through a list of her crew mates in her head. She couldn't think of any reason any of them would buy her something.

Unless it was from Liam. She was unsure of how that made her feel.

"No! Wait, don’t tell me. I’ll find out in a second.”

As you wish, Pathfinder.”

She turned around headed to the research room instead. Her crew's voices echoed throughout the ship.  What were they all excited about? As Lola neared the voices grew louder. It sounded like everyone was talking over one another. Almost like they were arguing. Her day had been so long, too long, she had no patience left for their shit. She entered The Research room prepared to scold them all, when they all fell silent and looked at her.

“What?” She said, looking at their faces. It ranged from amused to displeased. Oh goddess, what had she done now?

“What?!” She asked again more aggressively when no one would answer.

Suvi stepped out of the crowd and handed her a small package, with an equally small smile on her adorable face.

“Oh, yea, SAM had told me there was a gift waiting for me.” She turned the package over in her hands. “Now, which one of you losers thought enough about me to get me a -” Lola stopped talking when she saw the message that was scribbled on the plain brown paper wrapping.

Lolita, XX Reyes    

The letters were long and slanted. Chicken scratch, her brother would have called it. Lola had a similar writing style.

Lola looked up at her crew wide eyed. “Reyes..he..he sent this?”

“Well, don’t just stand there. Open it for heaven’s sake!” Gil called out. He snatched the package from her hands and tore through it’s plain brown wrapping.

“Hey!” What was with people snatching shit out of her hands. Was it a tall person thing? Did they just feel entitled to everything just because they were taller than everyone else?

“He dropped it off himself,” Suvi explained.

“He came to the Tempest?” Lola asked, turning to Suvi. For some reason Lola just couldn’t imagine him doing that. Hand delivering a gift. He didn't seem the type.

Suvi nodded, smiling a sweet smile. “He’s handsome, and has such a way with words. I could see the attraction.”

“It’s a book!” Gil announced holding it up for the crew to see.

“Gil!” Lola cried, snatching it back.

“I told you he was interested in her.” Vetra said in a knowing tone. “He’s bad news. I know smugglers.”

“You are one,” Gil pointed out.

“Exactly, so who would know better than me?” Vetra concluded, clearly serious about her faulty logic.

Lola ignored them and read the cover.

Jane Eyre.

“It’s the book I had wanted to purchase yesterday. He bought it for me.” Lola couldn’t help the stupid grin that slowly grew on her face. 50 points awarded to Reyes Vidal.

“Oh, I know that face!” Peebee cried.

What face?She asked, dumbly. He bought and hand delivered it.

“That one!” Peebee said, pointing at Lola’s face. “That ...that swoony grin!”

“I have no idea what you are talking about. I can’t be happy about a book?” She flipped through the book, and sniffed it. Mmmm. It still has that book smell.

Peebee squealed. “It’s a note!”

“A what?” Lola asked.

A small piece of paper had fallen out from between the pages. Peebee wasted no time scooping it up.

“What does it say?!” Gil asked, excitedly.

“No.” Lola said, trying to muster up as much authority in her voice as possible. “That’s private.” She moved to snatch it back, but she was outnumbered. Gil and Peebee simply elbowed her out of the way. "You guys are such assholes."

"Oh, shut up. You love us." Gil said, patting her on the head. She scowled at him.

Lolita,” Peebee read loudly.

“He gave you a pet name!” Suvi said. “How sweet!”

“He’s just trying to get in her pants.” Vetra replied, with a shake of the head.

“Vetra.." Lola whined. Was it really that big of a deal that a man might want to sleep with her?

Come see me.” Peebee continued reading.

“Yup.” Vetra said crossing her arms.

"And wear that dress. ” Peebee finished, her eyes growing wide.

“It doesn’t actually say that,” Lola said as Peebee finally handed the note back to her. Lola looked it over. “Oh, Goddess. It does.” She bit the inside of her lip, turned on by the note’s commanding tone. That horny bastard.  

“When were you wearing a dress?” Cora asked. Suspicion written all over her face.

“The other day when we were on shore leave together.” Liam spoke up, his voice devoid of any emotion, his eyes on Lola.

She hadn’t even see him there, and she thought things were awkward before...She immediately felt guilty. Guilty for what? That another man was interested in her? It was Liam's decision to slow things down to a near stop. It was Liam that wanted to just “see where things go.” Nowhere, they were clearly going nowhere with him. He was clearly in no rush to claim her. He had kissed her, he had pulled her to him seeking more, it’s not as though she had led him on. 

“I agree with Vetra. He is definitely interested in getting to know Ryder as more than just The Pathfinder,” he said.

“And is that so wrong?” Lola felt her anger flair. She knew Liam had put her on some damn pedestal, that he was drawn more to The Pathfinder than who she actually was.

“I am more than just The Human Pathfinder after all. Goddess forbid, someone shows an interest in getting to know that part of me.”

“So, you were on shore leave together?” Cora asked Liam, ignoring Lola.

“Yea,” Liam replied.

“Hmmm,” Cora hummed in response.

“Wait, no ‘hmmm’." Liam said catching Cora's insinuation. "It wasn’t a big deal. We were just hanging out. Two amigos.”

Lola wanted to scream. If everything between them wasn’t a big deal to him than why was he acting so damn possessive all the time??

“We just watched some movies in the storage room and -”

“The room in which you two -” Jaal began.

“Yes!” Liam said, quickly cutting Jaal off before he could finish his sentence, his voice raising an octave. “Wait. You knew?”

Jaal nodded and shrugged as though it was the most obvious thing in the world.

Oh Goddess, Liam, yes.” Peebee responded, a smug grin on her face.

Lola buried her face in her hands. She was way pass humiliated. What the hell was happening right now? 

"I had not realized it was a secret,”  Jaal explained. "Your volume that day did not indicate that you were trying to be subtle."

"Oooh-kay, Jaal. We get it." Lola called out.

“Yes, yes. We all know about that. So, what dress?” Gil asked, turning to Lola, his face dead serious, as though this information was the most important thing in the galaxy to him right now.

Usually, Lola would have no problem dishing to Gil. In truth, they had quickly grown close. Gil was full of wit and clever comebacks. He never missed a beat, but he was also as emotionally screwed up as she was, and they took comfort in the fact that at least they were a pair of fuck ups instead of lone fuck ups. In fact, Lola, Peebee, and Gil had quickly become inseparable. A trio of fuck ups, if you will.  They could often be found cracking each other up with jokes late until the night. Jokes that would make their grandmothers blush. But this, this isn't how she wanted to talk to Gil. She did not want to discuss things she was still trying to figure out in front of the whole enitre crew.

Lola looked at him in disbelief. “I don’t know, Gil! A dress!”

This was too much. They were too much.

“Must be some dress.” Cora added.

“A red dress,” Liam mumbled. His eyes flitted to hers. Lola couldn’t read what was behind them, and honestly at this point she couldn’t care less. He was acting just as badly as the rest of them.

"A Freakum dress." Gil nodded knowingly.

"It was not a 'Freakum' dress.It was-” Lola stopped herself from explaining any further. "Alright guys.” Lola was desperately trying to keep her cool despite how pissed and exposed she felt. “You had your fun at my expense. Ha ha ha.. I’m going to my room now.”

“Are you going to visit him?” Peebee asked, before Lola had a chance to exit the room. “‘Cuz I wanna go!”

Lola was about to ask Peebee why the hell she thought she would bring company to meet Reyes (if she were to go, wouldn't it be alone?), when Cora spoke up.

“She can’t,” Cora said.

Everyone fell silent at that.

“Excuse me?” Lola asked, turning back around to face Cora. She narrowed her eyes at Cora, challenging her to continue.

In general, Lola and Cora got along, though no one in their right mind would ever call them actual friends. Lola respected Cora. After all, Cora was smart, stable, reliable, a real asset to the team. Lola even sympathized with Cora concerning how her father clearly fucked her over in the end. It wasn’t right. Without a doubt how her father had short changed Cora in the end was not right.  But where Cora was a stickler for rules, craved order, Lola felt they suppressed progress and was known to bend if not completely shatter them. That key difference in their personalities caused them to butt heads more often than not.

“Is it not obvious?” Cora looked around at the rest of the crew. None of them responded. “Great. So I have to be the bad guy, again .”

“Just say what’s on your mind, Cora.” Lola said, crossing her arms.

“Ok. Fine," Cora acquiesced. "You can’t date him, Ryder.”

Lola nodded, clenching her jaw. She knew it. She fucking knew it.

“First off, I’m not dating anyone.” Lola replied, struggling to keep her voice leveled. “Maybe I'll fuck him. Maybe I won't. And if I did that would be my business, and only mine.”

“If you were just a civilian, yea, sure. You could sleep around with any and every shady character that looked your way.”

“Cora-” Lola warned. She respected Cora but she also demanded respect in return.

“But you aren’t, Ryder.” Cora continued, ignoring Lola’s warning. “I’m sorry, but you just aren’t. You are The Human Pathfinder, and everything you do reflects back on The Initiative, on us. That includes who you date. And sleeping with some sleezy, exiled smuggler-”

“He isn’t sleezy.”

“ - a criminal is what he is." Cora said, nodding at her own words.  "Sleeping with a criminal when you represent the law is a huge conflict of interest! It's unacceptable. It’s literally against ” Cora said shaking her head as though she couldn’t believe she had to tell Lola this. "You'd be putting all of us at risk! And for what? A handsome face that called you pretty?" 

Lola fought the urge to tackle Cora to the ground, and beat that condescending look off her face. Calm. Keep calm. She was the leader. She needed to act like it.  “Look, Cora. Everyone. I appreciate your concern, but since I am currently not sleeping with the big bad smuggler 'that called me pretty', this conversation is moot.”

“He is actively working on getting you into his bed.” Cora said, her voice growing louder and firmer. Cora just wouldn’t let it go. “And by the look of the smile you get on your face every time his name is mentioned. I’d say, he’s pretty damn close to succeeding.”

That was it. Lola felt her biotics begin to flare.

“Are you done?" Lola growled, her long nails were cutt into her skin, she was clenching her fists them so tightly. “Because I’m leaving.”

 


 

Lola had showered, and ate as quickly and quietly as possible, wanting to avoid her crew mates for the rest of the night.]. She had holed herself up in her quarters, and resigned herself to spending the night reading the book Reyes had gifted her. Jane Eyre was a favorite, not that Reyes could have possible known that. She had read it many times but with each new reading she found something new and magical about it. She had majored in English Literature in Uni, much to her father’s dismay. She loved books, it couldn’t be helped. She had just gotten comfortable when there was a light knock on her door.

“Fuck off!” She called, expecting the worst.

Ignoring her, Peebee entered the room followed by Gil. Lola's jaw hit the ground upon seeing them.

Peebee had on what Lola was sure was the tightest leather dress in all of Heleus, and matching thigh high stiletto boots, she looked so dangerous, Lola half expected to see a whip in her hand. Gil had on a sheer netted shirt, and a pair of black leather pants that gave Peebee's leather outfit a run for her money. And plastered to both of their faces..were the wickedest of grins.

Cats. Cats that caught the canary..the both of them.

“So, losers, are we going to Tartarus tonight or what?” Peebee asked.

They were both dressed for a night of mischief. Lola couldn’t help but smile at her friends.

“But-” Lola began, there were a million reasons why they would never even make it off the ship.

“I lent Kallo money, he owes me. He’ll cover for us if there are any questions, and in return, I will conveniently forget about his debt to me.” Gil explained, as though reading her mind.

Lola climbed off her bed and hugged them.

“You beautiful, beautiful assholes!” She laughed.

“Alright, now go get that ass ready.” Gil replied, smacking her rear as she ran to get her red dress. "Good girl, go put on that Freakum dress!"

"Woo! Let's get Ryder laid!" Peebee hollered.

 


 

 

“The Charlatan remembers him as a good man,” Reyes said, finishing up one of many, many meetings he had with clients and Collective representatives that day. “They're sorry they lost him at Sloane’s hands. The Charlatan wants to make sure that the soldier's family receives reparations. They remember him speaking of a sister and niece he was watching over. Make sure they want for nothing.”

“Will do, Mr. Vidal. I’m glad The Charlatan takes care of their people,” The Collective soldier replied. “Have you ever met them, personally?”

“The Charlatan? Unfortunately, no.” He lied. “I just get paid to deliver information every now and then, nothing more.”

“That’s too bad.” 

Once the  soldier had left, Reyes collapsed onto his sofa. It had been a long night. He rubbed at his neck hoping to relieve some of the pent up tension, but it was futile. Too much was happening. Too many of his people’s lives are being lost at the hand of Sloane, tortured, then murdered. 

Reyes took a swig of his whiskey. Allowing the alcohol to fill him before checking his terminal for messages.

He frowned.

He had been keeping close tabs on Lola, and it seemed his girl had stumbled upon a cannibal nest. He had heard whisperings about cannibals in the badlands but had more problems than anticipated weeding them out.  The cannibals sought out people, hunted them, for the sole purpose of catching and storing them for later consumption. Their actions disturbed him more than he’d liked to admit.

He read the report.

The Pathfinder succeeded in locating and eradicating all known cannibal nests, freeing those that were imprisoned there.

He felt an odd sensation of pride knowing that she had succeeded where he hadn’t, but also concern at what she might have witnessed there. Ridiculous. She was The Pathfinder, she has most definitely seen worse. But he found himself concerned all the same. He decided he needed a break, and left his room. He stepped up to the railing on the second floor and looked down at the dance floor below. It was full of inebriated, writhing bodies. And she was amongst them. His eyes had immediately picked her out of the crowd. His omni-tool beeped a second later.

Your Pathfinder’s here. Kian had messaged him. Indeed, she was.

Reyes stood on the second floor looking down below at her. She had yet to notice him. Good. He wanted to watch her for some time before approaching. His inner scoundrel being unable to resist.

She wore the dress, he thought with a smile. He had thought about her in that dress non-stop since he had first saw her in it. The way it revealed so much and yet had shown so little.

 It was truly the most delicious form of torture.

She finally was within reach. With boots that clung to her thighs and her hair piled high, allowing him an uninterrupted view of the curve of her back and the sides of her breasts. She looked every inch the hellcat he'd grown to enjoy seeing.  He imagined her slipping the dress on just for him, just because she knew it’d please him. 

Reyes leaned further against the railing seeking a better view of her. A few tendrils had broken loose from the curls  that were messily piled on top of her head, they framed her beautiful face, and it made him think of how she might look after a night of screwing. And he could tell, even from above, that she had her eyes lined and lips painted, just the way he liked it. 

He kept a watchful eye, counting every shot she drank. One. Two. Three…. Watching to make sure she didn’t over do it. That none attempted to take advantage of her.

He watched as she snaked along to the music, beside the Asari he had met when he had went to drop her gift off at the Tempest, Peebee, and a man he had never seen in person, but recognized, from the research he had done, as Gil. At least Kosta was nowhere to be seen.

Peebee grabbed Lola’s hands stealing her away from Gil.

A real firecracker that one, Reyes thought thinking back to how Peebee had overtly thrown herself at him. He chuckled to himself.   He knew then that she was a true friend to Lola. It was obvious what Peebee was pulling, that she was attempting to test him. It was sloppy, but a good effort all the same. He knew that his actions would be relayed back to Lola, and, obviously, he hadn’t taken the bait. The truth was, Reyes had thought of none and wanted none since he met Lola. For better or worse she had ensconced his mind. It had been a long time since a woman had him so enraptured. He had almost forgotten how agonizing it was.

 


 

Despite Peebee’s insistence (and rallying cry), Lola was not planning on getting laid that night. She just wanted to see him.

Once in the club, Gil immediately headed toward the bar to order drinks, which Lola needed, but wasn’t completely sure she wanted. But then he disappeared toward the bartender and hadn’t returned, and Lola had a strong suspicion about what had happened.

“Pathfinder!” Kian had called when he saw her approaching.

Lola held up a hand. “Ryder, please. I’m not The Pathfinder tonight.” She had grown partial to the idea of Reyes being the only one to call her ‘Lola’ (you know, except for Liam),  and had began introducing herself as Ryder to all who asked.

“Well, Ryder,” he said, correcting himself, his Irish accent coloring his every word. “It’s a pleasure to see you again. Maybe Reyes will finally relax. You’ve had him wound up tight, you know.”

Gil turned to her with a huge shit eating grin on his face. “Hear that, Ryder? You have him wound up tight. ” 

Lola flicked him off causing him to erupt into a raucous laughter.

“I see you got a little distracted by Kian while grabbing the drinks,” she said. Kian threw her a wink.  

“Ah, yes! The drinks.” Gil turned back to Kian. “Three Vodka’s please. Or whatever the hell you have that's close.”

“Coming right up.” Kian said, disappearing behind his caged counter.

“Where are those damned drinks?” Peebee practically yelled over the music, heading over to them. Her and her outfit turning heads from both the males and females of every species.

“Right ‘ere” Kian responded, plopping down three shots of...something.

They each took one and quickly threw it back. Lola scowled at the way it burned her throat on the way down.

Gil studied her. “No, you’re still too uptight. Another round, Kian.”

Three more shot glasses appeared in front of them.

“Gil…” Lola warned.

“I’m here. Peebee is here. Nothing is going to happen. Let loose. Have fun. It’ll feel good. Promise.”

“Yea, C’mon Ryder! When do you think the three of us will ever be able to get away with something like this again?” Peebee tipped the glass back against Lola’s mouth. “Down the hatch!”

By the third shot Lola was indeed feeling loose... and good. Really good actually. Suspiciously good. The music changed suddenly from your normal thumping club beat, to something with a quicker tempo and slightly more bass. Something Lola recognized.

“Oh my goddess!” Peebee squealed, “I love this song!” “Dance! Dance with me now!” She grabbed both Lola’s and Gil’s hand and dragged them to the middle of the crowded club. Peebee immediately starting wriggling and twisting to the music, sporadically bumping her hips against Lola’s. Lola couldn’t help but laugh at Peebee’s enthusiasm. She followed suit, dancing between them. The alcohol had warmed, and loosened her all at once. She could feel the bass beat through her like a second heartbeat, and she put up no resistance when Gil took her and started spinning her around in the most ridiculous of circles.

“My turn!” Peebee had called grabbing her away from Gil to dance close to her. Lola threw her arms around her friend and gave completely into the music and the moment.

It wasn’t until a few songs had passed that Lola felt the need to slow down. She patted her friends on their respective backs “I need a break!” She shouted above the music.  They responded by shooing her away and clinging onto each other. 

Lola wandered a bit, looking for a spot she could sit when she saw him. Up on the balcony Reyes Vidal stood leaning against the railing. Watching her. He was backlit by the clubs harsh colored lighting, so his face was shrouded in shadow, but she’d know that outline anywhere. The broad shoulders, narrow waist, his head cocked slightly to the side as though constantly listening out for something only he could hear.

How long had he been there? He was such a creep. She loved it.

She gazed back at him, and even though she couldn’t see it, she could feel his eyes once again roaming over her body. They were like invisible hands, searching.  When he was done, he bared his teeth in a grin that could only be described as hungry.    Her head was floating. She held out her hand and curled her finger at him. Want me? She thought, tipsy on the alcohol. Come  and get me. The alcohol was making her bold. Careless. She had to work with him. Tomorrow, she’d need to face him again to ask him all those questions she consistently forgot to ask whenever she was in his presence. But that was tomorrow. Tonight, she’d have a little fun. She looked back to where her friends danced wildly together on the dance floor. They saw her and gave her a quick wave. Lola smiled. She could be a little irresponsible for once. A little selfish. When she looked back to the spot where Reyes had stood above her, he was gone.


 

Reyes could wait no longer. Her come hither look was all the invitation he needed.

Sexy minx, he thought as he descended the stairs to her. She wanted to play? He could play. 

He followed her from the shadows as she moved about the crowd. Her hips swaying with each step forward. She kept looking back and around as though she sensed his presence, but had yet to accurately place him.

Reyes quickly spoke to the DJ as he passed the small caged booth. That music wouldn’t do. He needed an excuse to touch her, place his hands on her hips and draw her near. The right music could provide that.

Just as the music he had requested began playing, he reached her.

 


 

Lola sensed him moving about the shadows, following her. She’d catch glimpses of his form stealthily slipping about here and there. He liked games.  She smiled to herself. If he desired her to be the lamb being stalked by the wolf. She could do that.

She hid from him as he prowled about her, and it wasn’t until the music had changed once again to something more sensual, and slower than before , that he revealed himself.

Lolita,” he whispered into her ear. He approached her from behind, and she felt his hands grab at her waist. Lola gasped at the suddenness of his touch, her biotics flaring as she instinctively shocked him. Alcohol always decreased the amount of control she maintained over powers. Reyes growled at the pain she had caused him. The sound was a deep, sensuous rumble that emanated straight from his chest. He held on fast to her waist as the wave of electricity passed from her to him, and she could feel his muscles spasm from the stimulation. He responded to her shocks by pulling her roughly back onto him, holding her close against his chest until the shock waves to cease.

“That’s one way to greet a man,” he growled with a deep chuckle. His chest vibrated against her back. It was a pleasant feeling and Lola found herself leaning further back onto him to feel more of it. His chest was solid, and broad. Reassuring.

In the past, the men she had accidentally shocked reacted as though she had suddenly struck them. Liam included. Perhaps the first of many indicators that they were incompatible. Each of them had immediately pulled away, a look of distrust on their faces, like she was some feral animal that had just bit them.

But, clearly, Reyes was different. He held on faster, tighter. Rather than pulling away, he pulled closer.  He was utterly unbothered and, maybe even... turned on by the sudden sensation. Which both thrilled and frightened her. Could one woman really satisfy a man like him? Doesn’t matter. She wasn’t going to sleep with him.

“Mr. Vidal,” she purred turning toward him to look up at his face. The lids were low on his amber eyes, they gave off an almost palpable heat. They were smoldering embers focused solely on her.

“You finally came to me,” he crooned, his accent thick. She allowed him to lead her back to the dance floor, his hand never straying from her waist. She noticed they were bare of the pilot gloves he usually wore, leaving only a thin piece of silk between his hands and her skin. The thought sent shivers down her spine.

Once he reached his desired spot amongst the thicket of people, he drew her nearer, clasping one hand around hers as he led her into a gentle sway. His other hand slipped smoothly from her waist, to her hips, finally settling in on her bare lower back. His thumb intimately caressed the exposed skin there, and Lola bit the inside of her lip, enjoying the sensation of his light touches on her naked skin.

“Well, not many women could say no to a man like you.” Lola replied, repeating their ongoing joke. Her voice was breathy, and the words came out slow . She was unable to focus on anything more than the placement of his hands on her body, they hugged each spot they fell on like a glove, like they belonged on her.

 "They could all say no, as long as you say yes.” His voice came out rough and low, and for a moment, she wanted to believe him. 

Time seemed to slow as everyone around them moved swiftly and frantically, the club nothing more than a blur of flailing limbs surrounding them. Lola and Reyes swayed as one to the music, oblivious to the crowd's chaotic motions. Reyes moving her much slower than the music called for. 

“You wore the dress,” he said, his lips curling into wolfish grin. His hooded eyes slipped down to her body, a look of admiration on his face. He boldly allowed them to linger on her cleavage before returning back to her eyes. She arched an eyebrow at him, his lustful stares were becoming a habit. He was getting bolder, but she was still unwilling to make it too easy for him.

“Tell me, Mr. Vidal,” she said, running her hand over the muscles that lined his shoulder, his arm. "Is it the dress you want? or me?”

He tilted his head back to survey her, the dim lighting enhancing his chiseled jawline and sharp cheekbones. It wasn’t fair, how good he looked. And she shouldn’t be encouraging him. Why was she encouraging him?

The unmistakable look of desire filled his eyes as his lips parted slightly and he clenched his jaw. Lola felt him apply pressure to the hand he had on the small of her back, drawing her even nearer to him. He moved his thigh in between her legs with ease as their bodies met, leaving absolutely no space between them. She could feel the length of him against her stomach, and it was.. impressive .

With a sly grin, he unclasped the hand that held hers allowing her arm to return to her side. With his eyes locked on hers he began tracing his fingers slowly up her freed bare arm, his callouses tickling and lightly scratching at her skin. Her breath hitched as her gaze tracked the movement of his fingers. They flowed over her body, leaving a trail of goosebumps in their wake. His hand continued its way up her arm, tracing over her shoulder in the most sensual of touches. Without thinking she leaned her head back as his touch neared her neck. She was granting him better access, inviting his touch. She felt Reyes hum in approval at her submission to him, however small it was, and his hand continued up onto the delicate skin she had just exposed for him.

Her eyes fluttered closed. The music, his touch, the alcohol all mingled into a bliss she had never experienced before.

His hand reached the the base of her head and his fingers to became completely entangled in her hair right before he gripped it then gave it a firm but gentle tug. The pull forced her head to fall further back. Lola gasped and opened her eyes to him and the vulnerable position he had left her in, even so she found herself hoping he wouldn't stop. Reyes took his time moving face into the exposed flesh, his movements like a starved creature. His lips hovered right above her skin, his breath warming her neck.  Lola waited for the feel of his lips on her, but it never came. Instead, he suddenly released her curls from his grasp and shifted his lips to her ear. The scent of whiskey and cigars.. and earth simply enveloped him. On anyone else it might have been unpleasant, but on Reyes, it only added to his ample machisimo allure.

“I want you in the dress...”He said, finally answering her question, his voice nothing more than whisper as he spoke into her ear. He ran his calloused thumb over the top half of her ear sending shivers down her spine once more. “I want you out the dress....”He continued, before running the his hand back down her neck, and shoulder. He was torturing her, punishing her for making him wait, she was sure of it.  Electricity shot through her every time his skin connected to hers. More. She wanted more. He stopped his hand's pilgrimage down her body, and she nearly groaned in protest. He tugged roughly at one of the extremely thin straps that held her dress in place, and hissed at the near exposure of her breast.  “Really... “ he said, his eyes returning to hers.  “I’d take you any and every way you’d allow me.”

Lola swallowed hard at his invitation, at the rawness of his voice. Every part of her desperately wanted to feel every part of him, consequences be damned. She wasn’t going to sleep with him. She wasn’t going to sleep with him...

She watched as his eyes strayed back down, this time to her lips. She let him bring his thumb to her mouth, where he ran it possessively over her bottom lip. Her deep red lipstick smudging as the color transferred from her to him. He grunted and applied more pressure forcing her lips to part. Lola fought the intense urge to bite down on the intruding finger as a slight moan escaped her lips.  

"Mmm..Lolita," he groaned back, his voice smoke and ash, heavy and deep.

That look in his eyes. Has anyone ever looked at her like that? Like they’d die without her touch? No. She was almost certain no one ever had.  

She wrapped her arms around his neck resolving herself to the fact that he had won, when SAM spoke up breaking the heated sexual tension between them, she  was simultaneously relieved and irritated.

Your absence has been noted, Pathfinder. Liam and Drak are en route to you as we speak.”

Shit. Shit. Shit. That sobered her up quickly. Reyes peered down at her curiously.

“How close are they, SAM?” She asked.

About 5 meters away.

“Goddess damn it, SAM! Could you have not told me sooner??”

You had given me strict orders to not speak unless it was absolutely necessary or spoken to.

Yeah. That’s true. She had done that.  

FFfffuck.  

She was in trouble.

 

 


 

It took Reyes a few moments to realize she was speaking to her A.I.  The look on her face told him all he needed to know.

She wasn’t cleared to be there, and she had been found out.

Naughty Pathfinder.

He had to admit it was a huge boost to his ego knowing she not only dressed up for his pleasure, but had broken protocol just be here, right now, with him. He would have gladly made all that effort worth her time, if their time together wasn’t continuously being interrupted.

“I’m sorry, Reyes,” she said, pulling her warm, soft body away from his. “I have to go -”

“Of course,” he replied, not wanting to make things anymore difficult for her. His only regret being that he had to release her from his grasp.

“Ryder!” It was Peebee and Gil.  

“We’ve been found out,” Gil said as he cocked his head in the direction of the door. Reyes looked to see Kosta and an older looking Krogan entering the club.

They truly had their Pathfinder on a short leash. Reyes frowned. Concern for her well being once again filling him. How often did they allow her to just be? Allow her time to be someone or something other than their Pathfinder? He got it, she was the key to saving humanity, but what good would she be to anyone broken? He’d seen it, pilots worked to the bone, forced into situations that forever altered them. Used as a tool then discarded. While she took care of the needs of everyone, who the hell was taking caring of hers? But more importantly, why the hell was he concerning himself with it? Wasn't the goal to bed her and then move on?

She looked up at him, her lovely almond shaped eyes saying all the things she had no time to.

He brought his hand to her face, unsure of all the emotions he was feeling.

It was best that she left now.

“No preocupesLolita. We’ll be seeing each other again.” He said, certain of the truth of his words. He caressed her cheek with his thumb. So soft.

“Ryder! What the hell?!” Kosta asked, grabbing her by the elbow and leading her away from Reyes. She stumbled slightly in her heels, her balance off from the alcohol.

Oye!” Reyes called out, and before he could stop himself, he reached out to steady her. He brought her to him, wanting to make sure she was ok before letting go. “¿Estas bien? He asked, his voice low, only for her to hear.

“Hands off, Vidal,” Kosta said, stepping in between them, re-gripping her elbow.

“Are you alright?” Kosta asked, her taking in disheveled state, her lipstick was smudged and her hair was in a state of disarray.  Honestly, she looked properly ravished, and Reyes hadn’t even truly touched her.

Lola pulled her arm away from him. “The fuck, Liam? I don’t need a big brother. I already have one.”

“You’re drunk.” Reyes heard Kosta say, disgust in his voice.

 Reyes placed his hands in his pocket in an effort to contain the sudden urge he had to knock Kosta the fuck out.

“I’m fine,” she replied.

Lola clearly didn’t enjoy being policed, yet Kosta had taken it upon himself to be some sort of enforcer.

“Look, be happy it was me and Drak that came down here instead of Cora and Vetra. They were itching for a chance to drag you away from him.” Kosta stared daggers at Reyes.

Reyes kept his face neutral, unbothered by Kosta’s dislike for him. Kosta was nothing more than a yapping runt of a pup.

“You risked a lot coming down here," Kosta continued. "You know what the punishment is for breaking protocol, and you risked it anyway.” Kosta shook his head at her in disbelief. "I'm on your side," he said, when she didn't respond, she was avoiding making eye contact with Kosta. “Lola, look at me." He grabbed her chin and lifted her face toward his, forcing her eyes to meet his, "I'm on your side. I am always on your side."

“Whatever, Liam.” Lola wrenched her chin away from his touch, she shoved Kosta aside and walked away.

Kosta was about to follow after her when the Krogan reached out and stopped him. The Krogan shook his head at the dejected looking Kosta. Kosta nodded and followed after her, but his steps were much slower. He was giving her space.

Reyes eyebrows knitted together in thought, unsure of what he had just witnessed. The group dynamics of her team were incredibly different than he had imagined them to be.

“C’mon kids, before you get yourselves into more trouble,” the Krogan said to Peebee and Gil who had yet to budge.

“Yea. Yea. Yea.” Peebee said waving a hand dismissively at the old Krogan. Her movements were slow and sloppy, she was most definitely drunk.

“We’re going, old man,” the male slurred holding onto Peebee for balance. Together they stumbled out the club.

The only one to linger was the Krogan.

“She’s a good kid, you know” the Krogan said to him after the others were gone.

Yes, Reyes was beginning to see that.

He no longer felt the intense need to corrupt her, instead it was slowly being replaced with the desire to preserve, protect. Which unnerved him. He wasn’t the hero of this story.

“You hurt her. You do anything she doesn’t consent to..you’ll be seeing me again. And then, you won’t be so pretty no more.”

“I wouldn’t dream of it.” Reyes replied, his voice smooth. It was true. As much as he enjoyed being so near her tonight, once he saw how intoxicated she was, all plans he had made of taking her back to his room fell to the wayside. Reyes was not the type of man to take sexual advantage of a woman. He had to deal with such wrong doings amongst his own people. Male Collective soldiers forcing themselves upon their female counterparts. He didn’t take such matters lightly. In fact, it displeased him so much that The Charlatan always made sure that such men would never physically be able to commit such atrocities again.

Some would say his methods were barbaric. Reyes was unconcerned with such people.

The Krogan nodded. They seemed to have come to an understanding. The Krogan strode out the club, his large form forcing people to move out the way.

Leaving Reyes standing alone in the middle of Tartarus, wondering what Lola had done to him.

 

Chapter Text

 

And to think, he had once thought five days of her absence too long. It had now been two weeks.

He was disheartened when he had learned of her departure from Kadara the very morning after her late night visit. The Tempest has departed.  The report had read. And like that she was gone, and the reports had stopped. She was no longer under The Charlatan’s watchful eye. And for the first time since his initial vie for control over the planet, he thought about officially expanding The Charlatan’s influence beyond Kadara’s borders.

“You like her,” Keema said, after he had told her about his plans. A small smile played on her cerulean face.

“This has nothing to do with her, Keema,” he replied, rising from his seat. Didn’t it though? Wasn’t her absence the reason why having eyes on all human settlements suddenly became a priority. He headed over to his terminal, ready to check it for the twelfth time that morning.

“Of course it does!” Keema replied, undeterred. “She’s left and now you have no way of keeping tabs on her. Save via the normal news articles available to all, and they lack so much detail, don’t they?”

Reyes’s gaze cut to her.

“Oh, don’t look at me like that,” she said, waving a webbed hand at him.  “Of course I know!”

Reyes grunted in response not pleased with where this conversation was heading.

No New Messages.

He sighed, and began pacing the room.

“Even on Sloane you’ve never kept such meticulous tabs.” She ran a large finger around the rim of her glass, a knowing look on her face. “But she isn’t as pretty to watch, I suppose.”

She certainly wasn’t, but that was beyond the point.

“I never had to,” he admitted. “Sloane isn’t capable of taking a shit without announcing it to the whole damn port. That woman loves attention. Perhaps even more than you do, Keema.”

Keema shrugged, unbothered.

“I have to say, I do look forward to meeting this extraordinary woman who settles human colonies in an unknown galaxy, battles the Kett, and is capable of keeping Reyes Vidal’s interest for more than a week after sleeping with him.”

“Nothing has happened.” He grumbled, shoving his hands into his pockets. He hadn’t been this tense since right after the rebellion, his first night on Kadara. He shook his head not wanting to think of that now. What was going on with him? He leaned his back against the wall too anxious to sit.

“What was that?”

“Nothing has happened between us.” He repeated louder, the words sounding foreign to his ears.

Keema’s eyes widened, and she let out a loud, obnoxious cackle. “My, my! That explains so much!”

He growled from his place against the wall. “Yes, Keema laugh it up.” He was being petulant, he could feel it. He was brooding like a child denied an anticipated piece of candy.

“Darling, you’re pouting! It’s adorable!” She laughed again. “You have a gaggle of women swooning over you at any one time. All of whom would be more than happy to service you. Just pick one!” She surveyed him from her seat. “Sexually frustrated is not a good look for you. You’re just plain... unpleasant.”

He wasn’t sure how often Keema believed he got laid, but he was sure she was grossly overestimating it. He worked. Yes, he flirted, but he worked. Either way, he didn’t want to be serviced. In truth, he wasn’t sure what he wanted anymore.

Her. He wanted Lola.

He pushed himself off the wall, ready to be done with this conversation.

Keema was one of the very few he trusted, one of the very few that knew his identity. She was also one of even fewer whom he considered a friend, even so her constant need to meddle aggravated him to no end. Though, perhaps he should have taken her unsolicited advice on Zia…

Mierda. I still have to deal with her. He thought running a hand through his hair.

“Getting eyes on The Nexus would make me more pleasant,” he said walking toward Keema. He meant it, it would certainly ease some of this incessant tension.

Maybe it was because of her. He just wanted to make sure she was ok, breathing . Still, this was something he should’ve done long ago. “We need people working for The Charlatan on other planets.”

Sure, he had The Nexus’ system hacked on a regular basis. He was able get camera footage, and files delivered straight to his terminal, but it was a tedious, cumbersome process. Having someone present to actually hear what was going on and see it in person..,well, the closer to the source the better.

“You just want eyes on her again. You want to know if she is cozying up to that Liam character.”

“This isn’t about her, Keema.” Reyes lied, his frustration mounting. And Kosta was the last man he had to worry about. Reyes was sure of it.

“Yes, Yes,” She said, waving a hand at him dismissively. “ Information is power ,” she said, repeating his earlier words. “Be that as it may, it would take time for The Collective to find people trust worthy enough to be our eyes on the other planets.” She paused and removed a cigar from his cigar box. “And you want men stationed on The Nexus? Impossible .” Keema scoffed, lighting her cigar.

Reyes closed his eyes and pinched the bridge of his nose. Impossible . Impossible is what Sloane has accomplished, what he has accomplished. This. This was not impossible. He could just do it all himself, but he had other pressing matters, he needed Keema to handle The Nexus.

“Keema, darling,” he began, making sure to keep his voice even and pleasant, even with his rising tensions. He re-took his spot beside her and shifted back onto the leather seat, the picture of calm and control. “All we do is the impossible.”

Reyes had learned long ago that women like Keema responded much better and swifter to honeyed words than direct commands, and their friendship was the only reason he took the time to humor her.

She took a drag of her cigar and considered his words. He watched as Keema relaxed and mimicked his body language. She exhaled a billow of smoke into his small private room. “We do, don’t we?” She looked at him. “Do the impossible.”

Reyes smiled. “Indeed, we do.”

She took another drag and nodded slowly. “Alright. I suppose I could see what I can do. Actually, now that I think about it, I did hear that the Angara were now being welcomed onto the Nexus. Not all, but a few, and some humans on Aya, like some odd species exchange program. Perhaps, with the help of Evfra, we could see that one of ours were among the chosen few.” She paused taking another drag of her cigar, looking into the distance, still in thought. “It’d have to be a double agent. Someone that is working for Evfra and, unbeknownst to Evfra, have that someone also working for us. Make it seem like it was his idea to get a resistance member into The Nexus.” She put out her cigar seemingly satisfied. “Yes, yes, that could work.”

Reyes took a swig of his drink, satisfied with her response. There was still other matters that needed to be attended to. There always would be, but progress was being made. He moved his neck from side to side, stretching the muscles that laid there. He had to find a way to relieve some of this tension. His eyes flitted down to his omni tool, and he fought the urge to check it once more.

“But it will still take time.” She said, swatting at his arm. “And, please, don’t think my acquiescing has anything to do with your sweet talking.”

“Never even crossed my mind,” he lied.

“And as far as having agents of The Collective on the other human occupied planets…that will take me some time just to look into. Most of those planets don’t even harbor Angara-”

“Oh, don’t worry about that,” Reyes said, “I’ll activate the sleeper cells I have stationed there.”

Keema’s stunned face amused him to no end.

“Sleeper cells? Why am I just hearing about this?”

“You mean, I never told you?” He asked feigning innocence. “Hmm, must have slipped my mind.”

Keema rose from her seat, signaling the ending of their little meeting.

“You’re a deplorable human being, you know that?”

“And you love it.” He responded with a wink.

Keema rolled her eyes.

He checked again, No New Messages .

“Skut! Just message her already!” She yelled over her shoulder as she exited his room. “Humans and their stupid games. Such a monumental waste of time.”

His omni tool beeped.

New Message:

Pathfinder was being held on The Nexus for a disciplinary meeting. Camera footage attached.  

Reyes wasted no time and tapped on it.

__________________________________________________________________

 

Lola was an invaluable asset to The Initiative.  She had proven herself capable despite all the doubt that had initially surrounded the inheritance of her father’s title, and though her methods were questionable at best, she had never once failed to deliver results.

But most importantly she was currently the Initiative’s only Pathfinder, and the only one with an A.I. so deeply interwoven into her that there was currently no explicable way to seperate the two.

So, while Tann had quickly learned that direct order or not, she would not outright yield to his command, he had found ways to sway her, to temper her, because the one thing The Initiative couldn’t stand to lose right now was their hold on their only Pathfinder.

So, at the disciplinary meeting held to discuss her ‘erratic and increasingly dangerous behavior’, Tann took the opportunity to gently remind her that anyone labeled a threat to The Initiative has been, and would continued to be, exiled. Rogue Pathfinders most definitely fell into that category.

“A Pathfinder not acting in the best interest of The Initiative is one who has gone rogue. A Pathfinder gone rogue is one whom would quickly find themselves to be an exiled civilian, and exiled civilians are not allowed back on Initiative owned ships. Such as the one your brother is currently resting on, in a coma.”

It was a threat. Clear and simple. She was to fall in line or be permanently separated from her only living relative. Lola’s blood boiled.

They claimed her behavior had been on a decline, and that the latest “stunt” pulled on Kadara was the last straw.

“You’ve punched the leader of The Angaran Resistance in the face.”

“Trust me, he deserved it,” she countered, completely unbothered by the board’s disapproval. It was true, that man was an ass.

“You have an unauthorized Krogan as a member of your crew.”

“I also have an ‘unauthorized’ Asari, and Angaran male on my ship but you seem unbothered by the knowledge of those two. Could it be because they are from a race you approve of?”

Tann rightfully received a dirty look from Kesh, prompting him, for once, to shut his mouth.

He cleared his throat before continuing. “You’re illegally altering official documents sent to us from the people of Angara -”

“Hey, if you want to read about how they think your obtusely large eyes are gross, and the fact that they think your leadership is weak, be my guest. I will cease overlooking it before sending them to you.”

Tann’s mouth opened and closed repeatedly, before he finally gave into his frustration. “Must you constantly be so difficult! Your juvenile antics are constantly putting The Initiative and all involved in danger!”

“Juvenile!” Lola scoffed, offended.

“You snuck off your ship,” Addison spoke up. “Unsupervised, and unarmed, while on duty, to one of the most dangerous areas of Kadara -”

“Well, when you say it like that -”

“I’m not done.” Addison said. Lola narrowed her eyes at Addison, but kept silent. “Why have SAM erase all record of your time there?” Addison rested her elbows on the table she sat at, clasping her hands, she awaited Lola’s answer.

Lola didn’t respond, not wanting to implicate herself with a poorly drawn out lie.

In the end, Addison, Kesh, and Tann couldn’t come to an agreement on what to do with her and her “poor behavior”, so, Tann, being the ever vigilant leader he was, had the last say: “Go to Aya, apologize to Evfra, and fix the vault there. Then you can proceed with your dealings on Kadara.”

“SAM,” Addison spoke up, “Is The Pathfinder’s pursuit of viability on Aya worth our time?”

SAM, please, Lola mentally screamed at him.

There was a long moment of silence before SAM spoke up.

“Yes, I believe Ryder has a high chance of succeeding on Kadara, and that it would, indeed, be worth the time it would take to make it viable.”

 


 

Lola immediately returned to The Tempest.

She could tell that her crew had been waiting for her return, wondering about what had occured. They stood scattered about the deck, in uniform, at attention, ready for any order, but she had no interest in divulging.

“Head to Aya.”

She then headed to her room, where she proceeded to scream madly into her pillow.


 

 

Lola spent most of the trip to Aya holed up in her quarters. Partially because she was too embarrassed to face her teammates, but also because she was too pissed. Gil and Peebee were the only two not on her shit list, but they were wise enough to know she needed some space.

So, when SAM had announced to her she had an incoming message, she was more than ready to ignore it, until he said who it was from.

 

Naughty Lolita. I hear you were called in for a scolding after your night of drunken debauchery.

-Reyes

 

Lola gaped at the message at her terminal, unable to believe it was really him. She could hear the purr in his voice with every word.  She brought her finger to her mouth, carefully considering how to reply.

 

how did you get my private terminal address??

scolded?  ha, that’s putting it lightly, more like chewed out. but, that’s what I get for not saying no to you. it’s entirely all your fault.

how did you know about my meeting?

- L

 

I think your friends Peebee and Gil like me.

Which is more than I can say about Kosta and the Krogan.

Private terminal, you say? They must really like me.

How about you, Lolita, would you like me to stop? Say the word.

My fault? You’re the one who showed up drunk, half naked, and intent on seducing me.

I’m entirely innocent.

-R

 

Lola laughed, she could  absolutely feel him winking from the other side. Innocent? That bastard.

 

Innocent? Mr. Vidal, I don’t think you’ve been innocent a single day since your birth.

The Krogan? Drak? Aw, no he’s all bark and ...well, yea, and bite. Can’t even lie, he fucks people up. Just don’t make him angry. Did he say something to you? Did Liam?

I think Liam’s more upset at me more than anything. I don’t think he can handle the idea that there is real person behind the symbol of The Pathfinder, an imperfect one at that. Ignore him. He’ll get over it.

As for me, I believe you have information that could aid me with settling Kadara, and I’d like us to be able to work together. I give you what you need, you give me what I need. We’ll have a perfectly symbiotic work relationship. - That’s the official response.

-L

 

There was pause in his response. Lola found herself holding her breath. You’re a stupid girl, Lola Ryder. A stupid, stupid girl. You absolutely deserve all the trouble you find yourself in.

 

And, the unofficial?

-R

 

Lola exhaled. She was stupid, yes, but she just couldn’t let him go completely, not yet, but she also couldn’t allow things to continue the way they were.

 

Seems I’m one of the many women who are unable to say no to you.

So, you need to be on your best behavior, Mr. Vidal, because I can’t afford to get into trouble again, and since you don’t have all of Kadara bowing to you, I need to stay alert while I’m there.

-L

 

My best behavior, understood.

When you’re back on Kadara come visit me.

So, I can start giving you what you need.

But I’ll warn you, it’s a lot to take in, not many could manage.

-R

 

Lola sucked in her breath. Goddess, she’d need to get a leash for this man.

Then again, he’d probably like it.

 

Reyes. No.

-L

 

Your words, Lolita.  

What did you think I meant sex?  As in you and me? Like, in my bed, tangled up in my sheets as I kiss every inch of you? Or maybe you like shower sex, the water running down your body as I grind against you? No, you want to bent over a table while I grab you from behind. Or maybe you’re thinking of me taking you up against the wall? 

Whatever you thought, the answer is no. I’m clearly speaking about information. Dios, get your head out of the gutter, we have to work together.

-R

 

 Lola groaned out loud, turned on beyond belief.  She should’ve known he wouldn’t make this easy. She resisted the strong urge to touch herself to his words, if only because that was exactly what he wanted.

 

But tell me, do you think of sex often when you think of me?

-R

She needed to end this conversation immediately.

 

Goodnight, Reyes.

-L

 

Dream of me, Lolita.

-R

 

Oh , she would, she most certainly would.

___________________________________________________________________________

 

Over the next week Reyes spent all his free time messaging her. He made sure to wish her a good morning and a good night, everyday without fail. He couldn’t have her forgetting about him, but, most of all, he enjoyed constantly being at the forefront of her mind.

 

How long now?

-R

 

A day. I’ll be there in a day.

-L

 

Good.

-R

 

“Mr. Vidal, Keema is here to see you.”

“Let her in,” he called, re-reading the messages Lola had sent him.

 

On Aya. Had punched Evfra. Being forced to apologize. Make me smile?

-L

 

Reyes remembered how hard he had laughed at that, unable to imagine such a tiny thing landing blows on someone as large as Evfra. He loved that, her fire. He had responded by sending her the dirtiest joke he knew.

“Reyes, really, having to travel to Kadara’s slums just to see you is a little too much.” Keema said upon entering his room. “I honestly do not understand the appeal.  How can you stand it?” She asked taking a seat across from him.

He smiled, not taking his attention off his omni-tool. Keema’s air of superiority always amused him.

“It reminds me of home,” he shrugged.

“Leave it to a human to travel 600 years only to return to the same environment they left.”

“Keema..” He urged gently.

“Yes, fine. The Human Pathfinder.” She began.

“Lola Ryder” He injected. She was so much more than just The Human Pathfinder.

“Yes, Lola Ryder.” She paused. He could feel her eyeing him from across the table. He sighed. He didn’t even need to look at her to know what she was here to really talk about.

“Say what you came to say, Keema,” he responded, finally closing his omni-tool’s screen.

She sidled closer to him.

“You like her.” She said, a small smile on her face.

Reyes didn’t respond, instead he took a drink of his whiskey.

“We’ve already spoken about this, Keema.”

“You’ve been messaging her.”

Reyes kept his face neutral. “And what makes you say that?”

“That.” She said pointing a webbed finger at his face. “This.” She motioned toward his body.

He held his poker face. Keema sighed.

“You’ve been glued to the damn thing for the last week,” she said, meaning his omni-tool. “And I know it isn’t all work. You never smile, truly smile, while working. You’re speaking to her, you don’t have to admit it, but you are.”

“Is that what you came all the down here to discuss?” 

“Yes and no. I’m here about another female of yours.”

Reyes sat up in his seat. “Zia,” he said knowingly.

“Zia,” Keema nodded. “She’s causing us trouble. Stealing our goods, underselling us to our competitors.” Keema crossed her legs. “Did I not warn you about her, was I not correct?”

“You were, indeed,” Reyes sighed. He was completely exhausted by all the trouble one woman could cause. Like a damn gnat, he thought.

“Now you have to deal with her. And do it before her little scheming starts to take a noticeable chunk of our income.”

Reyes rolled his neck, just thinking about being in the same room as Zia caused him to tense up. He wondered what he had ever seen in her. Then again, he wasn’t sure he saw anything pass her ass.

“Perhaps, you should ask our little Pathfinder for help?”

“Lola?” He shook his head, “Absolutely not, out of the question.” He had a strict rule about mixing past and present interests. It was simple really: he kept them the hell away from each other.

“Reyes, Zia just managed to hijack a large shipment of ammo and weapons that we had been waiting on for months.” Keema picked at invisible lint on her clothing. “She isn’t working alone. She isn’t that clever. You have no choice. The Pathfinder may be your Lolita, but to everyone else she is still The Pathfinder. And that A.I of hers could have this wrapped up much quicker than we could alone.”

Reyes looked at his omni-tool, he had a slew of Collection issues to deal with, a queue that seemed infinite.

“Alright.” he acquiesced, there was no reason for Lola to know that Zia was his ex. “Alright,” he repeated. “I’ll ask her.”

 

Chapter Text

 

“She’s heading yer way. Kian’s voice crackled through Reyes’s omni-tool.

Finally, he thought, rolling his neck. He had had a rough day. In truth, every day was a rough day, but this one had been particularly wearing.

Keema had called him and instead of her normal tone of superiority, he was met with the panicked ramblings that better belonged to a mad woman.

It took him a moment to get her to focus, to stop switching back to her native tongue, a language he barely understood.

Someone had broke into her home to attack her, she had said. Her guards had caught the man. He was currently tied and gagged in her living room. She wanted him to come, immediately .

Reyes had failed to see why this warranted his immediate presence.

Was it important? Yes.

Did it need to be handled? Abso-fucking-lutely.

But did he need to be the one to handle it? Absolutely not.  

He had men that handled this. They had men that handled this. Those men seemed to already have things under control. They knew the protocol: Get information (by any means necessary). Execute. Leave no trail.

“He’s a friend, Reyes. Rather, was a friend…”

And Reyes knew. He had so few people he considered friends, he needn't even use one whole hand to count them. So, he knew immediately who she was referring to.

So, he went.

He asked Keema to leave the room, took off his jacket, rolled up his sleeves, and got to work.

It all ended with a bullet, a blood stained floor, and an extremely irritated Keema.

He looked down at his knuckles. He had refused medigel. Keema had done her best to clean him up, but there was no hiding the cuts and bruises.

He had brought a woman back with him to Tartarus, hoping to fuck the memory of his friend laying dead by his own hands away. But all he saw was her, and he couldn’t do it. That is to say, he could , physically he was ready and able, but mentally he was ruined. Lola had ruined him and she hadn’t even laid a finger on him. He wasn’t even sure that bedding her would be the cure anymore. What if it just ruined him further?

“Two women in one day? You stud you,” Kian teased.  Reyes ignored him, silencing his omni-tool.

He sighed leaning back into his seat, the kink in his neck tightening. Maybe Keema was right, he needed to be laid, but, further ruined or not, he only wanted one woman laid out naked on these seats.

And a second later said woman walked in, sans armor, in a new selectively revealing combat suit.

Her curls were piled up on top of her head in a messy bun, a dagger strapped to each of her thighs, and guns strapped to her back. Reyes met her gaze. Her grey eyes were lined in a dark khol.  

She looked like the dangerous woman she was, just his type.  

“Hey,” she purred. A small smile played on her lovely red lips. It called out to him, reminding him of how he had smudged it, had ran his thumb right along those pretty fuck-me lips.

“Hey,” he said, leaning forward on his seat, resting his elbows on his knees.

Damn, he had missed the sight of her.

“A new distraction tactic?” He asked, motioning to her suit.

She shrugged. “Had to do something to get The Collective and Outcasts off my ass.”

The Collective? His eyebrows knitted together. Why were his people still firing at her, when he had explicitly ordered them to cease?  Someone wasn't doing their job. He'd remedy that.

"Think it'll work?" She gave him a little spin, and, goddamn. He wanted to shake the hand of the man that designed that suit. 

"I can tell you with absolute certainty, that that suit will only make people want to be on that ass."

She laughed, giving him a look at those dimples. He wondered if those were the only cheeks that had them.

“You wanted me?” She asked, sauntering toward him. His focus pulled away from his thoughts, to the way her hips swayed with each step forward.

Always,” he said. He forced his eyes to her face. That black, skin-tight combat suit was making him think terribly dirty, filthy things.

Ven aqui,” he said, motioning for her to come nearer with his fingers. She was close, but not close enough, and he knew from reading her dossier that she understood Spanish. Her mother being from the Colombia was to thank for that, that and her beautiful coffee colored skin.

“Where are your squadmates?” He asked, looking around the small room, attempting to calculate how much he could get away with.

“They had business to handle. I have some time,” she said, walking up to him, and he wondered if she meant it in the way he was hoping, because in all honesty he didn’t need much time. He could have her crying out his name in five minutes flat. Of course, if she wanted the full experience...well, they’d need much longer than that.

He sat up as she neared him, opening his legs so she could stand between his thighs. The seat was just low enough, and she stood just tall enough for… he shook the thought from his mind, and instead settled for running a hand over her outer thighs.

The leather she ware was so supple and smooth. These were most definitely not made by The Initiative. So, who did she go to to have such a well made combat suit constructed? He thought back to her perfume, that specific scent. Who was her personal smuggler? And why was it not him? How was he not her personal everything by now? His hand continued its journey up the outside of her thigh, his attention shifting from the quality of her combat suit to the swell of her ass. He was just about to give it some much needed attention when he felt a sharp sting.

He growled low at the pain, and removed his hand from her. She had shocked his hand with her own. He looked up at her, the blue glow of her biotics just dying down. She stood with her hand on her cocked hip, as though offering him the very thing she had just denied him. The room’s harsh overhead red lighting illuminated her every curve, as if desiring to further taunt him. She looked like a succubus come to visit him. Exactly what he needed. Images of her writhing naked under him, moaning his name filled his mind, and he knew she saw his need to devour her burning in his eyes.

“You promised,” she said, folding her arms. She stood before him, face stern, but she didn't move, she didn't step away from his reach.  She wanted him to continue.

He stood up to look her in those beautiful eyes. He could see she was fighting with herself. He stood before her challenging her to turn away, to move from him. She didn't. He knew she wouldn’t. He brought his hand up and wrapped it gingerly around the nape of her neck, drawing her even nearer to him.

“Did I?” He asked, knowing damn well he had. And he’d keep that promise, he would, if she truly wanted him to, but neither of them wanted that. Why behave when misbehaving felt ssooo damn good?

She leaned into his touch but didn’t falter. “You did,” she responded, nodding, her voice soft, her grey eyes on him.

“And you believed me?” He asked, caressing her cheek with the roughness of his thumb. Her soft, warm, smooth cheek .

Her eyes fluttered closed and she nuzzled his touch, not at all bothered by his callouses, which only drove his desire to touch her further.

“Not one bit,” she responded.

“Good,” he said unable to keep the husk from his voice. Her eyes opened at the sound of his response, and held his gaze, and he knew he could find respite there, in those big beautiful winter colored eyes.


 

 Reyes moved to cradle her neck between both of his hands. He held the base of her neck firmly but gently. She loved the feel of his bare hands on her. He always emited powerful energy, and she felt it whenever he touched her.

He held her head steady as they stared into one another. Heat radiated off of him.  His face was so close, and lips so near that all it would take was one slight shift forward for them to meet. She held her inhale, watching as his heavy lidded amber eyes slipped down to her lips. He wet his own, and she knew he wanted exactly what she wanted, but couldn’t have, plus -

He promised.

If she gave in, and they found out, her position would be jeopardized and so would his. They'd look into him, follow him, study his movements, and whatever secrets he held (and she was sure he held plenty) would be found out. She didn't want that for him.

So, she sent a shock through him forcing him to release her.

He snarled at the pain, shaking out his hand as though he had just touched something hot. But it didn’t deter him. No, if she had truly wanted him to stay away, she had chosen the wrong approach. Reyes enjoyed nothing more than a little pain with his pleasure. But she didn’t want him stay away, of course she didn’t. She just wanted to protect him and herself, and that required distance.

His eyes snapped back up to hers after she shocked him, his pupils blown out wide. His honey colored eyes stood locked on hers with an intensity that made her feel naked. An intensity that let her know she had already lost. Reyes would not be giving up so easily today.

She took a step back, a little bit of space could clear both their heads, but he just followed after her.

Lola,” he called, his accent thick, voice honeyed. “Ven aqui.” Despite its sweetness, his voice dripped with authority. He wasn’t asking her, he was commanding her. She shook her head, her curls bouncing around on top. You promised,” she said again.

He cocked his head. “Why do you keep coming back to me?” He took another step toward her, carefully, slowly as though tracking an easily spooked prey. "If it isn't because you want me the way I want you?"

“I need your intel -”

Mentirosa,” he growled. The pure rawness of his voice had her biting her lower lip, her stomach swimming. He caught the subtle movement, and a roguish grin bloomed on his handsome face. She had just given him the confirmation he needed.

“You lie to me,” he repeated gruffly, standing before her once more. He reached out to touch her only to be met with another shock. He recoiled, but recovered quicker than last time. He licked his full lips, leaving them glistening from his tongue, and looked back at her. She could tell he was planning his next move. Gauging what approach would work best to bring her to him.

“I guess that makes the two of us,” she said, referring to his broken promise.

He laughed at that, a devious rolling rumble.

He nodded and looked at his hands.“So it does,” he said, sounding tired. He went and collapsed back onto his seat. “Come. Sit.” He patted the spot beside him. “I’ll behave.”

Lola eyed him from where she stood across the room. She knew better than to trust that he’d truly keep his hands to himself. He was Reyes Vidal, charming, and convincing, and nothing if not persistent,  but all concern regarding his touch dissipated when she saw signs that something was amiss. He held his head low, his hair stood askew, falling into his face, even his shoulders sagged. Something wasn’t right.

Pathfinder, Reyes’s cortisol levels are dangerously high,” SAM said. "I believe he has recently experienced an unusually high amount of stress. A trauma." Lola gave a small, quick nod, not wanting to give away her A.I’s involvement, unsure of how Reyes would feel about it. She walked over, and sat beside him. That’s when she saw it. His raw, bruised knuckles. They looked terrible. They were swollen, and red like someone had beat them with a hammer.

“Reyes,” she gasped taking one of his hands into her own. They felt heavy and were much larger than her’s. She couldn’t imagine how bad the other guy must be if he were pounded by hands like these.

She turned his hand over, inspecting it. Nothing was broken, she exhaled, relieved. It looked painful, but would heal in time. She looked at him, her heart growing heavy. She knew better than to ask him what had happened or question why he hadn't used medigel. He wouldn’t tell her.

There was so much he wasn’t telling her.

So, instead of asking questions she wouldn’t get an answer to, she rested her head on his broad shoulder, and laced her fingers through his, letting him know he had her, if not anyone else, he had her.  After a moment she felt him relax onto her, as if he felt her reassurance that it’d be ok, and to her surprise, he gave the top of her head a small kiss before resting his head on her’s. And they stood like that, leaning on one another, for what felt like an eternity.

Liam and Peebee are now en route,” SAM alerted her.

“Thanks SAM,” she said.

Overhearing, Reyes lifted his head from hers, and unlaced his hand.

“Thank you,” he said, lazily draping an arm around her shoulders, drawing her nearer and further back into the seat with him.

“For what?” She asked, reaching up to smooth his hair back in place. It felt like an incredibly intimate gesture, but for whatever reason it felt ok, right, like she had been running her hands through his hair all her life.

“For you,” he replied, his gaze meeting hers. Like his eyes, his tone was incredibly soft, free of all sexual frustration. Lola froze, sure she had never heard anything that sincere from him. His hooded, bronzed eyes held a tenderness she had never seen. A look that made her feel... precious. His face hung before hers, as sexy as ever, but with, a hint of vulnerability. A small peek of the man that laid behind the cocky smuggler. And as much as she wanted that man, she found she wanted this man more.

Without thinking she moved and placed her lips on his. She felt him immediately groan into her, a deep, pained sound, that said he had been waiting for this moment just as long as she had. He returned her kiss with tender touches. His full lips moved lightly on hers, getting acquainted with the territory, but it quickly shifted to something more hungry and desperate the moment she let out a small moan. He growled lowly and draped her legs over his lap, pressing his mouth harder onto hers, urging her to grant him access into her mouth with his tongue. A fire in her ignited at the feel of his hot tongue grazing her lips, she parted them for him, and he began messaging her tongue with his own. He pushed his body onto hers, forcing her to lean back into his arms as he held her. His tongue circled hers in a way that had her swooning and melting into him. “ MMmmm ,” she hummed repeatedly into his mouth while grasping and pulling at his jacket. She felt him chuckle at her eagerness, but she didn’t care. She pulled him nearer, needing to have more of him, but the angle was awkward, and as if reading her mind, he slid his hands down. Grasping her waist firmly, he lifted her over him as she moved to straddle his thighs with her own, her mouth never leaving his. She felt his solid chest vibrate with a deep hum. He approved of her change of position.

She hovered right above his lap, not quite sitting on it, instead she teased him and pushed her body into his, her chest into his, further deepening their kiss. More, more, more, she chanted internally as her hands wound into his smooth, black hair.

Her head stood slightly above his, the angle forcing him to lean back into the seat, to tilt his head up in order to keep his mouth on hers. His hands traveled from her waist, to grasp at her lower back, before moving over her rear. He rubbed it gingerly, groaning lowly into her.

Mierda,” he cursed, his voice low and rough. He tried to grab a handful of her through her combat suit  and she could hear him snarling with frustration, unable to get ahold. Her battle suit was too tight, to smooth for him to grab ahold of. He growled another curse, and gave her ass a light smack. She moaned a desperate sound at the pleasurable sting of his broad hand striking her. He spanked her once more, and once more she moaned. He groaned at her response, and she felt the vibrations of the rolling timbre through her body.

“I knew you’d like it rough,” he crooned, nipping at her throat. She gasped, and looked down at him. His warm, tawny eyes roamed her face as though he were afraid he might miss a detail. He reached up and caressed her face. “Mi Lolita,” he purred, his voice honeyed, her name rolling off his lips as if he had invented it. She felt something shift inside of her at the tenderness of his gaze, but no, she shook her head, he wasn’t the type that would love her back.

She nipped at his bottom lip, wanting to chase the idea of being with him, truly being with him, away. He moaned softly at the sensation of her teeth on his lips and she saw his gaze shift, as they darkened with renewed desire. Much better, she thought.

 She gripped at his hair, and gave it a tug the way he had once given her. He inhaled sharply through his clenched teeth, hissing, his eyes glazing over. She dipped her head closer to his, stopping right before their lips touched, forcing a frustrated growl from him. He moved to close the gap but she tugged once again pulling his head back.

“And I knew you’d like games,” she said, holding firm to his thick hair.

“I’m far too shy for such games, Lolita” he said, even as a devilish grin appeared on his handsome face. His mouth was smeared with her lipstick and she couldn’t help herself. She broke out into stupid school girl giggles at the sight of that red all over him. It was as though she had marked him. Mine. It said. And maybe for a few nights, he would be.

He quirked an eyebrow at her in confusion, before running a thumb over his own lips. “Hmmm,” he smirked, surveying the lipstick on his thumb, he looked up at her, mischief filling those golden orbs.“C’mere,” he murmured. “You have some more I can help you remove.” He gave her ass a small pinch when she didn't immediately listen.

“Ow ,” she cried, releasing his hair. She reached down to rub the ache, but he swiftly grabbed both of her hands and pinned them behind her back with one firm grip of his own, that damned smug grin on his face. “I said, come here,” he growled and reached up to close the distance between her lips and his, his tongue immediately gaining entrance into her mouth. She sighed into him and lowered herself fully onto his lap, enjoying the feeling of his mouth on hers. He kissed her with abandon, and she could think no further than the sensation of his tongue sliding freely along hers, as though it had finally found home.

Then, in one swift movement Reyes had reached up and set her hair free, and cascading over their faces, a black curtain set to hide them from the world.

“Impressive,” she murmured.

“I try.” He looked her over, tightening his grip on her wrists as she wiggled to free them, she wanted to touch him. “Will you behave?” He asked.

 She flipped her hair to the side with flick of her neck, so she could better move into his. She planted light kisses along his neck starting from his ear moving slowly down to the crook of his neck, only to lick her way right back up the trail. She felt his pulse jump and speed up under her tongue, each rough suck and nibble on his warm skin, pulling out groans and grunts of pleasure from him.

“Do you really want me to?” She purred against his neck.

He released her hands only to pull her roughly closer to him. He growled and she moaned as he slid her closer, the motion causing her to grind along his lap. He brought her to him until her chest laid completely flushed against his, her breasts pushed up onto his muscular chest. He knew how to move her so just the right spot was hit against his slightly lifted leg. And she knew he knew because he was wearing that smug look of his that she was beginning to adore.

“Liked that, Lolita?” He asked, nipping at her bottom lip, his lids low over his eyes, his voice ladened with lust.  

Yes, she liked it. Fuck yes, she liked it. She wanted him so desperately that all she could do was nod frantically, her forehead resting on his. Her eyes doing the begging for her.

He shifted her so she rested more on his raised leg. Placing both of his hands on her hips, and with a firm grip, he rocked her body hard against him, the movement sending another wave of pleasure through her. She moaned loudly and grasped at his shirt, only to have him slide her again and again, and she quickly felt it was no longer just his leg she was moving against, it wasn’t his leg that was hitting her clit just right. No, he had grown hard beneath her and for once she was thankful for the tightness of her combat suit. He sped up his movements working his arms to get her to move her body in just the right way. Small low groans escaped his lips, and goddess, were they sexy. Gasping, she leaned into him, her chest on his, her face buried into the crook of his neck, she dug her nails into the leather that covered his muscular arms, feeling those muscles roll magnificently under the layers of clothing that separated her skin from his. She stifled curse words that each pleasurable slide of her body onto his. His body stiffen beneath her as she took over grinding in the exact motion he had shown her. He exhaled and groaned her name into her neck, in a voice so husky that she nearly came right there.  She flipped her hair back to one side, and he took to nipping, and sucking at her exposed flesh between his kisses. His hot mouth moving languidly along her bare skin, taking its time tasting and playing. His teeth grazed her skin, and she was sure that marks would be left,  but was too far gone to give damn. She moaned his name and tilted her head further to the side to give him better access, grasping firmly at his biceps as she continued to grind against him. Her core heated up, the fire in her turning molten.

“I want to taste you,” he murmured, nipping at her earlobe. Lola’s breath hitched at the thought of his mouth between her legs.

“Goddess, yes” she moaned back in between her own panting, and she knew it wouldn’t take him long to finish the job.

She felt his lips curling against her skin into what felt like a smile, and before she knew it, those sly hands of his had found the zipper in the back of her combat suit and began rolling it down.

She stopped moving and arched her back to aid him. She felt the zipper reach its end and stood up to better remove her arms from her suit. Reyes sat legs wide, and relaxed in his seat. His arms rested behind him on the headrest, and he looked content to just sit and watch her. His eyes never strayed from her body, but instead of his usual cocky smirk, his face wore a serious expression, as though nothing in that moment was more important than watching her undress.

Lola did her best not to shrink under his intense gaze. She was thankful that the lights weren’t bright and white, and at the very least her long hair would provide some coverage.

She rolled down the top half of her combat suit and heard a deep groan escape from him, he bit his bottom lip, and his face wore an expression as though he was pained. 

“Enjoy watching?”

His hooded eyes traveled down the upper half of her body, and slowly made their way back up in a way she didn’t think she’d ever get used to. “Most definitely.”

 


 

It was just the top half of her that was bared to him but Reyes knew, he already knew he was most definitely going to be further ruined. No longer did a succubus stood before him, all he saw was a golden goddess, a queen, and he couldn’t help but hum, and growl, and groan in appreciation at the sight in front of him.

He was a lucky man, a lucky, lucky, lucky man.

She bit at her lower lip and he could see that he had made her uncomfortable. Idiota, he thought to himself. Of course he was making her uncomfortable, he was acting like a complete boor gaping at her, how could he not have been making her uncomfortable.  

He stood up and moved to her. “You’re exquisite,” he murmured approaching her, hoping she could hear the sincerity behind all the lust that filled his voice, his body. Despite his desperate need to consume her, he hoped she could see and hear how he only wanted to worship her. Because she was exquisite, she truly was, and she should be made fully aware of it.

He swept her dark tresses behind her shoulder and cupped her cheek. He claimed her lips in a slow, deep kiss, and ran his free hand up the side of her body, over her ribcage and stopping just below the swell of her breast. Slowly he forced her to backup until her back bumped up against the wall on the far end of his private room.

She’d need some support for what he planned to do to her.

He moved his hand up the swell of her breast, stopping to caress it. He kneaded it with his hand, savoring their weight and softness. Each touch drew out a moan and each moan of hers he swallowed, inhaling them the way he’d soon inhale her.

He opened his eyes during their kiss. He wanted to see her. He wanted to see her moans, not just hear them (and fuck did he love to hear them), her sighs, her cries, he wanted to see it all on that beautiful, beautiful face of hers.  

His mouth traveled from her lips to her jaw, one hand squeezing at her soft, full breast, the other cradling the base of her neck, every sound she made just exciting him further, he felt so tight and aching, it hurt.

He felt her hands move to the back of his head, tangling in his hair, urging him on, as he worked his way down her neck, going over every mark he had left there, and he had left plenty. Mine, they said.

Fucking mine, he thought as he kissed his way down to her free breast.

He wanted to ruin her as she had ruined him. Make it so she only thought of him, of his touch, of his caress, of his mouth. When she touched herself, he wanted it to be his touch she imagined. Even if she fucked another man, he wanted to make sure she was comparing that man to him.

He placed his mouth on her breast and she inhaled sharply. He sucked lightly on the nipple, flicking his tongue over it until it was hard and she was loudly moaning his name. He moved to the other, messaging the one he had just left his hand.

He gazed up. Her eyes were closed, her head thrown back, and she was biting her bottom lip in want. Her teeth grazing her own lip had quickly become his new favorite sight. She arched her back pressing herself into him. Desire raged like wildfire within him. He left her breasts glistening from his kisses and licks, and turned his attention to her combat suit. It was only half off. This won't do, he thought. He wanted to see every inch of her. He salivated at the thought of her standing completely bare and vulnerable before him.

Kneeling before her, he began unlacing her boots, despite their length he worked quickly, his hands working in unison to remove any and all obstacles that kept him from her rich honeyed skin.

She peeped down at him, those grey eyes practically glowed in the low light of the room. She ran her hands through his hair, her long nails lightly scratching his scalp as he successfully removed one boot and began to work her out of the second.

“Like having me kneel before you?” He asked looking up at her. He wanted to hear it, but she just nodded.

Say it,” he growled. “Tell me what you like,” his voice was deep with authority. Tell me, so  I can do it, again, and again, and again...

She hesitated, and he saw she wasn’t used to voicing her desires. He wondered what kind of undeserving men she had slept with in the past that had left her feeling anything less than the center of the universe.  He’d change that. She should feel confident having men worship her. No. Not men. Him.  

“Lola, dime. I want to hear you say it.”

“I like it.” She said, looking down at him. Her curls cascaded down her body like a dark waterfall.

“Like what?” He asked, urging her on.

“I like having you kneeling before me,” she said, her voice a little bolder than before.

“Good,” he said, roughly. “Because I’m just getting started.”

Tossing the other boot to the side, he reached for her combat suit and began peeling it off her, revealing inch after inch of that caramel toned skin he had been thirsting for until....his eyes widened, he cursed under his breath and  looked back up at her.  

She laughed bashfully knowing exactly what had caught his attention. “It’s hot in these damned suits,” she said as way of explanation. “And I have enough that I don’t need to re-wear them before having them cleaned.”

He shook his head in disbelief and helped her out of the combat suit, slipping out one leg and then the other. Had he known this whole time...well, good thing he didn't.

Fuck, he was hard.

“No bra, no underwear.” He tisked. “I’ll think of nothing else but how naked you are under your suits during your every visits. Lolita, you truly are trying to ruin me.”

She snorted, an adorable little inhale. “Like any one woman could ruin the great Reyes Vidal: Lady Man Extraordinaire.”

“I see my reputation precedes me,” he said, not entirely proud of it. It was never his intention to have women whisper about their sexual exploits with him when he wasn’t around.

“Oh, it certainly does, Shena .”

Well, shit.

It was also never his intention to have women speak about him so often that he’d end up with a code name that was Angaran for mouth .

Someone told her, because she had never questioned him about his code name. He wondered what else she had heard, about him, about The Charlatan.

“What?” He asked feigning ignorance. “I’m good with my words, am I not?”

“Among other things?

“Never had a complaint,” he said, his voice deep with implication. At least that much was true.

He ran a hand up her bare thigh, enjoying the feeling of her soft, smooth skin on his overworked hands. He wanted to bite them. Mark them as he had done her neck, but the inner thighs were more fragile, more tender, so instead he licked them. Trailing hot kisses up that tender skin, he felt her gasp and tremble lightly as her knees buckled.

He wet his lips, and stood up gazing down at her. Without her heels she was much shorter than him. He ran his hands down her bare arms, clasping each of her hands in each of his, before bringing them above her head and pinning both of her small wrists against the wall with one firm hand. “But allow me to prove it to you, Lolita.

She looked up at him, her pupils dilated, her lips parted.  She nodded wordlessly, and he knew he had her back in the right mindset.

He turned his attention back to her body, taking in the sight of her nude form standing before him, her eyes below him, and realized he’d gladly relive the shit part of his day if it meant being able to stand here with her again like this.

Dipping his head, he once again claimed her lips as his own. He’d never get enough of them. Never get used to the soft, fullness of them against his own. She nipped at his bottom lip, and he groaned her name in response utterly enjoying the pain with the pleasure. He wedged a knee between her legs, gently forcing them apart, and slowly ran a hand down the side of her body. She squirmed and writhed under his touch in the best way, just as he had imagined she would. He slid his hand in between her legs as he moved his mouth to the sensitive skin, right below her ear. He could feel the jump of her pulse on her neck when he cupped the warm, bare curve between her legs. She inhaled sharply, and leaned her hips into his touch. He pressed gently against the naked flesh with his palm, and carajo she was wet, so unbelievably wet. He snarled and nipped at her skin, unprepared for how wet she was and how much it had turned him on.

Aye, Lolita,” he groaned, the words coming from deep within his throat.  “Ready for me, I see.”

She responded with a moan, her hips moving and gyrating in an effort to feel more of him against her, but he stood still.

“Tell me what you want,” he growled lustily into her ear.

Ughh, you’re horrible!,” she gasped, and he couldn’t help but laugh at her response. He'd let it slide, this time.

He rubbed at her before slipping a finger inside her, and shit, she was so warm and wet, and it was getting difficult for him to keep his own pants on but for whatever reason he wanted the first time he touched her to be about her, but mierda the way she was moving on his hand and moaning his name out loud….

He gently slipped another finger into her warmth, feeling her stretch slightly to accommodate him. Her breathing grew more shallow, and her hips bucked beneath him. Following her signals, he began to pump them slowly in and out. He reveled in all the sounds she made, the way her hands clenched into fists  where he held them and the rising and falling of her breasts with each hitched breath. He did that, he thought with masculine pride. He slid his thumb gently over her clit, and she cried out.

Mmm, do you like that, Lolita ?”

She nodded, “Yes! Goddess, yes!”. He placed his mouth on hers drowning out her cries of ecstasy as he increased his tempo, lest the whole club heard her.

He couldn’t go any longer, he needed to taste her.  He slowly removed his fingers from inside her and brought them to his mouth. With his eyes on hers, one by one he sucked off the slickness from her arousal. And she tasted like the nectar of every sweet, exotic fruit he had ever consumed. “Fuck,” he snarled, wanting to taste more of her.

He released her hands and began trailing hot kisses down the front of her body, he kneeled before her, and she buried her hands into his hair, holding her breath in anticipation, he felt her lean further into the wall as he brought her hips forward to him. He kissed his way up her inner thigh and brought a leg up, draping it over his shoulder.

He was finally where he wanted to be.

He angled her hips toward him with his hands firmly planted on her ass, and damn she had a great ass, and brought his lips to hers, he began caressing her folds with his tongue. A series of ‘yesses’ and ‘ oh, yesses ’poured out of her mouth. He wasted no time giving her what she wanted. He slid his tongue along her slit, slipping within her as he had done with his fingers. He gave her ass a squeeze and began rocking it to the motion of his tongue. He lapped at her wetness, taking in her sweetness.

Her grip on his hair tightened, she begged him to continue. She was close, he could feel it. She was already so turned on it took no time at all to bring her to her peak.

He twirled his tongue around her clit, winding around it in tight circles. He slipped one finger within her as he continued to lick and suck at her clit, curving his finger gently within her and hitting a spot that had her crying out his name. He continued to gently massage her from within while he quickened the pace of his tongue until he felt her body tense. After a moment, and with a moan and a sob of his name, followed by every curse word she seemed to know, he felt her whole body shudder and buckle. He slowed his pace allowing her to ride out her orgasm, not quite ready to leave her sweet taste behind, even as she melted into him.

“Reyes,” she called, her voice raspy. “Reyes!” she said again, giving his hair a tug. She began begging and pleading with him when he wouldn’t release his mouth from her. He could make her come again, if she'd let him. “Stop!,” she cried between inhales. “Please, I’m too sensitive!”

“Fine,” he murmured into her. Next time, he thought. He rose to his feet licking her arousal of his lips, “Delicious,” he said with a sly smile, meaning it.

“You have..” she motioned to his chin. “I’m afraid, I’m all over you,” she giggled. He swept his tongue over his lips once more. “No, that won’t..” she paused. “Come.” She said, pulling him toward her by his jacket. She placed her lips on his, her tongue getting whatever he had missed. “Mmm,” she said pulling away. “I taste good on you.”

Reyes was speechless. He smiled a foolish grin, and pulled her into his arms.

She smiled dreamily and wrapped her arms around his neck for support.

“But what about you?” she asked, he felt her small hand slid down the front of his shirt. “Next time,” he said, stopping her hand with his own.

She looked up at him. “How are you so sure there will be a next time?” Her grey eyes danced and he knew she was teasing him. He swept her legs out from her and carried her over to the seat,  and sat with her on his lap where her clothing stood.

“You better get dressed, before ‘next time’ becomes right now,” he said, doing his best not stare, lest he made her uncomfortable again.

She moved in to kiss him once more when her omni-tool chirped to life.

Ayo! Ryder, we’re on our way. Secured the rem-tech. Still time to take care of those Roekarr. Knock that off the list, yea ?”

It was Kosta, Reyes thought with a frown.

Lola hopped off his lap, and reached for her omni-tool and combat suit.

“Where do they think you are?” He asked, as he got up to retrieve her boots for her.

“With Kaetus.” She answered wriggling back into her combat suit. The sight of her bouncing around naked was enough to make him hard again, except...wait.. “Kaetus?” Sloane’s Kaetus?

She nodded. “He owed me a favor.”  She slipped her arms into her suit and turned for him to zip her. “Favor? For what?” He did his best to sound neutral, but his mind was working, How did Kaetus manage to swing getting help from The Pathfinder, his Pathfinder?  Was she beginning to trust Sloane? 

“I exterminated the remaining Kett that were causing problems, the ones he evidently missed. Now his little Sloaney Poo won’t get all angry with him.” He zipped her up, giving her bum a little slap to let her know he was done. Her little squeal of surprise music to his ears.

“So, you’re doing favors for Kaetus now?”

She rested her leg on the seating and began working on lacing back up her boots. She stopped lacing and flipped her curls to the otherside of her head to get a better look at him.

“Do I detect some jealousy, Mr. Vidal?”

He laughed, and sat on the seat behind her because honestly, there was no such thing as staring at her ass too much, and if he is staring at her from behind then she couldn’t see, which meant he wouldn’t be making her uncomfortable, or at least that’s how he justified it in his mind. She bent forward, and he sat back enjoying the view.

“No,” she answered when he hadn’t responded. “ Maybe?  I need to settle Kadara, and Sloane's aid could help me do that. Either way, it needed to be done. The Kett endanger everyone.”

 He was working on dethroning Sloane, once he gained control over the Port she'd be able to settle without any push back. Until then, he needed to ensure that Sloane and Lola didn't become too acquainted, mistrust between the two needed to remain. Her doing favors for Kaetus, well, that was a step in the wrong direction.

She stood up now fully dressed and turned to face him.

“Were you staring at my ass?”

Reyes shrugged. “Can you blame me?”

“It’s not that great.”

He scoffed, “then you need a better mirror.”

“Hellllooo, Ryder?” Her omni-tool chirped again. This time with Peebee’s voice. “We have the Nomad. Where should we meet you?”

“Meet me there. I was just finishing up business with Reyes. I’ll ride with him,” she responded speaking into it.

Reyes arched an eyebrow at her, she shrugged. He was always planning to go, the Roekarr was his tip to her and he planned to see the problem through. But this, this he hadn’t expected.

“Oookkkaayy..” Peebee replied in that sing-song way of hers. Her voice dripping with suspicion. She knew, Reyes was sure Peebee already knew. “See you two there.”

“The best way to hide something is in plain sight,” Lola said to him, walking out of his room, oblivious to the stares the patrons outside his door was giving her.

The room was not soundproof.

She was right, though.  Wasn’t 'hiding in plain sight' his go-to tactic? Isn’t that how he was currently hiding being The Charlatan from her?

Guilt washed over him.

It doesn’t matter, he told himself, this is just a fling. A stupid fling, she means nothing to me.

And with that thought, he put on his jacket and followed her out of his room, smoothing his hair as he went.

 

Chapter Text

Lola did her best to ignore the stares from the other patrons. Fuck. The room isn’t silent proofOf course the damn room wasn’t silent proof. She covered the Pathfinder emblem with her hair, hoping that, without it, most would figure her to be just one of Reyes’s many clients. One that he occasionally fucked ….shit. She turned around to see Reyes adjusting his jacket and smoothing his hair as he exited the room, which of course only implicated them further.

“Vidal,” a well dressed man called out from the corner of the room. Reyes nodded to the man. “I’ll meet you at the docks,” he said touching her elbow, his voice low. “I won’t be long.”

Reyes joined the man in the dark corner of the room, his most charming smile on display. Hands were shaken, words were whispered, and credits were exchanged. Lola looked away, the less she saw, the better. She descended Tartarus’s metal stairs, the sun was starting to set and the club was beginning to reach peak hour. Bodies were pouring in, the music was playing louder, and the dancers were writhing in their cages. Lola made her way to Kian. Having not said hello to him upon her initial entrance, she wanted to say a quick goodbye.

“Pathfinder!” He called as she approached.

She held her a finger to her lips and shook her head.

“Ryder,” she reminded him. She wasn’t supposed to be there, she didn’t want the fact that she was ‘The Pathfinder’ advertised.

“Right, Ryder.” He said, a knowing smile on his face.

Kiiaannn.” She whined. “Nooo.”

Had everyone in the club heard?? He held up his hands in defense.

“Don’t look at me, Loverboy kens those walls aren’t sound proof. I think he gets off on it too.”

Of course he would.

“Two shots, please,” a patron said, sidling up to her. He looked her up and down with a sleazy smile. Lola scowled, and turned away.

“Comin’ up,” Kian replied, disappearing into the back.

“Can I buy you a drink? I’m Eldrick by the way,”  He said from behind her, his words slightly slurring together.

“No, thank you.” She said, giving her head a quick shake.

“Didn’t you just leave Vidal’s room?”

“Here you go,” Kian said, returning with the drinks.

“You know you’re the second one today right? I can’t afford a private room, but I spend all day here too, ya know.  I ssseeee things.” Eldrick was drunk. Lola felt her heart seize up. The second one?  She looked to Kian hoping he’d deny the accusation, explain it away somehow. But he didn’t.

“She pulled him into a kiss right outside his room as she left,” Eldrick continued, nodding his head. “That whore knew what she was doing. Wanted the attention, no class, I tell ya. None.”

The man’s voice faded into the background. All Lola could hear was the pounding of her heart in her ears. Her eyes stood on Kian, waiting for his eyes to meet hers, but the cleanliness of his counter had suddenly became of utmost priority to him.

“Women of all species entering and leaving that room at all hours. I’m not saying he’s fucking all them... But!” He held up a finger. “Who’s to say he’s not?”  Eldrick leaned in closer to her. “Did you fuck him?” His blue eyes studied her face. “Yea ,you did.” He smiled at her lewdly. “My girlfriend did too. Ex- girlfriend, fucking slut. What’d girls like you see in a guy like him? Hmmm?”

Kian’s eyes finally flicked to hers, and he didn’t need to say anything, the guilt, no, the pity, that flashed in his eyes before he turned back to scrubbing his counter was all the confirmation she needed.

“Hey, bitch. I’m talking to ya.”

Lola didn’t cry. She wanted to, but she didn’t, because honestly, she had no right to cry. She knew what this was, she knew she was just one of many. Having someone confirm it changed nothing. But having me just hours apart from being with someone else?

“I should go,” she said to no one in particular.

She turned to leave.

“I said. I’m talking to you,” Eldrick repeated. He grabbed her shoulder, and she immediately released a biotic blast that sent him sailing across the room. The room let out a collective gasp as his back slammed into a table and crumpled to the floor. But Lola wasn’t done, she stalked over to him, and began kicking him. Taking all the anger she had toward Reyes and harnessing it right into the man on the floor, through her boot.

“Fucking slut,” he sputtered as he covered his head with his hands.

“If you ever -,” she yelled over the music and between kicks.

“- call another woman -,” wham!

 “- a bitch - ,” wham!

“- or a slut, again -” wham!  “I will find you and slit your throat,” She finished, pulling his head up off the floor by his blonde hair.

“Ok! Ok! Man!” He gasped, grasping at his bleeding nose.

“Lola!” Reyes’s voice boomed from above.

Seconds later she felt him grabbing her from behind, she fought against him, but he slung her over his shoulder as though she weighed nothing.  She beat at his back.

“Put me down, Reyes! I don’t need your help!” She should’ve shocked him, but she didn’t, for whatever reason, she didn’t. He turned to leave, carrying her with him.

“That’s right. Get your whore, Vidal!” The man said getting to his feet.

“Don’t,” Kian warned Eldrick from behind his bar. But Reyes had already stopped walking.

“What?!” Eldrick yelled to all the onlookers, blood running from his nose, coloring his teeth. “I’m not afraid of this spic and his whore!” He looked around the club, clearly expecting someone to back him up. No one did. Reyes placed Lola back on the ground. She turned, ready to unleash another blast, but Reyes held out his arm, stopping her.

“No, Lola, it’s ok,” he said. The picture of calm. “I don’t believe I heard him. The music in here is just so loud.” Reyes strolled up to the man, his ear angled toward him.“What was that you said?” The man hesitated. He looked around. All eyes were on him. He puffed out his chest and leaned toward Reyes.

“I said you and your whore-

Lola’s hands flew to her mouth as she watched Reyes bring his shoulder back, and then crack him square in his jaw.  The man flew back as a blue glow faded over Reyes’s body.


 

Reyes, sure that the matter had been settled, turned his back on the now unconscious man. Seeing how Lola stood slack jawed at his newly revealed secret, he threw her wink, enjoying the surprised look she wore. It seemed more dramatic than it was, not at all anything like he had heard she was capable of. And as if on queue, she disappeared. In a blink of an eye she went from standing a few feet away from him to crouching beside him. As if she were a superhero that had just descended  from the sky. Reyes turned to see she had thrown up a barrier before them, just as three men opened fired. The bullets crashed soundlessly into the invisible force field before falling to the ground with a ‘ping!’ It was Reyes’s turn to be impressed. Damn, she was something else. Reyes tisked at the men before them.

“See now you went and made her angry,” he said, cocking his head toward Lola. She stood beside him glaring at the men, ready, awaiting their next move. Despite the nervous look plastered on all their faces, they lifted their guns, readying to try again, but Lola beat them to it. With one raised hand she released a powerful energy field that engulfed the men. Reyes watched as they immediately began floating in the air as though their bodies had lost all sense of gravity.

Oh, yes, the world was damn lucky he was not capable of such feats.  He turned back to Lola.

Vamanos,” he said, draping an arm around her shoulders. He guided her out of the club. “You don’t want to be late to meet your squad mates.”

 


 

Reyes offered his hand to her, she took it and boarded his ship. She looked around, securing herself in the passenger seat. She was surprised by the ship’s size. Despite its compact appearance, the inside was roomy, spacious even. He kept it clean. Save for a bedroll in the cargo space, the ship was empty.

“That was mine,” he answered, following her gaze. She looked at him surprised. He placed a stretched arm on the back of her seat, turning to look back.

“ Those first few weeks of being exiled were.... rough.” His eyes darkened. She had heard snippets of stories from her crewmates about the riot. How violent it was.

“Were you apart of the riots?”

“That shitshow?” He laughed. “No, I just felt I could do better on my own. I still have a long way to go but-” his eyes shifted to hers, the brightness returning to them. “Here isn’t so bad.” He shifted his hand and placed a stray lock behind her ear, and she let him, because she was a sucker for him.

Liar, womanizer...

He turned to the console before him. His fingers flew along the panel, flipping switches and pressing buttons without hesitation. She knew he was a pilot, but still, seeing him at work was impressive. He had been with someone right before he was with her. The thought was invasive. No wonder he had stopped her from touching him, he had already been sated by another woman. She looked out the window, watching dust clouds fly by, arguing with herself.

You’re being childish, she told herself. Stop behaving like a petulant child asked to share her toys. He was never going to be just yours.

“Lola, are you alright?” He asked, shooting her a concerned look.

“Yes,” she lied. “I’m just...surprised by your... I mean to say thank you for...” her brain searched for something to say other than “fuck you, you fucking lying male whore.” She sighed. “I just hate men like that.”

“Things tend to happen to men like that,” he shot her a look. “Mark my words, they’ll no longer be a problem.” He placed a hand on her knee. She looked at the man before her. The raw knuckles of the hand on her knee, the bruises of the one on the wheel. Things tend to happen… She thought, replaying his words in her mindNo, she realized. Reyes tends to happen to men like that. She had allowed herself to be swept away by how dashing, and charming he was that she had turned a blind eye to what, who, was right in front of her.

Anubis.

He made people disappear. Either through direct doing of his own, or indirectly through someone else. Either way, it was him. It all came back to him.  

So, who was it? Was it Sloane or The Charlatan he was secretly working for? Was it both? Lies on lies on lies...

“So, I’ve been meaning to ask you about The Charlatan,” she said, watching for movements or facial expressions that would give him away. “They feed the poor, aid Dr. Nakamoto. They even seem more organized than Sloane and her merry crew of fuck-ups. I don’t know. Maybe they should be the ones in charge, but...” She let the words hang in the air for a moment. But he stood silent, waiting.  

“I’d like to find out more about them,” she continued. “But they’re making it so difficult.” She sighed, and pulled her hair to one side of her head, being sure to reveal her neck, the marks he left, the skin he had just touched. Two can play the game of seducer. “Maybe I should just keep trying to build a bridge between Sloane and me.” She pouted.  “Kaetus and I seem to get along well enough.” She paused, pretending to be in thought. “You know my very first crush was on a Turian? Vakarian was his last name. A C-sec officer, he was always the one catching me and Leo when we were up to no good. He’d drag us back to our father....Kaetus kind of reminds me of him.” She laughed to herself, trying not to over play it. Would he take the bait? Would he fall for his own game?

She heard him force breath loudly out his mouth.

“Kaetus is Sloane’s pet. Nothing more than a lovesick puppy trailing behind his master. Pendejo.” He opened and closed his hand over the ship’s wheel, his muscles flexing under the tension. He seemed to be fighting with himself.

“There is word that The Charlatan has a hideout somewhere in the caves of Dralluir.” He looked at her.  “But it is only rumors of course.”

“Of course,” she said. “I couldn’t very well just waltz right into their hideout, though.”

He tapped a finger on the wheel. “You might be able to.”

“How so?”

“You said they have been firing at you?” He asked, glancing at her.

“Non-stop,” she replied. It was true. Nearly everyone on this planet wanted her dead.

He shook his head. “They shouldn’t be. There were orders. Orders to not touch The Pathfinder.”  They began their descent, having reached their destination.

“How do you know this?”

“It’s my job, Lolita.”

“And you’re sure?” She asked looking at him. His fingers once again dancing over the dashboard, getting them down safely.

“My information is always good,” he responded.”Trust me.”  

Reyes landed them safely. Despite the small hold up at Tartarus, they were the first to arrive at the location of the Roekarr’s hideout. He exited the ship.


 

“We’re here. Where the hell are you guys?” He overheard Lola speaking into her omni-tool frompinside his ship.

“Freaking Liam doesn’t -” Peebee’s voice cracked through.

“-  Don’t blame me! You’re the one who needed to press every button on the Nomad! ” Kosta’s voice carried over Peebee’s. Reyes wondered how that group of infants ever managed to accomplish anything.

“Liam, please. We finally have them. You need to get here so we can nullify the threat. They are killing innocents, we can’t have that. I let you drive The Nomad because I trust you. I know you know how important this is.”

Yea, for sure Pathfinder. No more screwing around, yea? We’ll be there in ten.”

“And Peebee, we can’t find any remtech without a working Nomad. If you fuck it up when we’re are so close to finding all those pieces you want… it’ll be that much longer before you can get your hands on them.”

“Yea, yea, yea. Alright. Hands off. Got it.”

“Alright guys, see you in ten.”

That’s right. She’s how they got things accomplished. While he barked orders and forced obedience, she coaxed her squadmates into behaving. Sweet words and gentle reminders lulled them into obedience, as though she was some sort of land siren. The name Shena might very well suit her just as well as himself. They were cut from similar cloth, she and him. So much so, that he knew when he was being baited for information. She was good, but she was a terrible liar, and he wasn’t a fool. Reyes hadn’t given her any information on The Charlatan that he wasn’t already planning on providing to her.  

He rounded the ship to her side just as the door swung open and extended his hand to her. Clearly, she was capable of getting in and out of a shuttle on her own, but he wished to show that he was more than a sex crazed brute.  She looked down at him suspiciously, narrowing those cat-like eyes. Perhaps she only wanted the brute, he thought, preparing to withdraw his hand when she finally extended hers to his.

“Thank you,” she murmured, a bit shyer than he had ever heard her.  Her slender hand nearly disappeared in his. She climbed out and moved to jump down with his help, but at the last minute he grabbed her waist and lowered her down gently. He held onto her, much longer than necessary, enjoying the way the Kadaran moons light set her skin aglow, how the night winds whipped her hair about. Her grey eyes settled on his and they appeared so much like tiny versions of the moons in the sky that he had trouble looking away.

“Where’d you come from Lola Ryder?”

“I’m sure my dossier told you as much, Reyes Vidal.”

Yes, he had given away the fact that he had read her dossier the moment he began speaking to her in Spanish without hesitation, having never done so previously. And yes, it did mention that she grew up on The Citadel, that she had twin brother, that her mother was a biotic researcher, but these were all just facts, words on paper, and they may explain in some small way how she came to be, but she was more than a culmination of easily found facts and he wanted to say as much when The Nomad finally came tumbling at them from a distance and she was forced to pull away from his grasp just before its headlights settled on them.

 


 

The Roekarr proved to be more of a challenge than he had initially anticipated. They were in greater numbers and better prepared than expected, making him glad he hadn’t left Lola to fight this battle alone. Not that she was alone, or that she couldn’t handle it. She was amazingly adept at combat. Reyes couldn’t take his eyes off her, she fought effortlessly, using her jet pack to avoid harm, she was able to get close enough to slit throats, and then fly far enough away to avoid being grabbed.

She didn’t need Reyes or Liam to protect her, but that wouldn’t stop them from doing it all the same.

He heard Lola yell commands to Liam and Peebee. They broke off in different directions to avoid becoming easy targets. Reyes took to a covered spot and began focusing on sniping out men. He focused primarily on anyone that even tried to get close to her. Liam also seemed to be attempting to protect her, using his biotics to blast away anyone or anything that got past Reyes. At least Liam’s protectiveness was useful for something.

 Within minutes, they had finished the job they had set out to do. Liam and Peebee went about checking the grounds for anything that could be salvaged, and quicklysettled back into their bickering.

Lola walked up to Reyes, blood splattered all over her and her combat suit.

“I suppose this is where we part ways, he said, wishing he could take her home for the night.

She nodded, they left the cave together, each heading to their respective vehicles.

“Until next time, Vidal,” she said, parting ways with him. The finality of that farewell made his chest tighten. Despite how intimate they had been earlier, he felt a sudden space growing between them. He snapped his fingers and called out to her.

“I forgot to mention.” She turned back to him, a hand on her hip. “I need your help.” He quickly filled her in on the situation with Zia. She listened in silence, and she agreed to help him then they parted ways without so much as a goodbye.  

It wouldn’t be until much later, when Kian filled him in on what had occured, that Reyes would have realized how badly he had fucked up.


 

 “Good job on the Roekarr today,” Liam said. She hummed in agreement, her thoughts on Reyes.

 I  can’t trust him. I owe him, I’ll help him then that’s it. I will stay the hell away from him. 

Sure.

“Where’d you wander off to today?” Liam asked, taking off his helmet. His curls had gone wild, and she couldn’t help but smile at the way he looked like a boy that had just come back home from playing outside. She missed him. He was her first friend in a new galaxy. He was so easy, an open book. You could read his emotions on his face, and when you couldn’t he had no problem babbling them out. Looking at him she couldn’t help but wonder if any of the decisions she made since arriving to Andromeda were right. She had made so many poor ones. Was choosing Reyes over Liam one of those wrong decisions? Liam’s words from that night replayed in her head: ‘ I’m on your side. I’m always on your side.’  

“Lola?”

She shrugged at his question, and considered lying, but decided against. She was on duty at the time, lying would hide nothing. If she behaved, they’d have no reason to look over the logs, and her secret rendezvous with Reyes would remain secret.

 “Reyes wanted to see me,” she said, removing her gloves.

“Oh, must’ve been important for you to go right away,” he replied. Lola noted that his voice held no indication of jealousy. She was thankful for that.

“Yea, he needs help dealing with a competing smuggler. Someone stealing his merchandise. Nothing big. I owe him, so I’ll help him during my shore leave.”

She turned to leave the room and could feel Liam following her. “Lola, can we talk?”

 “Alright,” she said. She’d love if they could  salvage their friendship. He followed her to her quarters.

 “Give me a second.” She called over her shoulder. Liam sat on the sofa, she left the room and returned in casual clothing. A t-shirt from a band back on Earth, and knit shorts. She was dying for a shower but it’d have to wait a moment longer. She threw her combat suit onto the bed and joined Liam on the sofa. He looked as uncomfortable as she felt.

 “You wanted to talk?”  

 “Lola, I hope you know I was just trying to help you that night I -”

Lola lifted up a hand to silence him. “Could we just pretend it never happened? Please?” The last thing she wanted to do was relive that fight with him.

    “Alright,” he nodded.

    “Alright,” she agreed.

They sat for a moment in an awkward, heavy type of silence, and it saddened her, this new awkwardness that had never before existed between them.

    “Listen, I know you have this thing for Vidal -”

    “Don’t -” She interrupted him, her body stiffening. She’d leave her own room to avoid having this conversation if she had to.

    “-but,” he continued ignoring her, “he’s bad for you. He just is. You’re different when you’re with him, around him. You’re more…,” he paused, and she readied herself for a verbal assault.“Careless, it’s like you’re self destructing. And -”

“ Stop,” she said, getting to her feet. She felt the sting of tears forcing their way out. She knew what she was, she had learned so today. She didn’t need reminding. She was a fool. She had willingly allowed Reyes to turn her into a fool.

“ I care about you, Lola, and- ” He stood up. “And I’d rather you be with me than him.” He moved toward her. “I’d rather you be with me than with anyone else.” She backed away from him. This wasn’t right, if he knew she had just been with Reyes would he still be saying the same things? She backed right into her desk. He approached her slowly.

“I’m sorry,” he said softly. “I’m sorry for putting you in this position, but if I don’t say something now, I’ll kick myself.” He shook his head. “Shit, I’ve been kicking myself.” He placed a hand on her face, cradling her cheek. “I’m sorry I made it seem like I didn’t care, when I did. I do . I just -you’re The Pathfinder. You have so much on your plate, I just didn’t want to add to that. I didn’t want to pressure you. But I now see you enjoy pressure, so -” He gave her a small shy smile and dipped his head, placing his lips on hers. His kiss was soft and seeking, like he was giving her time to stop him, to reject him, but she didn’t, she didn’t push him away. She should’ve pushed him away, but his hands were already finding their way under her shirt and to her waist, and it felt good because at least she knew she was the only woman he’d kissed all day but now she was just as bad as Reyes and-

*ding*

Her omni-tool beeped and she already knew it was Reyes.He always wished her a goodnight.

She placed a hand on Liam’s chest stopping him, he didn’t fight her. She pulled away from the kiss, shaking her head.

“I need time, Liam. I need to think.” He nodded, his hands still at her waist.

“Not a problem,” he said, resting his forehead on hers. He sighed and let go of her. He headed to her door. “But Pathfinder, know, I’m not going anywhere.”

 


 

 After the Roekarr, Reyes went directly back to Tartarus. It was late night/early morning and he desired only to go to his apartment to shower and brood about why Lola seemed to be pissed at him, but business always came first.

“Do you have them?” He asked, walking into the now empty club.

“There in the back.” Kian responded, surveying a broken table. “Reyes, I need to tell you-”

“Tell me when I’m done.”

Reyes entered one of the club’s back rooms that served as a storage room. Crates lined walls on either side narrowing the hallway. The lights flickered on and off over head, simultaneously obscuring and revealing his path. Reyes knew his way well enough that it didn’t matter, he’s done this many times before. He continued to the back until he reached a heavy metal door that took up a good portion of the wall. The freezer. He opened it, in sat the four men from the earlier altercation, bond and gagged.

Upon first glance anyone would’ve thought they were nothing more than corpses, but Reyes was good at his job, and he knew exactly how long it took for a body to expire in a freezer. He looked at his watch, they were most definitely still alive. He gave each man a swift kick in the rib, stirring them. They all looked up at him and began mumbling at once, the gag preventing them from forming coherent sentences.

Reyes didn’t bother to remove any of the gags, he could guess well enough what they were saying. All men were more and less the same animal at this point. They were apologizing, begging, and/or attempting to strike a deal.

He crouched down in front of the man that had began it all. Eldrick.His pale skin almost translucent from the cold, blood and snot frozen to his skin. Pathetic . Reyes despised men that talked a lot of shit but couldn’t back it up.

He ripped the tape of the Eldrick’s mouth, frozen bits of skin clinging desperately to it. Eldrick cursed loudly and then immediately began to beg, apologize, and barter, just as Reyes had predicted. Reyes held up a single finger, shushing him. Eldrick whimpered, but listened.

“You and I got off on the wrong foot, yes?” Condensation formed in front of his mouth as he spoke. Eldrick bobbed his head up and down.

“I get it,” Reyes began, pacing around Eldrick. “Lola is an exquisite woman. Throughout history men are notorious for doing foolish things for a bit of ass. And that’s what happened, yes? That’s what happened when you called me a spic and that beautiful woman a whore you… ” he trailed off, signaling for Eldrick to finish the sentence, and he was all too eager to do so. After all, Reyes was giving him an out. Reyes crouched before him, expectantly.

“I didn’t mean it, man! I was just talking out my ass, I was hammered and -“

Reyes lifted his finger and Eldrick immediately silenced himself. His eyes constantly flicking to the revolver Reyes had in his hand.

The other three men had been squirming, mumbling, attempting to get Reyes’s attention, but it only irritated and distracted him. He couldn’t let them go, men like these don’t take blows to their egos lightly, they came back, guns blazing, tongues wagging. Like roaches, they would multiply and return.

He got up and put a bullet in each of their heads, their bodies slumping over.

“Oh shit! Oh no! Oh man!”

Reyes returned to the now panicked Eldrick.  He returned the gun to the back of his trousers, and removed a knife. Taking it out of its sheath he turned it over, allowing a now sobbing Eldrik to get a good look at it, the overhead lights glinting off the polished blade. He used it to slice Eldrick’s constraints. He looked at Reyes confused, bloodied snot snaking its way down his face. Reyes motioned for him to get to his feet, throwing a handkerchief at him.

“Clean yourself up. You work for me now.”

  

Chapter Text

Lola spent the next month fixing Kadara’s vaults. Soon she’ll be leaving to hunt down the Archon, and she desperately wanted to improve living conditions on Kadara before she was gone. Just in case. There was always the chance she would not be returning.

 The vaults were undoubtedly dangerous work, but exciting, and, most importantly, they were Reyes free. The last time she saw Reyes was to help him with rid himself of his ‘Zia’ problem, which turned out to be more of an ‘ex- girlfriend’ problem. The whole situation left Lola unsettled only worked to further convince Lola that distancing herself from Reyes was a necessary action.



My taste in women has increased dramatically since meeting you.

-R



He had messaged her.  She hadn’t messaged back. Still, he remained on her mind.



“Kadara’s waters should be cleared up in a matter of days!” Peebee exclaimed grinning. “Good work team!” She sang out, high fiving Lola and Liam.  

The three of them were piled into the Mako, making their way back to The Tempest.

“Hey, isn’t this the place where the Doc said they were holding his drug recipe?” Liam asked, pointing out one of the Nomad’s tiny windows.

“Formula.” Lola corrected.

“Yea, that.” Liam shrugged.

Lola peered out the window, assessing the building. It was a steel structure. It wasn’t very large or intimidating, definitely do-able. She stopped the Nomad and checked her Omni-tool to be sure that that was indeed the right place.

“You’re right. It’s the place,” she said. 

“Wanna..?”  Liam asked. He stuck his head up in between Lola and Peebee who were ridin in the front two seats.

Lola groaned, throwing her head back, dramatically. She was tired and sore, dirty and gross. But, she was also The Pathfinder, and The Pathfinder’s work was never done.

“Fine!” She said, relenting. “Let’s get this over quick. I’m exhausted.” Lola turned off the Mako and hopped out.

“Damn it, Kosta.” Peebee mumbled, climbing out the Mako after Lola.





The job was quick and easy, and they were on their way to deliver the formula to Dr. Nakamoto in no time.

“You got it back!” 

“We did.” Lola smiled, happy to be of service, despite how utterly exhausted she felt.  “ The woman there tried to sell you as a greedy co-conspirator, but Rey-” She stopped herself short.

Reyes.

It was Reyes that had convinced her to aid Dr. Nakamoto. Reyes was the reason she had believed Nakamoto to be a respectable man, even when another had claimed otherwise.

“An acquaintance of mine had informed us that you were trustworthy.” She finished, picking her words carefully.

Dr. Nakamoto looked at her inquisitively. “You must hold this acquaintance in high regard if you believe their word on a complete stranger.”

Lola considered this. “ I guess I do,” she replied. Though, she wasn’t completely sure what that meant in the grand scheme of things. Something to think of later.

“Keep it safe, doctor,” she said.

She looked around the shed that served as his clinic. Patients were lined up outside for help, and advice, awaiting their turn with the only human doctor available to them since being exiled. He did so much from this little shed, helped so many, and all with charging a cent.

“What you do is admirable. I can’t imagine what you’ve had to do to keep this place running. I’d hate to see it disrupted. Stay well, doc.”  She gave him a farewell smile, and turned to leave.

“Would you like to know?” The doctor called after her.

“Know what?” She asked, turning back to him.

“How I keep this afloat?”

“I’m not sure I understand, doctor.”

“Ah- Ryota, please.” He looked away nervously before meeting her gaze again. “ I apologize. I haven’t done this in some time. I’m trying to ask you to dinner.” He laughed.

“Oh!” Lola’s eyes widened.

Beside her Peebee broke out into a incredibly annoying fit of  giggles, and, to Lola’s utter surprise, Liam smirked, amused.

“Um.” She was about to decline the invitation when she realized that, despite her ongoing entanglements with Reyes and Liam, Dr. Nakamoto was the first man in this new galaxy to have ever asked her out on a actual date. Maybe good food and company was what she needed to stop thinking of Reyes, since distance alone sure as hell isn’t doing it.

“Sure, um, Ryota. I’d like that.”

Ryota immediately broke out into a bright smile. “Splendid! This Saturday? Around five? I’ll send you the nav-point.”

“Ok, see you there.”

“Why are you smiling?” She hissed at Liam once they were out of earshot.

“Oh. Because he is completely not your type. He doesn’t stand a chance.”

“Not my type?” She asked, taken aback. “What do you know about my type?”

Liam’s grin grew wider. “Really?” He asked, motioning to himself.

Lola shoved him.  “Whatever, Kosta.”

But deep down, she knew he was right.


 


“Finally! A date with a reputable man.” Cora smiled in the cargo bay.

“Yea, from what I hear that Ryota guy will be good for you,” Vetra agreed.

“Yea ok, moms.” Lola said, rolling her eyes. Everyone had a damn opinion.

“Hey! Right here!” Liam called out, pointing to himself. “I’m a reputable man.”

“Please. Screwing in a storage room closet is one of the least reputable things you can do,” Vetra replied.

“Tell us, Liam, did you human men forget what it means to be gentlemen on the way over here?” Cora asked.

“No.” Liam pouted.

“Okay!” Lola spoke up, holding up her hands. “Can you all please just pretend like you don’t know about the storage room closet thing? Maybe? Please?”

“Where’s the fun in that?” Peebee asked, entering the room. She looked at Lola’s outfit. “Goddess! Are you trying to give the poor doctor a heart attack?!”

“What?” Lola asked looking down at her outfit.  It was a simple long sleeve black dress. Unless he got off on exposed shoulders, she didn’t see anything racy about it.

“You gonna sleep with him?” Peebee asked, a little too excitedly. “So, are we not into Reyes anymore? Because I-“

“Right! Here!” Liam called out, again, raising his hand. “I’m still in the ring!”

“Not if she’s going out with someone else.” Vetra snorted.

“Criminals of any kind, including smugglers are off limit to a Nexus rep,” Cora said.

 “But, Ryota is an exile.” Peebee pointed out.

 “Maybe, but he is a doctor. He’s helping the poor, and sick. He isn’t a criminal,” Cora responded.

 “Reyes was still more fun.” Peebee sulked, as though she was personally invested.

That was enough of that.

“You guys seriously need some hobbies. And I hope you all choke on dicks.” Lola said, giving them the finger as she left.

She could hear their roars of laughter from all the way outside the ship.

 







Reyes had spent the past month working. Working and steering clear of all women (with the exception of Keema). Women were the sole creators of all of Reyes’s troubles.  Sloane caused him trouble. Zia had been trouble, the woman before Zia had been trouble, and the one before her, and so on. Reyes now believed that Lola’s silence toward him was a gift, an out. His messages to her had went unanswered, and at first he was only spurred on more, but now he saw things differently. His focus needed to be on work, on Kadara. On Sloane. Lola had just served as a distraction, an enjoyable one, but a distraction nonetheless.

Of course, none of that meant that he was any less sexually frustrated. And it didn’t stop him from thinking of Lola, constantly.

“Have you seen your precious Lola lately?” Keema asked, a little too innocently.

Reyes’s gaze cut toward Keema. “You know I haven’t.”

“Hmmm..” Keema hummed. She was fidgeting. She looked absolutely bursting to the rim with secrets, and Reyes was in absolutely no mood.

“But you’re still receiving those little reports on her, are you not.”

“Yes, Keema,” Reyes said. He was growing irritated. “She is still The Pathfinder. Still important.”

“So, you must know …” Keema trailed off.

“That she fixed the vaults? Claro.” Despite himself, pride for her accomplishments rolled through him. The water had been running clear for a few days now. His showers had been divine ever since. He even had the hot springs tested. They had cleared up as well. “It’ll be used to our advantage.”

His thoughts slipped to the one hot spring he favored.  It was nestled away, hidden by one of Kadara’s mountains, and an overgrowth flora. He had stumbled upon it by accident, and had been going back ever since. During every visit he thought about how much Lola would enjoy it there, how much he would enjoy her there. Which only led him to pleasure himself, and - he cleared his throat, stopping his thoughts before they got completely away from him.

“Of course,” Keema replied. “Is that all?” She asked, prying.

Reyes narrowed his eyes at Keema. Is that all? She was fishing for something. He knew something had been up the minute Keema showed up at Tartarus unannounced , over dressed, and with a large package in hand. Why she wouldn’t just come out and say what was on her mind, Reyes couldn’t guess, but whatever game she was playing. He refused to participate. Her round eyes remained glued to him.

“What.” He snapped, his irritation getting the best of him. Irritation over the fact that she was making him ask. Irritation with the fact that he just had asked.

“Oh, nothing. Nothing.” She said waving her cerulean, webbed hand dismissively. A small knowing smirk on her alien face.

Reyes went back to his Omni-tool. He could feel Keema’s eyes on him, burning holes through him. He ignored her, continuing to look through the day’s alerts. “We have copycat?”

Had.” Keema confirmed. “ Someone had been committing acts in your name. Nothing big. Seems their only goal was to put extra credits in their pocket. It was one of our Draullir people.”

“Fantastic,” he muttered. Just what he needed, more problems occurring internally. He’d bet good credits the culprit was a woman. He didn’t bother to ask how it was handled. All that had mattered was that it was.  He swiped t through to next alert. His eyes shot to Keema’s.

The little devil.

“Keema,” he growled out. 

“Finally, darling!” Keema exhaled dramatically. “Come now, you’ll need a tux.” She said passing him the large package she had brought with her. “Put it on. I’ll wait outside.” 

“I’m not going, Keema. It doesn’t concern me.” Even as he said it, he knew it to be a lie.

“Please, Reyes. We both know you’ll head straight over there the very minute I leave you alone.”

She wasn’t wrong.

“And I won’t have it. I won’t have you busting through those doors in -“ she motioned toward him “that.” She paused, frowning at his outfit. “I won’t have you making an ass of yourself. You want to spy on her date. Fine. But I will be there to keep you in line. And you will be paying.”

“Keema-”

She stood up. “Don’t argue with me, Reyes. I’ve already made reservations. Also, when you inevitably steal her away from her date, I desire to meet her. That is before you sweep her away to gods know where, to do I - don’t - want - to - know -what.”

“I would never do such a thing. Steal women away from their dates.”

“That smug grin on your face says otherwise, Vidal. Now get dressed. We are losing time.”





“How did I not know about this place?” He asked, entering the restaurant with Keema on his arm.

“You’ve been distracted lately, darling. No worries. I’ve caught everything you missed,” She said, patting his arm. “And that is why you will be covering the bill.”

“How many?” The hostess asked.

“Two. Under Dorhgun.” Keema replied.

The place was immense. It sat overlooking one of the many hot springs that dotted Kadara. The walls were made completely of glass, so that no matter where one sat they could enjoy the Kadaran sunset. However, the best spot appeared to be outside. A large patio sat in the back, extending far over the hot spring. It was open to the elements, yet the mountain wall beside it provided ample shade from the harsh Kadaran sun. The restaurant appeared to be Angaran owned, but species of all kind were dining there. It was lovely.

Had he known of this place, he would’ve taken her.

“No, you wouldn’t have,” Keema said, reading his face. “But you should’ve.”

It was moments like this that he felt he and the Angaran had become entirely too close. But, trustworthy friends were difficult to come by, and, despite her prying nature, Keema was a good one.

“This way.” The Angaran hostess lead them around tables, chairs, and other patrons, past the bar, and to a table out on the patio. The view was stunning. Exotic plants lined the shore along the hot spring, adding bursts of neon colors to a view that could clearly be seen through the glass floor. As usual, it was scorching out, but the spray from the erupting spring cooled the humid air just enough to keep the patrons outside comfortable.

Reyes pulled out Keema’s chair, pushed her in, and then took his own seat across from her at the round table.

“I don’t see them,” he said.

“Look to your two o’clock.” Keema replied, studying the menu.

Reyes looked. Sure enough, Ryota sat there, dressed up in a white tuxedo. Waiting.

Reyes scoffed. “He looks like he’s attending a wedding.”

“Not everyone has a fashionable Angaran friend on their side.” Keema peered at the doctor over her menu. “She’s late,” Keema said, looking at her watch. A gift she had received from Reyes. “Do you know what you’re ordering?”

“Maybe she won’t come,” Reyes replied.

“Oh, she’s coming.” Keema put down her menu.  “What are you ordering?”

Reyes kept his eyes glued to the entrance. “Whatever you’re having.”

Keema sighed. “I’ll order you the “steak.”

Had he been listening Reyes would’ve question the origin of said “steak”, but he wasn’t. Lola had just walked in. He gripped at the white tablecloth.  It had been over a month since he last laid eyes on her, but it felt like two. No messages, no visits. It had felt like an eternity. She had her hair out, black curls spilling down her body, a body that was clad in a skin tight black dress. The sleeves were long but it’s hem was short, her shoulders were exposed,  as were her collar bone, cleavage... Ryota wouldn’t know what to do with her, he was in over his head. Her heels were low but wrapped up her ankles in a way that reminded Reyes of the boot he had untied for her.

“Down boy.” Keema said, placing her hand on his. He released the table cloth, but not his gaze from Lola. Every step she took, every turn of her head had her dark curls bouncing and swaying as though in celebration of her beauty.

No. Ryota didn’t stand a chance.




The Angaran hostess stopped Lola at the entrance. It was humid, and she already  regretted wearing her hair out. She tossed her curls over her shoulder and fanned herself in an effort to cool her neck off.

“I’m meeting someone.” She said to the hostess.

“Name?”

“Nakamoto. Ryota Nakamoto.”

“This way.”

Lola followed the hostess.

The restaurant was stunning. She had no idea that Kadara held such jewels. Did Reyes know this place existed? Despite all her efforts, a day had not gone by that she hadn’t thought of him.  He’d never behave himself in such a place, she thought, smiling to herself. She could imagine him leaning over the table, whispering dirty compliments. Telling her all the things he planned to do to her after they had left, and saying it all in that honeyed voice of his. He always had a way of making her feel like the most beautiful woman in the galaxy.

Reyes Vidal is 20 feet away from you, Pathfinder,” SAM spoke to her.

“What did I tell you about responding to my thoughts?” Lola hissed in a whisper. “Wait? Reyes is here?”

Yes, Pathfinder,” SAM responded.

She looked around. “Where?”

“I’m sorry?” The hostess turned to her. “Right this way. I apologize for the long walk.”

“Oh! No! It’s fine. I’m just sssoo excited to be here.” Lola smiled, trying not to look insane. “Yay!”  The hostess gave her an odd look, but continued on.

“To your left, Pathfinder.” SAM responded.

“Lola!” Ryota stood as she reached their table. He was blocking her view of Reyes. “I am so glad you made it.”

She gave Ryota an awkward hug, wanting to look over his shoulder. And, sure enough. Vidal sat at a table with a lovely Angaran woman. His eyes set intensely on Lola’s. Lola pulled away from the hug with Ryota and took her seat. “Thank you.” She said to Ryota. “I am sure it is going to be an interesting night.”






“..And that was how I discovered that the elements negated each other!”

Lola looked up. “Oh, yes, fascinating.” She smiled, hoping it seemed genuine. She pushed her food around. She had ordered the “chicken”. Yes, the “chicken” in quotation marks. Surprise. It looked nothing like chicken. She had spent the better half of the night pushing the food around on her plate, and only half listening to Ryota. She had been too busy sneaking glances at Reyes, who kept looking right back at her. The man was in a tux. A fucking tux . He was following her, and he looked fucking hot doing it. She was pissed off and turned on all at once. She stabbed at what looked like a vegetable with her fork.

Ryota looked up at her alarmed.

“Sorry, I - um.” She rose from her chair. “ You know what. I’m just going to go to the restroom.”

“Of course,” he replied. “Towards the back. You should know there is only one. One for all species and sexes.”

Lola shrugged, unbothered. “Just like on my ship.” She joked weakly before walking away. She locked eyes with Reyes before turning toward the restrooms. She knew, without looking, that he would follow. The man could never turn down a chase.

She found the restroom easily enough, pushed its swinging door open to enter, and waited. It was just as clean and classy as the rest of the restaurant. Well lit, with a light floral scent. She looked around, as far as she could tell, it was empty.

Reyes is swiftly approaching,” SAM alerted her.

“Yea, I bet he is.” She mumbled, just as he opened the door.

Lola had to stop herself from audibly gasping at the sight of him. He was dressed in an all black tuxedo. The fit was impeccable. It highlighted his broad shoulders and held snugly at his narrow waist and toned arms. His black hair was slicked back, except for a strand or two that had broken free and hung sensually beside his face. Strands that were just begging for Lola to reach out and smooth them back. Worst of all, his bronzed sleepy eyes were full of mischief. If she thought he was dangerously handsome before, now, she stood no chance.




“Lola,” he crooned entering the restroom, a small smile pulling at his lips. She was radiant. Running around in the Kadaran sun all these days had deepened her skintone into a smooth milk chocolate.

The sun had been good to her.

His eyes slid over her. Reyes never thought himself a jealous man. Women had come and went from his life as swiftly as a flowing river, and never had he batted an eye when someone he had once slept with was seen out with another man. But seeing Lola standing there, dressed up for someone other than him, he knew a jealous man existed in him after all. Luckily, he had an iron clad poker face. He had a feeling that Lola would not be the type to find jealousy flattering.

“You look-” he wolf whistled. “Ravishing.” He took in her outfit, the jewels that glittered at her throat, the small black buttons that worked their way down the front of her dress (that looked ridiculously easy to undo). He took in all the details he had originally been too far away to see. “Has he told you that? That you look ravishing?” Lola didn’t respond, and Reyes knew immediately that Ryota had not.  “Of course he hadn’t.”

“You’re following me,” she said, annoyance filling her voice, even as her eyes lingered a little too long on his face.

“You’ve been avoiding me.” He walked up the mirror behind her and adjusted his tie, if not for any other reason than to give his hands something to do. He was itching to touch her, maybe undo some of those tiny buttons on the front of her dress, but he was sure she wouldn’t welcome his touches right now.

“I’ve been busy.”

“You have been.” He nodded in agreement. “You fixed the vaults.” He met her eyes through the mirror, those almond shaped beauties.  

He had been wanting to congratulate her for the vaults ever since he had first learned of her success. It was something worth celebrating, though he doubt she had. Her work in the vaults were changing the chemistry of the whole planet for the better. She accomplished feats that honestly left him in awe.

“You really are something else, you know that, Lola?”  He said, his voice low and intimate. She stood silent, her eyes locked on his, watching his every move as though at any moment she expected him to pounce on her. Wise. Given half the chance, he would.  “The springs are safe to enter now. Word hasn’t gotten out yet, but it will. Do yourself a favor, get to one before it does. The water feels amazing.”  He washed his hands and dried them. He had thought about her every time he visited one. Every. Damn. Time. “I’d love to take you,” he said, trying his luck. “I believe you’d enjoy the feel of that hot water on your naked skin. I know I do.”

“Maybe I’ll ask Ryota.”

He scoffed. “Ryota is a good a man. And I’m sure he has his share of women that would enjoy their time with him, but you.” He shook his head, and turned away from the mirror to face her. “You are not that woman, Lolita.” He loved the cool grey of her eyes. It’s as though they contained snowstorms, and those snowstorms ebbed the infernos he had burning in his. “He is boring you out of your mind, gorgeous. Admit it.”



Ryota was boring her. Nearly to tears. He spoke endlessly of himself. He was a brilliant and selfless man, but he lacked Reyes’s charm, charisma, sex appeal. In any case, she had the feeling she bored him right back.  Especially, when she didn’t ask the right questions. She could see his frustration whenever she asked him for further explanation on things that seemed rudimentary to him. Not that she’d admit that to Reyes.

“You barely know me, Vidal.”

“I know how to make you cum.” He said nearing her, his voice dropping an octave. Lola made sure not to react to his boldness. He moved a few coils of curls off her shoulder, his hand grazing her skin. She quickly gathered herself.

“You make a girl cum once and you think you know her.”

“Would’ve been more than once had you not begged me to stop.” He replied, without missing a beat. He was standing right before her now, a smug grin on his face, his golden eyes boring down on her. Cocky asshole. She wanted so badly to smile. She bit her lip, forcing her face to remain neutral. 

“Are you trying to seduce me away from my date?”

“Depends. Is it working?”



She crossed her slender arms. She was pissed at him, or at least doing her best to reman pissed at him. But standing there with her arms crossed under her breasts and her hip angled out, she looked more sexy than intimidating. He had come to apologize for how insensitive his previous actions were, bringing another woman in his room while pursuing her, not being honest about who Zia really was, but he felt his words getting away from him.

“You know you look even sexier when you’re pissed, right?” He could feel the crooked smirk forming on his face. She blushed. Her golden skin reddening to a rich copper.

“Goddess, what do I have to do to get you to shut up?”

“Kiss me.” He stepped closer to her, placing a hand in her hip.

She shook her head and stepped out of his reach. “You’d do that to your date?” She asked, disgust in her voice as she rounded him, heading for the exit.

It took Reyes a moment to realize Lola was referring to Keema.

He stopped her, blocking the door with his arm before she had a chance to leave.

“Is that the man you think I am?” Had he truly given off the impression of being a chauvinist pig?

Lola shrugged. “I don’t know. Maybe. I think you’re a shady bastard who thinks he can get away with anything just because he looks like sex on two legs.”

“The shady bastard part wounds me, but the latter..” he smiled.

“Goddess, Reyes! I was not complimenting you!”

He tilted his head from side to side. “You kind of were. You called me a sex god.”

She laughed. “I did not. That is not at all what I said.”

“You did though. I heard you.”

“I’m starting to think that mouth of yours is only good for one thing.”

He dipped his head toward her. “There are other parts of me you might enjoy more.” His voice dropping to a mere whisper.

“Is that what you want, Mr. Vidal?” She asked, grabbing at his lapels with both hands, pulling him roughly toward her. “For me to fuck you?”

“No, bella. It’s your birthday. Allow me to fuck you.” His hands were now at her waist.

She let go of his lapels. “It’s not my birthday.”

“It is your birthday, muñequita. I went through great troubles to get that intel, and my intel is never wrong.”

She was avoiding eye contact with him now. He let her go. He had made her uncomfortable.

“Go to your date. But, if you find yourself preferring the company of someone who actually desires to know you. You know where to find me.”

He held the door open for her.

“You’re on a date,” she replied, exiting the restroom.

“Keema, is not my date. She’s my…” He trailed off, pausing, looking for the correct term. “Babysitter.”

 And with that he left her.



Lola returned to the table she shared with Ryota, only to find another woman in her seat. 

“There you are!” Ryota smiled as Lola approached. “Lola, I’d like you to meet Sestra.”

“Uh, hello there,” Lola extended her hand, standing awkwardly by the redhead now seated comfortably in her seat.

“Hi!” Seatra took her hand and shook it vigorously. “Ryota said he was on a date with The Human Pathfinder, but I’d never believe it if I hadn’t seen it myself!”

Lola recoiled at that. Of course. She hadn’t seen it until now. Ryota was never on a date with her. He was on the date with The Pathfinder. 

“Sestra and I completed our residency together.” Ryota said, his attention completely on Sestra. “My, I haven’t seen her in -“

“600 plus years!” She finished his sentence, both of them cracking up at her joke.

“I had no idea you were on Kadara! I would’ve looked for you. I would've found you sooner had I known!” Ryota exclaimed, his gaze not straying from Sestra.

Lola looked from Ryota to Sestra. He was looking at Sestra the exact way Reyes often looked at her.

“You know what? Why don’t you stay Sestra?” Lola said, leaning over the chair.

“Yes!” Ryota clapped, excited by the idea. “Didn’t I tell you The Pathfinder was an extraordinary woman?”

Lola cringed. 

“No, I couldn’t!” Sestra replied, not budging.

“Of course you can! I have to get up early anyway, really. Pathfinder business and all.”

“Well, only because you insist.” Sestra smiled.

They returned to their conversation, so enthralled with one another that they hadn’t even noticed that Lola was heading further into the restaurant, rather than to its exit.



Lola reached Reyes’s table and to her surprise there was already an extra chair waiting for her. Right beside Reyes. He stood up as she approached, a smile on his handsome face, and withdrew her chair.

“Lola Ryder, this is Keema Drugher, my friend and aforementioned babysitter. Keema Drugher, this is Lola Ryder-“

Lola braced herself as she took her chair. Waiting for the word Pathfinder to leave his lips.

“- my date and-”

“The woman he won’t shut up about.” Keema grinned at her looking every bit like the cat that had just ate the canary.

Lola smiled. The woman he won’t shut up about. She didn’t quite believe Keema, but it was a thousand times better than being referred to as The Pathfinder. Reyes was retaking his seat beside her, frowning at Keema, but not denying.

“Keema, we are eating. Surely, you can wait until after to tease me.” He turned to Lola. “I ordered for you. The menu here is tricky for humans, but if you stick to things that are more like vegetables and fish, it isn’t too bad.”

“He’s so humble.” Keema spoke up. “He tried everything on the menu until he came across something he thought you’d like.”

Lola arched an eyebrow at him. Humble was not a word she would use to describe the Reyes Vidal she knew.

“Did you really?” Lola asked.

He avoided eye contact, and cleared his throat. “Those Angaran, honest to a fault,” he said shooting Keema what looked like a warning glance, which only made Keema cackle, which in turn made Lola laugh, and soon enough Reyes was chuckling along with them.

Lola took a bite of her food. It was good. “Thank you.” She said to Reyes, her voice low.

“Anything for you.” He replied, his gaze soft, lingering.

Keema cleared her throat. “Perhaps it is time for me to see myself out.” She began gathering herself to leave.

“No!” Lola said, her hand reaching out to stop Keema. “ I’ve never met any of Reyes’s friends. Besides Kian, but he doesn’t count. Please, stay.”

Keema’s wide smile returned, and to Lola’s surprise, Reyes was smiling as well.  He inched his chair closer to Lola’s. “Mind if I?” He asked fork in hand, eyeing her meal. Lola frowned, she was terribly hungry. She pushed part of the meal on her plate toward him. “You can have that. It’s my least favorite.” He placed an elbow on the table and leaned toward her, scooping it up and into his mouth. “Perfecto. It’s the part I prefer.” He winked at her, taking another bite.

“How about you save that -“ she motioned to them, “- that human flirting for after I leave, hmmm?”

“I have something else to show her after,” Reyes said.

“I hope you’re not talking about your dick, Vidal,” Lola snorted, absently. The wine she had been sipping loosening her tongue. 


Reyes nearly spit out his wine, and Keema threw her head back, letting out the loudest cackle Lola had ever heard. Keema’s laugh was insanely contagious and soon enough they were all laughing so loud that the entire restaurant was staring at them.

“Oh, I like her, Vidal!” Keema said, once they had settled down. “Keep her.”

“I was thinking of it.” Reyes responded smiling at her.



The night continued on like that: laughter, food and good company, and Lola could honestly say that, so far,  it was the best birthday she could ever remember having.

Now and then Reyes’s hand would find its way to Lola’s bare thighs under the table, reminding her of the last time he touched her there, which was probably the exact image he was hoping to conjure in her mind. The smooth bastard would then lean in, ever so slightly, and whisper a compliment in her ear. Just as she had imagined he would.  “Did I tell you how amazing you look tonight?” Or, “I just can’t seem to take my eyes off you.” Keema would quickly scold him and tell him to keep his hands to himself, and where she could see them. He’d pout and mumble something about how Keema was stealing his date from him, and it was just adorable enough to have Lola swearing to herself to make it up to him later.

“Since you ladies won’t let me have any fun, perhaps you’ll excuse me,” Reyes said, rising from his seat.

“And where, pray tell, are you heading off to?”  Keema asked, fetching a cigar from her clutch.

“To the bar. Whiskey.”

Keema waved him off. “Go. Let us talk.”

Reyes bent down toward Lola. “Don’t believe a word she says about me,” he whispered to her before dipping away with a smile.

“He likes you,” Keema said, once he was gone. She took a drag of her cigar.

“I can see that,” Lola said with a small smile.

Keema tisked. “ And he thought he was being so subtle.” Keema was eyeing her now, studying her. Lola wasn’t sure what Keema was looking for, but seeing how close a friend Keema was to Reyes, Lola found herself hoping she didn’t disappoint. Lola went to take a sip of her wine, only to find she had finished it.

“Could I get you ladies a drink?” A man asked, appearing beside their table. He was asking both of them, but it was clear he was only speaking to Lola. Despite herself, Lola found herself blushing,  knowing that Keema was closely watching.

“No. Thank you. I’m with someone.” Lola said.

“And the fool left you alone?” The man asked surveying her. “ Shame.” He walked away.

“Does that happen often?” Keema asked, motioning toward the man as he walked away, her eyes trained on Lola.

“What? Men? Me? No.” Lola blanched, shaking her head. She looked around desperately for the waiter. She needed more alcohol.

Keema raised what would’ve been a brow at her.

“Maybe?” Lola corrected, she raked a hand through her curls. “I don’t know. I don’t exactly keep track..”

Keema hummed, she looked unconvinced.

“Have you met many of Reyes’s…”  Lola paused realizing she didn’t know what she was to Reyes exactly. They were friends, sure, but didn’t their incessant and explicit flirting mean they were also more than friends. Not to mention, you know, the sex. 

“Girlfriends?” Keema asked, finishing her sentence.

“Girlfriend? No.” Lola laughed, embarrassed. It was getting warm out there. “I’m not- I hadn’t meant to imply-“ Sure, she thought of him non-stop, and yes, she found herself missing him when he wasn’t around, his smile, his laugh, his touch, but that didn’t mean this was building into a relationship....did it? No. It takes two to make a relationship. Even if she wanted to be only with him, he’d need to want the same. “I’m sure Reyes only sees me as a bit of casual... fun.” Fun. Ugh, she hated the sound of the word even as she said it.

Keema scoffed. “Has Reyes told you that? That you two are just casual fun? Because I don’t believe he’s received the memo.”

Lola looked at her in disbelief. “Did he say…?”

Keema swirled the wine in her glass. “No. Never. It’s more how he’s been behaving than what he’s been saying. With Reyes, his actions hold more weight than words. Though, I suppose it is that way for most humans.”

“How has he been behaving?” 

Keema looked toward where Reyes stood at the bar, and Lola’s eyes followed. He leaned against the counter chatting up the Angaran bar tender, looking every bit the handsome devil he was.

“He’s behaving like a love sick puppy. A horny one, yes.” Keema said, rolling her eyes dramatically. “But still love sick. One look at his face and I know immediately whether you two are fighting or not. He is insufferable when you’re unhappy with him by the way. Just a pouty, petulant child. He is simply horrible at hiding his emotions.” Keema ran a webbed finger over the rim of her glass, her eyes continuing to study her. “At least when they pertain to you”

Lola couldn’t believe it. “I don’t understand. I thought he was seeing other women?”

“Darling, you have enraptured him.” Keema paused, in thought. “Well, if we’re being pedantic, and honest, I would say he has tried once or twice to rid his mind of thoughts of you, but they were about as successful as your effort to clear your mind of him tonight with that doctor.”

“But I thought-” 

Keema shook her head. “Are you seeing other men?”

Of course she was. She was just on a date with one.

“And no, the Doctor doesn’t count.”

“Why doesn’t he count?” Lola asked, utterly confused.

“Because you ditched him for Reyes, and all it took was five minutes alone with Reyes in a public restroom.”

DitchPublic restroom. Oof, that all sounded terrible. “I mean, I didn’t really ditch him-”

“Why? Because of that redhead in your seat?” Keema guffawed. “Darling, all she did was give you the out you were already looking for. If you really wanted to be with our dear doctor you would be, would you not?”

Lola thought this over. “Yes, I guess I would.” Lola sat in silence for a moment. Were they really together without actually being together? And was it so obvious that anyone actually paying attention would notice.

“Ah, you humans,” Keema frowned, putting out her cigar. “You’re not even honest with yourselves.” She shook her head at Lola. “ Don’t feel bad, though. I don’t think he’s even admitted it to himself. But to answer your question: No. I have not met any of Reyes’s past girlfriends. Reyes has...flings, women that temporarily fill up space. Not girlfriends. And his taste is usually suspect. Though, I suspect he chooses unstable women on purpose. Either way, Lola. You are a breath of fresh air.”

Lola’s mind stumbled through the wine induced fog, struggling to take in all this new information. She had so many questions, but all that came out was: “but, why?”

Keema seemed to think this over. “Well, his work, darling. His work has always been his priority. You’re the first woman I’ve seen that may actually stand a chance at changing that. Though, I suppose that depends.”

“On what?”

“On you.”





The time came when Keema excused herself, leaving Reyes and Lola alone.  Keema had never approved of the women Reyes brought around, in fact she had absolutely detested Zia, but Lola. Lola she seemed to enjoy.

“How about we get out of here?” Reyes asked, leaning towards her. Their meals were finished, bill paid, it was nearing nine which was ridiculously early; there was all types of mischief to be had.

“Alright let’s go,” she said.

He offered her is arm and lead her out. The night was warm, as it always was. They walked along aimlessly around Kadara port with no specific destination in mind with Kadara’s two moons hanging low and bright in the sky lighting their way. She leaned into him and he snaked an arm around her small waist. Neither of them concerned with being seen together. There was no one around to bear witness.

“You look dashing. Have I told you that?” She asked looking up at him, her grey eyes capturing the moonlight.

“I’m glad you approve.” He smiled down at her, tracing her jaw line with his finger.

“I’m not the only one to approve. Did you see the looks you received tonight? You’re hot stuff Reyes Vidal.”

“I try. I try.” He glanced down at her. “Do I detect a hint of jealousy?”

She shook her head. She gripped his tie, and began walking backward, roughly pulling him after her. “Not when I’m the woman leaving with you.”

He hummed in response, allowing her to string him along. Enjoying the view. His eyes slid along her body, as they constantly did when he was around her. “I saw that man approach your table.”

She arched a perfectly groomed brow at him.“Jealous, Vidal?”

He closed the gap between. “Siempre,” he responded, realizing the truth of it. Yes, as it turns out he most certainly was a jealous man.

They continued on to the heart of Kadara port. They passed by businesses closing up for the night, and stalls that were still open and hoping for the late night patron. 

“Win a prize for the lady?” A voice called out from in front of a carnival styled stall. It was a small stall, tucked between two larger ones. It would’ve went unnoticed had the vendor not called out. The stall featured red and white targets with, what looked like water guns stationed a few feet away from the targets.

“Hit a target, win a prize!” The vendor called out.

The earth styled carnival game seemed out of place all alone in this dingy part of the port.

“No, thank you,” Lola responded.

“Oh, the Lady doesn’t believe you can you hit the prize.”

“You don’t believe I can hit the target?” Reyes asked, stopping suddenly. His facial expression overly serious.

“No, I-” She began, not catching onto his game.

“You see? She doesn’t think you can hit it. Prove her wrong!” The vendor instigated.




“I can hit the target, Lola.”

“I-” She looked from the vendor to Reyes, realization dawning on her. He was screwing with the vendor. She smiled. “Vidal. You couldn’t hit the target if it sat in front of you with its ass up.”

That made no sense, and she knew it. They both fought back a fit of laughter in order to keep up their pathetic ruse.

“I’m going to hit it.” He declared, removing his tuxedo jacket. He handed it to her. She took it and watched as he opened his cuffs and rolled up his sleeves, revealing toned, deeply tanned, and inked arms.

He has tattoos, she thought, turned on by the mere sight of them.

He caught her staring and arched an eyebrow seductively at her.  “Don’t stare too hard, Lolita. I do terrible things to women that stare at me like that for too long,” he said, before sitting down on a stool in front of the vendor booth. He looked ridiculous sitting on that little stool, hunched over a tiny water gun; his black shirt stretching to accommodate his flexing muscles.

“Miss, surely you won’t let your husband have all the fun.” The vendor called out to her.

Lola stood quiet. Husband? She had no rings on her hand, though most didn’t wear rings anymore. Still, that was awfully presumptuous of him. She imagined Reyes’s internal panic at just the thought of that kind of commitment. But instead of fleeing in panic, Reyes turned to look back at her and crooned: “Are you coming, Mrs. Vidal?” A humorous glint in his heavy lidded eyes.

“Vidal?” The vendor asked, looking from Reyes to Lola. “Reyes Vidal?”

“The one and only.” He gave the man his most charming smile, his teeth shining bright white against the night and his brown skin. It was enough to have Lola rolling her eyes. For someone who enjoys their privacy, he sure does bloom under a little attention.

“You had smuggled in the medicine my daughter needed,” The vendor said.

Reyes looked lost for a moment, staring at the vendor with blank eyes. Reyes seemed so uncertain, that Lola was sure the vendor had the wrong person.

“Justinia,” Reyes said, snapping his fingers. “ Si, yo recuerdo. How is she? Well, I hope.”

“Much better, sir!  Much better!” The vendor replied, beaming. He turned to Lola. “No other smuggler would take the job. Stealing medicine from the Initiative..” he whistled, shaking his head.“A high price to be paid if caught. But this man,your husband.” He clapped Reyes on the back. “He didn’t blink an eye at my request, and not a single credit did he take from me.”

Lola looked at Reyes. It would seem this dangerous man had soft spots.  Incredibly sweet, heart melting soft spots. 

“It was the right thing to do, por favor, don’t mention it.” He avoided eye contact with her. And was that a hint of blush she spotted spreading along his cheeks?


“Nothing he says.” The vendor scoffed. “Please, sit,” he said, motioning to Lola. She took the stool beside Reyes, folding his tux’s jacket onto her lap. The vendor turned his back on them, readying the game.

“Keep looking at me like that, Lola, and I’ll start believing that you like me.” His bronzed sleepy eyes surveying her in a way that turned her liquid. His  voice silk.

“Would that be so bad?” She asked.

His eyes slid down her body.

“That depends-”

The vendor turned back to them. “Alright! We are ready to go!” He said clapping his hands together. “So, you’re married? Didn’t take you for the marrying type.”

Lola and Reyes looked at him wide eyed, already having forgotten their earlier lie.

“Ah, yes, well-” Reyes rubbed at his neck.

“Yes.” Lola said, not wanting Reyes to be caught in a lie. This Vendor clearly admired him. One little lie to one random person couldn’t hurt.

“Newly.” She said leaning into Reyes. She gave him a tender, lingering kiss. His eyes stood open, bright, and locked on hers.

“Lucky man!” The vendor said. “You would find the most beautiful woman in the port to marry.”

“She is, isn’t she?” Reyes responded, his voice soft. “ I am extremely lucky.”

“Alright! You two ready!”

“Ready.” They said together, not at all focusing on the game.

“Go!”

 




Forty minutes later,  he had Lola was walking down the alley with a new stuffed pink cat nestled between her arms, and a new dinky children’s bracelet wrapped around her small wrist. Both won by him.

“The Great Reyes Vidal isn’t such a great shot when it comes to water guns,” she teased.

He chuckled. It had taken him nearly an hour just to win her those two small items. “Would you like to give those items back to the vendor?” He teased back, jabbing his thumb behind him in the direction of the stall.  

She pouted, and wrapped her arms tighter around the cat. “Absolutely not. These are my new favorite things.”

He brought her to him. “So easy to please, I love it,” he laughed.

They walked in silence for a moment, but something was bugging him.

“So, what did Keema say to you?” He asked as nonchalantly as he could. The question had been bouncing around his mind all night, since he had first left the two of them alone.  Unsure of how poorly Keema would paint him. Good friend or not, Keema would never paint him to be a better man than he was. Lola pushed him away, laughing lightly.

“I’m not telling you!” She said, putting space between the two of them. “I like her, and I plan to stay in her good graces.” She leaned her back against the side of the nearest building, clutching the pink cat he had won for her, the cheap bracelet catching the light from the neon signs. Her short dress, and cleavage called out to him, making her look equal parts adorable and sexy.  He wet his lips trying decide if he wanted to cuddle or fuck her. Fuck her then cuddle her? He was never much of a cuddler, but that could be amended, he thought as he neared her; his steps slow.  He had his tuxedo coat slung over his shoulder, hooked on one finger. He had kept it off, enjoying the way her eyes roamed over his arms and chest whenever she thought he wasn’t looking. He reached her spot against the building’s side, placing his arms on either side of her, he pinned her.

“More than you like me?” He asked, his eyes slipping to her lips.

The alleyway was empty, and although being out in Kadara Port at this time of night was dangerous for most, he was The Charlatan, and even though no one knew, it wasn’t dangerous for him. She looked up at him under a canopy of dark lashes. The night’s warm wind rustling her hair.

“No, Reyes. I couldn’t like anyone more than you.” She reached up and looped her arms around his neck, the pink cat dangling from one of her hands. “Believe me, I’ve tried.”

He dipped his head toward her, holding her gaze. “You’ve tried?” He tisked. “Well, I don’t like the sound of that.”  

She closed the space between them. Her pouty lips hot and soft on his. She tasted of wine, apples, cherries...He had missed the feel of her, the curves of her body under his wandering hand. He deepened their kiss, pushing himself onto her, pinning her roughly between himself and the wall. All it took was one look from her to get him started, but a kiss, that was an invitation. He slipped into her mouth and she groaned into him as his tongue met hers. He felt her arms tightening around his neck, pulling him closer. He moved his hand from the wall to the hem of her dress, as she pushed herself further into him. He played with hem before slyly slipping his hand under. She gasped at the suddenness of his touch. He hissed, sucking air in between his teeth. She had on the tiniest piece of underwear imaginable. It barely covered her ass. And now that would be all he would think of. He pulled away from their kiss, frustration building, and shook his head.

“Do you know how dangerous these parts are? And you walk around looking the way you do, with practically nothing underneath.” He gave her bare ass a pinch; punishment for the massive amounts of sexual frustration she caused him.She hissed back, but didn’t cry out.

“Why exactly is it so dangerous?” She asked, her chin held up in defiance. Her eyes searching his. “Is it because of men like you?”

He narrowed his eyes at her. She had no idea how accurate that truly was. He wanted her to understand, to really see the man that was standing before her. He grabbed her chin, arching her head back further, forcing her to focus on his eyes.

“Especially, because of men like me,” he replied, his voice low and rough.

She rubbed her thigh along him, pupils dilating at the feel of his erection. He let a low groan escape his lips.  

“Are you one of these bad men, Mister Vidal?”

He smiled, a wicked smile that hid nothing. Placing his hands on her waist, he swiftly spun her so that she was facing the wall. She let out a small, startled gasp. Her back now towards him, he had one hand on her full hips, the other on the wall in front of her. His body was flushed up against hers, her ass sitting tenderly on his cock.

“No, Lolita,”  he said into her ear from behind. His voice a mere growl. “I’m the one all the bad men are afraid of.”

 He waited for her to pull back, to recoil from him, to zap him. To perform some stunt that would push him away, but she didn’t. Instead she turned back to him, grey eyes full of more understanding and trust than he deserved.

“I know,” she said simply. “Is it crazy that I want you anyway?”

He studied her face. Wondering how much she truly knew, but those questions could wait the night. There were others things on his mind.

“How long are you on shore leave?” He asked, his gaze fierce. He debated taking her right there in the alley. That’d make for a memorable night.

“Whatever’s left of today. All of tomorrow.”

He arched an eyebrow at her response.  That was much more time than he had anticipated.

“Lexi’s birthday gift to me. She’s the only one that knows. Besides you.”

He nodded slowly, his mind studiously listing off all the ways he’d have her tonight.

“Come. I want to show you something.” He said taking her by the hand once more. He pulled her from the wall and led her swiftly away from the dark alley. “And yes, it is my dick.” He called back with a wicked smile. She laughed rapturously, her heels clicking on the steel floor as she attempted to keep up.




A storm had broken out.

Kadara’s rainy season was approaching, and it seemed the rains had decided to start early. He gave Lola his tuxedo coat in an effort to shield her from the rain, but it was useless. They were both soaked to the bone by the time they reached his apartment. He inserted the keycard into the door and punched in the passcode, noting Lola’s nervousness. Fortunately for him, her nerves were trumped by her curiosity.

“I hope you don’t plan on murdering me here, Vidal, and after such a nice night together,” she said, a small smile on her face.

Reyes looked at her. Her curls clung in bunches to her skin, rainwater slid down her cheeks, droplets clung to long lashes, all of which was giving him a clear image of how marvelous she must look after a shower.

“Oh I have much better plans for you, muñequita .”

He finally got the door open and sweeping her off her feet, as a groom did a bride, he carried her in. He placed her on the ground once they crossed the threshold, closing the door behind them. He flipped a switch on the near wall turning on the apartment’s soft, bright lights.

“This is .. this is your place?” Lola asked, surprise coloring her voice.

He hadn’t told her where they were heading. It complimented some deep part of him to see that she had willingly followed him without asking. He took his drenched coat from her shoulders and hung it on back of a kitchen chair, water droplets immediately pooling onto his floor.

“You’re surprised?” He asked, pushing his wet hair back and out of his face. He hung back by the kitchen, leaning on the counter, allowing her the space to take look around.

“I just..” She shook her head looking around. She placed her stuffed kitten on his kitchen counter. “You brought me back to your place? Your home.” She looked at him, her large eyes glittering like he just gave her the best gift she had ever received
Home was a strong word. In truth, his apartment had never felt like a home. It was more like the ghost of a home. The shell of oe.

“I don’t know about it being my home. But it is my place.”

She took off her heels and walked barefoot on his rug, leaving trail of small wet footprints in her wake.  He noticed she had painted her toes black, just like her nails. He pictured her on her ship balancing a small bottle of smuggled nail polish in her hand as she slicked paint on her small toes.

“Who’s your smuggler?” He asked motioning to her toes. For some time now he had been wondering who it was that took the risk to smuggle out goods for her.

“My smuggler?” She asked, looking down to where he had motioned. “Oh, it’s Vetra.” She replied, wiggling her toes. Adorable. “I never really thought of her as my smuggler. Though, I guess she kinda is.”

Vetra. The Turian. He felt an odd sense of relief knowing that those smuggled goods were given to her without romantic intent. He began removing some of his wet clothing as he watched her look around. The place was small, but tidy. His needs were basic: a place to eat, sleep, and shit, and he was golden. He had survived much longer on much less. As The Charlatan, he had the funds to afford something much more extravagant, but lacked the desire. There wasn’t much purpose to spending money on a large place that only he would live in.

“Let me get those things for you,”  He said, meaning her smuggled goods. He knew full well how ridiculous it was for him to offer to get her things someone else was already getting. Still, he wanted to be the one to do it.  

“Why?” She asked. Her back was turned to him now; her clothing completely soaked through and clinging to her like a second skin. His eyes followed the trail of wet curls down her body. Each tendril stretched and hanging low from the weight of the water they had stored.

“Are you attempting to get me indebted to you, Mister Vidal?” She asked, her voice lyrical, and teasing.

That wasn’t the reason, but he could think of worse people to have owing him.  

“And how would you desire to be repaid?” She turned to him, and he was caught staring at her ass. A sly smirk slid onto her face.

“I could think of a few ways.” He said, his voice husky, his attention slipping to the way her dress was slowly riding up her thighs. He could tell that his desire for her was not lost on her, and he could feel the loss of power as she realized what her wet body was doing to him. He clenched his hands against the sudden rise of a primal instinct to tear that thin dress right off her.

“And what if I told you, I’d do what you wanted for free?” She was practically purring her words as she slithered toward him. Her eyes sliding over his now exposed chest, the way his had slid over her body hundreds of times. The vixen. He didn’t need any convincing. They were immediately on each other. Hands tore at clothing, mouths on skin. Pants, moans and groans filled the air, as their rain slicked bodies came together. He quickly lifted her off the ground. He wanted her naked and on his bed. He felt her long legs wrap around his waist. Her arms tighten around his neck. Her mouth was warm on his cool skin as she nipped and kissed feverishly at his neck. The top buttons of her dress had already come undone, but fabric still clung stubbornly to her damp breasts. Wasting no time, he threw her down onto his bed; she bounced softly, and scooted up to make room for him.  He undid his belt, savoring the look of her wet, half naked body before him, and how the paleness of his sheets accentuated her deep honeyed skin. She went to undo the buttons on her black dress.

“Don’t.” He commanded. “Let me.” She removed her hands. His trousers fell to the ground.

“Briefs?” She asked arching a brow at his charcoal colored underwear, they wrapped snugly around his mid thighs.  “Would you prefer I went commando?” He asked, his eyes flicking down to her exposed bum, remembering how he had found her under her combat suit.

She shook her head. “No, I like them. I could see... you.”

He chuckled, he was hard as a rock. He was pretty sure she’d be able to see him even if he were down the block wearing winter style sweatpants. He went to remove them, sticking his thumbs in the waistband.

“Don’t.” She said, mimicking his tone of authority. She smiled a sly grin, that lit up her soft features. “Allow me.” She got on her knees and inched her way toward him. She knelt before him, her grey feline-esque eyes looking up into his. She wet her lips and he felt his cock twitch. She hooked her thumbs on his waist band and pulled down, a small gasp escaping her lips once he was fully exposed to her. He grinned down, glad she approved.  She touched him, and he couldn’t help himself, he groaned; deep and low. Her hands were warm and soft as they slid over him. Massaging him, kneading their way up and down his shaft. He closed his eyes and rolled his shoulders and his neck, allowing all the tension that had built up since meeting her to melt away through her touch. Her hands expertly worked at him. Pleasure filled him up.

Mierda.” He cursed. He felt something hot and wet wrap around him. He opened his eyes to see those pretty lips placed securely around his cock; her ice colored eyes focused on the fire he had burning in his.

Aye, Lolita,” he crooned. Her tongue moved beside him in her mouth, the softness and warmth coming together in way that made his eyes want to roll back, and even though he had been pleased many times this way, absolutely none had ever looked as good as she did doing it.    Her eyes fluttered closed as she worked on pleasing him, but that just wouldn’t do.

“Open your eyes, muñequita,” he said softly, reaching down to touch her face. She obeyed, and he could’ve let go right then. He fought the urge to wrap his hands around her thick hair and fuck her mouth to completion. Maybe next time, he told himself, if she’d allow him. Either way, he’d  make damn sure there was a next time. “Lolita, lie back for me.” She hummed in response, sending vibrations down his shaft that had him uttering a curse. She slipped her mouth from him and he immediately ached for the loss of warmth.  





Lola laid herself back onto his bed at his request. At some point he had switched the lights off, leaving the neon lights to pour through the slats of the small window above his bed; the bright colors lit up his naked form. He was her technicolored Adonis. She spread her thighs allowing him to lower himself between them, the bed dipping under their combined bodies.

One arm supported his weight, while the other began to work on the buttons of her dress, his golden brown eyes focusing fully on the job in front of him. She was sure he could tear it off with one strong tug, but she knew he liked the anticipation. The slow reveal of inch after inch of skin. So. She let him. She arched into his touch as he opened one button after the other, unwrapping her like a long awaited present. He hummed and groaned in appreciation as he worked his way down. One low curse in his native tongue after he freed her breasts, another for when she was fully exposed to him. She slipped her arms out the remainder of the dress and he tossed it to the side, where it noiselessly fluttered to the floor. She still had her underwear, but he seemed unbothered.

“The gods truly paid special attention to you, didn’t they?” He murmured, running a hand down the length of her body. He flicked the thin strap of her panties, sending it snapping back into her skin. She hissed at the sharp pain.

“I’m glad you approve,” she said, mimicking his earlier sentiment. He smiled his crooked grin as she pulled him down to her, his full weight pushing her deeper into his incredibly plush mattress. He kissed her passionately, each kiss deeper and more searching than the last. She pushed herself further into his firm chest, urging him to touch her, tease her, fuck her. His tongue fought for dominance, pushing and tangling with hers as he rolled his hips against her, his erection sliding over just the right spot. She moaned loudly as pleasure shot through her like an electrical current. She pushed her hips back into him. He growled at the pressure and nipped at her neck as he continued to grind against her, the pleasure and pain mingling into a transcendent bliss. This was torture. She was done waiting. Reaching down between them, she pushed her panties aside, and slid him inside her. His length immediately filling her up, taking up any and all space available to him. She moaned his name at the sensation, and his honeyed eyes shot to hers. She had taken him by surprise, but the smug grin on his face told her he liked it.

“Eager, bella ?” He asked, but instead of moving he stood still, leaving her to buck and writhe impatiently under him. He slid a hand up her thigh, his callouses scratching at her skin. He went over her rear, and back down. He pushed lightly on the back her thigh with his palm, guiding her leg back and up. The position immediately allowed for more of his length to slip into her unobstructed.

“Goddess, Reyes,” she gasped.

“¿ Que tu quieres ?” He asked. His voice deep, both smoke and ash, and everything that was both heavy and light at once. His accent thick, the way it always got when he was drunk or horny. She didn’t respond. She hated this game. All she wanted was for him to fuck her until she came. He ran his hand roughly up her stomach, over her breasts and to her neck. She tilted her head back allowing him to apply light pressure at her throat.

Ok, maybe, she didn’t hate all his games.

“I want you to fuck me, Reyes,” she said.

 The fire in his eyes ignited. He began rocking his hips.

Slowly,” she added.

A devilish grin formed on his face, at his new instructions.

“As you wish, bella .”

She closed her eyes and allowed the pleasure of him pulling out and returning back into her to pulse through her whole body. Wave after wave of indescribable pleasure. He moved slow, just as she had asked, and she could feel every inch of him with every stroke. One hand supported  his weight, the other cupped the back of her thigh, holding her leg back and over his head. Each stroke built pleasure up upon the last. Getting into it,  Reyes hooked her leg over his shoulder, and moved to run his thumb over her mouth with his newly freed hand.

Dios, those fucking lips,” he panted, the pace of his strokes picking up. Lola opened her mouth allowing his thumb entrance. He groaned, as she sucked on it. His thrusts became quick and rough. Removing his thumb from her mouth, he moved to use his hand for better leverage as he began to pound himself into her. Pleasure overtook her, she dug her nails into his broad shoulders. She was so close.

Mirame bella.

Lola opened her eyes to him. They were glowing embers trained on her.

“Cum for me, Lola,” he ordered roughly in between strokes. “Let me hear you say my name.”

And she did.

She sobbed out his name as waves of ecstasy overtook her, but he didn’t stop. He stroked deeper, her orgasm stirring him on. He lowered his body onto hers, and, fuck, the feeling of his full weight pushing into her as he stroked and hit at spots she hadn’t even known existed pulled out a second orgasm from her. He placed his hands on the metal headboard behind them using it to push every inch of himself into her. Low groans left his lips as he buried himself deep in her, fucking her deeper into the bed. He roared out foreign curses, and burying his face into her neck, he came. He ground her against, as he emptied himself. “Fuck.” He snarled into her neck when he was done. Placing light kisses along her collar bone as they both panted sated from the pleasure.

What happened next Lola couldn’t recall. She woke up a few hours later and Reyes was gone.

 

 

Chapter Text

Reyes found himself at Tartarus. Same story, new players.  A business deal had gone south. After securing the requested goods, the client refused to pay the agreed upon amount. Not only refuse to pay, but also attempt to steal the goods right from under Reyes. Words were exchanged, shots were fired. Now, there was no more client, and an excess of a specific good. Reyes wiped at the wet blood on his jacket, only to smear it. Kadara was not a planet in which both parties walked away from a dispute alive.

Reyes entered Tartarus, heading pass the patrons, and the swaying and gyrating bodies. He went straight to the back to what would’ve been the bar’s kitchen had Kian ever used it to cook anything.

“Vidal!” Kian called out. Reyes nodded to him, reaching for the open bottle of whiskey Kian had on the counter. He didn’t bother to pour it in a glass.

“Hard day, mate?” Kian asked, eyeing him.

Being with Lola had left Reyes on a high. It was over quicker than he would’ve preferred, but he had sensed how tired she was after their first go. She needed to rest. She had fallen asleep quickly in his arms, her head on his chest, light snores escaping her kiss swollen lips. Looking down at how peaceful she looked beside him, Reyes had felt...happy. Which made him nervous. At best he was always ok. Happy….Happy was something he never aimed to be. Never dared to be. The universe took happy as a challenge, and Reyes knew better than to challenge the universe. When he had first met Lola his only desire was to fuck her over a table, to sully her. What he ended up doing was making love to her in his bed, and ruining himself.

“You hadn’t been in yer room all night,” Kian continued. “I had nothin’ but people stopping by the bar asking me yer where ‘bouts, and for once I didn’t have an answer for ‘em.”

Reyes took a swig of his whiskey. He wasn’t concerned. If they were important enough they knew how to contact him. If not, they waited. Kian himself knew how to reach Reyes, the fact that he hadn’t meant none of those people had pertinent enough business to warrant Kian contacting him. He trusted Kian’s judgement. He paid Kian for his judgement. Kian eyed him.

“But yer back here. Drinking out of me bottles...covered in blood. I had assumed you were with a lass.” Kian leaned on the counter beside him. “In fact a wee birdie informed me you were with one lass in particular, perhaps it didn’t go so bonny?”

“Would that little birdie go by the name of Keema?” Reyes asked, already knowing the answer.

“Maybe, maybe not.” Kian said.

“How that woman wins everyone’s silence…..” He shook his head and took another swig of the whiskey.

“So, it’s true then. You and yer Pathfinder finally made up. You do seem a wee less cranky.”

“She’s in my bed as we speak.” Reyes said, not wanting to get into details. What he did with Lola when they were alone felt..private, somehow. Maybe, even sacred?  Another feeling he wasn’t used to. He finished off the bottle and placed it back on the counter. Kian’s eyes widened.

“She’s where? In yer bed? In yer bed bed? As in the bed in yer apartment and not some random safe house?” Kian knew of Reyes’s habit of taking women to the nearest Collective safe house for a quick triest. Kian whistled. “Wow, mate. That’s a big deal for you- wait. So what are you doing here?”

Reyes shrugged. Honestly, he wasn’t sure.

“Ok,” Kian said, nodding slowly. “I think I ken.” He folded his arms, and looked away seemingly in thought. “You know that Kosta lad stopped by.”

“Did he?” Reyes asked, keeping his voice neutral.

“Looking for Lola. Told ‘im hadn’t seen her all night. He got drunk and told me all about the time he had sex with her in the storage room of their ship. He’s a sloppy drunk, that one.”

Reyes had no desire to hear this. He knew she had slept with Kosta, and that Kosta wasn’t quite over it, but details Reyes didn’t need. “The point, Kian?”

“That laddie would be thrilled to have her in his bed. And he will. If you fuck this up.”  Kian looked at him pointedly. “Lola already knows yer a smug, sly bastard. She already knows yer dangerous, and sex crazed.”

Reyes shot Kian a look at that. He thoroughly enjoyed sex, yes, and he was damn good at it, but he wasn’t some nymphomaniac.

“She’s aware of the multitude of casual partners you’ve had, and that every other word out yer mouth is a lie, and yet, still, still, she returns to you.”  

 Reyes stood silent, nursing his drink. Kian shook his head and pushed himself off the counter.  

“Look at me sitting here trying to convince you to get back in bed with a beautiful woman.”  Kian gathered a few bottles and began heading back to the bar. “My point is,” Kian said, turning back to him once more, clearly frustrated. “I never took ye for a coward.”

“I didn’t realize my personal life was such an interest to you,” Reyes sneered.

“Nah, mate. Yer  a real ass but you came here cuz you know we’re mates. And you knew I’d tell you the truth which is yer being chicken shit.”  Kian placed the bottles back on the counter, and reapproached Reyes. “You didn’t see her face that day. I did. The day she learned she wasn’t the only woman to have visited yer room for a quickie. She wanted me to defend you. Her eyes were just begging me to, but I couldn’t, not when most of what Eldrick had said was true.”

Reyes didn’t respond. He wasn’t going to start explaining himself or his actions while standing in the sticky kitchen of what was, essentially, a strip club. If Reyes wanted confession, he would’ve started a Catholic Church on Kadara instead of The Collective.

“And yet still you were able to win her over again with yer charm. And yer dick.”

“Sounding a little jealous there, mate,” Reyes said, straightening his back. They were standing face to face now, staring each other down. Each challenging the other to throw the first punch.

“Maybe I am. It’s just I’m havin’ a difficult time understanding why an unworthy shit like you can find someone, while I, a decent and loyal lad, can’t find one guy.”

Reyes glared at him, his fist clenching in their gloves. “I’m an unworthy shit, am I.”

“Fuck yea yer are. Who else abandons someone they’ve been actively chasing? Ungrateful. Unworthy. Piece of shit.” Kian stared Reyes down. “But hey, if yer cool with losing her to Kosta, or the Archon then so be it.” Kian waved his hand dismissively, and stepped away from Reyes.

“The Archon? What are you talking about?”

“Kosta, the sloppy drunk. According to him tomorrow they’re off to hunt down The Archon. They’re gonna bring the fight to ‘I’m. I’m sure you have the notification somewhere in yer messages.”

Reyes felt his blood run cold.  “Contra. Why didn’t she say anything?”

“Maybe if ye spent a little less time trying to get in her pants and a little more actually talking to her, she’d have had a chance to tell you.”

Reyes unleashed a slew of curses.

“Nah, nah, nah!  Don’t you curse at me in yer native tongue!  You-” Kian proceeded to throw out a series of explicatives in Irish.

“Hey, I did what you asked.”  Eldrick entered the kitchen, clearly ignoring the fact that the two men were arguing with each other in two different languages. “Ayo. Mister Vidal. I been working hard doing what you asked! Now, word on the street is that you married that Pathfinder pussy. Locked that shit down. I have to ask. You’re not the sharing type are you ‘cuz-”

Eldrick’s sentence was cut short by Reyes’s fist. Reyes caught him right across the chin, knocking the man out cold.  

“Married?!”  Kian asked, ignoring Eldrick’s unconscious body on his kitchen floor.

“Don’t believe everything you hear,” Reyes said. Stepping over Eldricks body, he picked upped an unopened  bottle of whiskey and left.


The night was balmy, like most Kadaran nights. Reyes strolled back to his apartment, wondering, hoping that, despite his fears, Lola would still be there when he returned. 

His Omni-tool flashed red, signaling an incoming call. He pressed the button, answering it.

“Kian has alerted me that you left our newest recruit unconscious on his kitchen floor,” Keema’s voice came through clearly.

“Kian is dramatic. Eldrick will be fine.”

“We need him. Finding him was fortuitous, having a man that is already in Sloane’s inner circle working for us is much easier than attempting to insert one of our own. He’s been doing as we asked. He’s whispered in Sloane’s ear about Lola’s alone time with you in your room, sowing discord and distrust.”

“Sloane doesn’t trust me,” Reyes agreed. “She won’t approve of anyone that does.”  Sloane knowing that Lola was in a sexual relationship with him would make it impossible for Lola and Sloane to work together. Rumor or not. Unlike himself, Lola was a terrible liar, Sloane would see right through her denials. She’ll want Lola to pick a side, and Reyes was willing to bet that Lola would choose him.

“The more I get to know her, the less I like using her this way,” Keema said, her voice full of remorse.

Reyes felt his chest twist. He was good at compartmentalizing parts of his life, but Lola was quickly spilling over into every area. “We didn’t spread anything that isn’t true,” Reyes replied, trying, and failing, to ease his guilt.

“Still. She may not forgive us when this is all over.”

Reyes stood silent. She wouldn’t. How could she? Still, he wouldn’t to let her go. Not yet.

“Where is she? Did she return back to her ship?” Keema asked.

“Don’t act like Kian hadn’t told you that as well.”

 Silence on the other end. Reyes could feel Keema rolling her eyes from the other side of the Omni-tool.

“Fine, then tell me something I don’t know. Sestra’s presence was no accident, was it?”

“Is anything ever truly an accident?”

“Don’t speak in riddles with me, Vidal. Ryota certainly took the bait without hesitation.”

“Ryota is a fool.”

Keema’s cackle crackled through the Omni-took speaker “So, you lure your girlfriend’s date away from her using another woman-”

“She’s not my girlfriend,” Reyes mumbled. What were they in high school?

“- oh  she’s most certainly your girlfriend. And then you get upset with the guy because it actually worked.”

“I’m a complex man.”

“I like her, Vidal.”

“I’m aware.”

“She could be good for you if you allow her, and an asset to The Collective.”

Reyes didn’t doubt either statements.

 


 

“Reyes?” Lola called out.

She looked around the room. It was pitch black save for the neon lights that poured through a small window. She had fallen asleep in his bed, wrapped up in silk sheets, naked, alone, and freezing.  Why did his apartment feel like a damn freezer?

“SAM?” She called out in the dark, wrapping the sheets tighter around herself. Her head pounded. Another migraine.  

Yes, Pathfinder?”

“How long had I been asleep?” She pressed on her temples, and winced. They were tender. The pain was right behind her damn eyeball.

Not long. 75 minutes.”

“And when in the night did Reyes leave?”

About a 15 minutes after you fell asleep He received a call and then I heard the door open via your Omni-tool mic.”

Lola chewed nervously on her lip. She could ask SAM about the call but that felt overly intrusive, and wrong. Which left her only one option. To guess. Was it Charlatan business? Smuggler business? Or had she done something that scared him away without even realizing it? Should she contact him? Was he expecting her to be there when he returned or was he hoping she’d be gone?

Reyes left you a message, Pathfinder.”

“He did?” She asked, perking up. “Okay, SAM, play it. Wait. He spoke to you? While I was sleeping?”

Through your Omni-tool, yes. He only asked if  I’d give you a message. He was concerned that you’d wake before he returned.

Reyes could be incredibly sweet, when he wasn’t trying to get laid.

“I will play the message now: Lolita,”   Reyes deep, accented voice rolled out. Smooth as butter.  “I had to step out. Por favor, Don’t leave. It is dark, late, and I’d much rather return to a bed kept warm by you, than a cold, empty one. Regreso pronto.”

Lola breathed a sigh of relief. She was welcomed here. He wanted her to stay. She wanted to stay. She smiled to herself in the dark.   

This makes you happy?” SAM asked.

“Yea, well, ‘cuz sometimes humans can be intimate, and then completely done with each other when it’s over.”

Her migraine was slowly increasing in intensity, the pain coming in waves. She felt nauseous. It was going to be a bad one.

You’re dehydrated. You should drink some water.”

Lola climbed out of bed, keeping the sheet wrapped around her. “Yea, ok.”

She headed for the fridge in the kitchenette.  Squinting at the fridge’s bright white light.

Why is that?” SAM asked. He was like an inquisitive child.

Water. Water. How could this man have no water?

“Why is..why is what?” Lola asked, only half paying attention.

Why would a newly progressing relationship terminate after sexual relations?

She closed the fridge. It was useless, the fridge was essentially empty. She sat on the kitchen floor, and brought her legs to her chest, she placed her aching head on her knees.

“I don’t know SAM.” She couldn’t think straight.  “Some only want to sleep with a person once and then they’re done with them. Humans can be assholes,” she said, closing her eyes tightly.

You want to be around Reyes, even after sleeping with him,” SAM responded. His response more a statement than a question.She began rocking on the floor.

“I do,” she agreed, struggling to arrange her thoughts through the pain.   “He’s funny, and smart, and despite his flippant attitude toward everything, I think he actually really cares.....” She trailed off, she was gushing.  Void, had she ever gushed over a guy? Maybe the migraine was affecting her brain.

Pathfinder, you need to drink water.”

“I know, SAM! He has no damn water! The man lives off whiskey!’

You will locate to get some,” SAM responded. Lola opened her mouth to respond. “No, you cannot ingest it from the sink. It is not yet clean enough for consumption.”

“Fuck!” She cursed loudly. Her head felt like it was going to split in two, the last thing she wanted was to go out in the dead of night, and hunt for bottled water. She didn’t have his passcode to get back in, she’d have to return to The Tempest… she wanted none of things. What she wanted, was more time with Reyes. More time spent forgetting that she’d be chasing down the galaxy’s number one bad guy in a day. More time pretending she was just a normal girl spending time with a guy she liked. A guy she really liked. More time. She needed more time. There wasn’t enough time.

You also require nourishment,”  SAM alerted her.

Her stomach growled loudly. She groaned loudly in response. Why was there never enough time? Lola laid down on the kitchen floor, and cried.

 


 

Reyes returned to his apartment to find Lola laid out on his kitchen floor. She was curled up in the fetal position, his sheets wrapped tightly around her, her curls wild around her hair like a dark halo, in between her arms the was the cat he had won her.  He’d had thought it adorable if she was in the bed instead on his floor, and if it hadn’t looked like she wasn’t breathing.

“Lola?” He called, kneeling beside her. She didn’t respond. He gathered her, and the sheets she was wrapped in, into his arms and lifted her off the ground. The pink cat slipping from her arms and falling softly to the ground. She was completely limp. He placed her on his bed, and opened an eyelid. Her pupils were blown wide. Something was horribly wrong. Reyes looked at her Omni-tool, he had never spoken to SAM before, and he wasn’t even sure the AI would even respond to him but.

“SAM? Can you hear me?” Silence.

“SAM. I know you can hear me,,” Reyes said, switching tactics. “I’m sure you can understand why I’d be concerned about her. I need to know if she’s ok.”

I am adjusting,” SAM replied, after a moment.

Reyes lifted her wrist, checking her pulse. She still had one. He exhaled a breath in relief.

“Adjusting what, SAM?”  Reyes asked, his voice calm despite his growing concern. No response. “SAM. Does she need a doctor? Do we need to alert her crew?”

That will not be necessary. I am adjusting,” SAM, repeated. His monotonous voice providing no comfort. Reyes swept stray curls off her face. She looked serene, as though she was only sleeping.

“SAM, what happened? Tell me. Maybe I can be of help.”

You cannot. Ryder was suffering from an intense migraine.” Reyes listened, he hadn’t known she suffered from migraines. There were still so many things he didn’t know about her.

 If you spent less time trying to get in her pants….Kian’s voice echoed soundlessly in his head.

Ryder was dehydrated and in need of nourishment, among other things. This domicile lacked the necessities,” SAM continued. Reyes could’ve kicked himself. He spent so little time here. His apartment lacked many things.

“Ok, so what happened?” Reyes asked, once more. 

She did not wish to leave the domicile in search of sustenance . She asked me to manually adjust her body chemistry to abate the pain.

Reyes looked at Lola. Her chest was slowly rising and falling. “Damn it, Lola.” What she had asked SAM to do was foolish, and dangerous. 

“I warned her that her request was risky, and ill advised.”

He lifted an eyelid once more.

“She’s high,” He said to himself. He’s seen this many times, both in the Milky Way and Andromeda galaxy.

“The extra endorphins are having a euphoric effect, this is correct.”

SAM was adjusting her endorphins. If he decreased them too rapidly he’d cause her to crash, and she’d end up feeling much worse than when she began.

“How long?” Reyes asked, stroking her hair. Guilt landing on him like a cement block. If he had just returned sooner ...“How long before she comes to?”

“I estimate two to three hours.”

Reyes laid down, his body beside hers. He checked his watch, it was 2 am. He’d wait. He wasn’t leaving this time.

 


 

Reyes awoke to the morning sun streaming through his window. He was fully clothed shoes and all, and falling halfway off his own bed. He looked down, curled up and nuzzled into his side was a completely nude Lola. She had kicked the covers off at some point during the night. She shivered lightly beside him. Carefully, he reached over to grab the sheet, but she awoke before he had a chance to fully place it on her.

“Pervert,” she said peering up at him.  Caught mid movement, he looked more like he was removing the sheets rather than replacing them. He laughed, mostly from relief. She was ok. He laid the covers on top of her and climbed out of his bed.

“You’re a bed hogger,” he said to her, stretching. He had slept uncomfortably, now his neck would pay for it.

“I love the feeling of silk on my skin.” She smiled, squirming happily under his sheets.

“I love the look of your skin amongst my silks.”

He removed his jacket, revealing the blood stained shirt underneath. She stopped moving and sat up, holding the sheets around her, her focus on the blood.

“No need to be modest, bella. There’s officially no part of you I haven’t seen. Or tasted,” he grinned.

Laughing, he dodged the pillow she threw at him.


 

It was obvious that there was blood on his shirt. 

“You disappeared on me last night.” She said, wondering how much he’d willingly share with her. Not much, she guessed.His eyes darkened as he gazed down at the blood.

“Business.”

He pulled his shirt off over his head. The morning sun bathing his torso in its soft warm light. He was chiseled stone. There was not a muscle on his body that wasn’t hard and defined. She could stare at him all day, and she knew he’d be more than happy to let her.

“Does all your business end with blood?” She asked.

He sat at the edge of the bed, his back toward her, and began removing his boots. His skin was littered with scars, covered in tattoos, and even bore a few scratches she had left there herself. In the daylight she was able to see all the things she had missed in the dark.

“The ones that go well, don’t. The ones that go poorly..” he trailed off.  “Still end well when it’s their blood, and not my own.”

Lola hesitated. She wasn’t sure how much she could ask before he completely shut her out. One night together didn’t make her privy to all his secrets.

“Do they go well often?” She ventured.

“Not as often as I’d like,” he sighed, and ran a hand through his hair. He suddenly sounded tired, and she wondered how long his night had actually been. He kicked a boot off and began working on the second.

“You were passed out when I returned. Laid out on my kitchen floor.” 

Lola gasped. She had forgotten. “Oh goddess. I’m sorry. I hadn’t meant for you to see me like that.”

“It’s happened before?” He asked, alarmed.

It was sweet, he was concerned.

“Maybe once or twice before,” she said. She chewed nervously on her bottom lip. She wasn’t irresponsible though it definitely sounded like she was.

Dios,” he replied, kicking off his second boot. He turned toward her. “Lola ..” he began, his voice beginning to fill with authority. He sounded as though he was about to scold her, or pass down some important life lesson.

“Reyes, I have it under control,” she said, cutting him off. He narrowed his eyes at her. It was clear he didn’t appreciate being interrupted.  She straightened her back and met his gaze. He never backed down, well, neither did she. He must’ve saw her resolve because he just nodded and looked away, though she could clearly see him clenching his jaw as though trying to physically restrain himself from speaking the words he truly wanted to say.

“Alright,” he said. Alright for now.. his face seemed to say. Perhaps he felt he wasn’t privy to all her secrets yet either. “And your crew mates?”

“They don’t know,” she said simply, refusing to explain herself. It sounded bad, she knew, but it wasn’t as bad as it looked, and she hated having to explain herself, whatever she did, she did for a reason. In fact, Reyes and herself were alike in that way, and that’s why she never pushed him for details, but she had a feeling he wouldn’t give her the same consideration.

“You won’t listen to anything I have to say on the matter, will you?”

“No,” she replied, stubbornly.

She watched as he rubbed at his neck. He looked tense. She tied the sheet around her, inched toward him, and began massaging his neck and shoulders for him, hoping to distract him, to calm him. It didn’t take much.

Aye,” he groaned, relaxing into her touch. “I swear your touch is magic.”

“See,” she said, kneading her hands into his firm neck and shoulder muscles. “No worries.”

He grabbed her hand, stopping the massage. She had said the wrong thing.

“No,” he said firmly, his gold eyes fixing on hers. “That’s not how this is going to work between us. We need to talk.”  

Us, he had said, she thought sitting back onto the bed. He was right. They did need to talk. She needed answers and she was sure he did too, but the more confident he became the more unsure she felt. She felt it. She could fall for him. The man with a million secrets. The man who made other men disappear, but also smuggled drugs for sick children. He was an enigma. She was enthralled. She got out of the bed.

“You make a girl cum twice and all of a sudden there’s an ‘us’?” She arched a brow at him.

“Three times.” He corrected, pulling her toward him with the blanket. “We can go for three more right now.”

She felt her pulse jump at the thought of him being inside her again, but she refused to move. She enjoyed making him work, she loved to see the fire that ignited in his eyes when he was denied what he wanted.

Vente,” he said, pulling slightly harder.

She shook her head, and instead of moving along with the sheets, she allowed them to unravel around her.

“No. You think you can just speak to me the way you do, and look at me the way you do, and I’ll just bend to your will?”

His smug grin returned. “It’s worked so far, munequita.”

That it had.

Ven pa’ca. Don’t act like you don’t want there to be an us.” He continued to slowly but firmly pull at the sheets. She continued to allow them to unravel and was almost completely uncovered.

“I belong to no one, Vidal.” Lies. Even in all her uncertainty she already knew she’d gladly belong to him.

“Those bite marks I left all over your body say otherwise.”  He gave the blanket one sharp tug, leaving her standing nude before him. His bedroom eyes snaked over her shoulders, breasts, stomach, thighs. She followed his gaze. It was true. He had left his mark all over her. “And the cum dried to your thighs...” He grinned devilishly at her. Reaching his hand, he ran his hand between her legs. She gasped at the coolness of his touch and moved further out of reach. He was right, she thought, looking down once more. Ugh, she needed a shower.

“How am I supposed to explain this to everyone?” She asked, focusing on the red marks he had left.

“Ryota and I had a little chat,” he said, crumpling up the sheet, he threw it behind him on the bed. “Seems he’ll be covering for us.”

 


 

He watched as Lola crossed her arms and legs in a futile attempt to hide some of herself from his gaze. He wished she wouldn’t. She looked amazing in clothes, but nothing could beat how she looked without. He wondered, not for the first time, what it would take to put her completely at ease with him.  There was nothing about her that needed to be hidden, least of all from him.

“What? When? Why?” She asked in rapid succession. 

“Don’t worry about it,” he replied, avoiding the first two questions. He didn’t want to stare too hard, but damn she looked amazing naked, and last night was over far too quickly for his liking.

“And,” he said, forcing himself to focus, “because it benefits him and his clinic to have people believe he is in a relationship with The Pathfinder. More protection, less harassment, more patients, the possibility of receiving more funding.”

Lola looked at him, she seemed unconvinced.

“Whose idea was this?” She was trying to be serious but she couldn’t hide how her eyes kept flitting down to his bare chest.

Reyes made a mental note to make sure they were both fully clothed  before beginning any future important conversations. This.. he thought, as his eyes strayed down once again, was only going to end one way. 

“Reyes?” She asked again, drawing his attention away from her thighs. 

“His.” Reyes lied. In truth, Reyes had approached him, or rather The Charlatan had, under the guise of wanting to protect The Pathfinder from prying eyes.

The Charlatan is interested in building a business relationship with The Pathfinder, the message had said. There are rumors that she is in a relationship with a smuggler (rumors Reyes stared himself, or rather Eldrick started, rumors that had yet to reach Lola’s ears) such speech only leads to The Pathfinder being scrutinized by The Initiative, which only leads to more eyes on us. 

Interestingly enough, Ryota was initially unwilling. But with threats that The Charlatan would rescind their provided protection, and funding, it was quite remarkable how quickly Ryota came around. Ryota understood that without The Charlatan’s help, the clinic would shut down, and if the clinic shut down, the people would suffer. And though Reyes would never allow that, he had bet Ryota wouldn’t call the bluff, and Reyes had been correct. Ryota had folded.In return, The Charlatan would make sure the clinic got additional funds and supplies for their trouble. Everybody wins. But more importantly, Reyes wins.

“And that doesn’t bother you? People believing I’m with him? People thinking he gave me these marks instead of you?” She asked motioning to her body, a body he was beginning to miss feeling on his.   Of course he minded. He had an ego, it was no secret, and the thought of some other man getting credit for her ravished state irritated him in ways he didn’t quite understand, or desire to admit, but at this point he wanted nothing more than for this conversation to be over so he could get back between those thighs. He rose from the bed. His broad shoulders blocking out the sunlight that was streaming in, casting her in shade.

“If it means more uninterrupted time with you. I can tolerate it.”  And that was the truth “Ready to talk now?” He asked gazing down at her. A little bit more business and then straight to pleasure, he told himself. She looked up at him. 

“You can talk to me in your shower,” She said, turning and walking toward his bathroom. His gaze fell on her ass as she sashayed away. He felt himself growing hard. Damn woman. Always making him work.

“This will only end one way, Lola,” he called after her, voicing his earlier thoughts. He began unbuckling his belt.

“How’s that?” She asked, popping her curly head out the bathroom door. Her grey eyes gleaming with mischief.

“With me inside you,” he replied, his voice gruff, his pants falling to the ground.

“Good,” she said, disappearing back into the bathroom. He heard the water turn on. Removing his underwear he went to join her, neither of them noticing their Omni-tools flashing to alert them of incoming priority messages.

Chapter Text

She was stalling. Unanswered questions kept stumbling around in her mind.  How long before he grows tired of you?  How much time before you find out something you don’t like? Something you can’t live with?How long before he breaks your heart? Then there was: He’s lying to you about something big. He has you lying to your crew mates.  He has Ryota lying to everyone… All those lies.  How many more existed that she was ignorant to?  Liam’s words echoed soundlessly in her head: “...it’s like you self destruct when you’re around him… ” She sighed and looked around the bathroom, as though the answer to her problems were hidden behind one of its white tiles. His bathroom wasn’t large by any means, but it was bright and clean. She turned on the shower and stepped under the stream of warm water, adjusting it to near scorching and closed the glass door behind her. Reyes’s shoulders alone will take up the whole space. Well, damn. She had forgotten what it was like to bathe in a private bathroom, in a private residence. The water pressure was divine. Not to mention his impressive selection of hair products. Her eyes scanned the shower ledge. Maybe she should let him smuggle things in for her… She heard the bathroom door open, and moments later felt the rush of cool air  as he stepped in behind her. She turned to face him, soaking her curls in the shower as she did so, and struggling to keep her eyes on just his face. Even if his own eyes were everywhere but on hers.

“Ok. Let’s talk,” she said, taking his strong chin in her hand, forcing those golden orbs up to her eyes. That sexy, crooked, half grin sat on his face. She could just eat him right up. Mine.

“I hope you don’t mind,” she said, motioning to his hair products. Taking a shampoo, she closed her eyes and reached up to gather her hair. Only to feel his hands at her waist and his mouth on her nipple.

“Reyes!” She gasped, swatting him away, genuinely taken by surprise. “You wanted to talk?? Talk .”

“You’re a cruel woman, Lolita,” he said with a small pout. His lush bottom lip protruding ever so slightly out beneath his top. A little boy. He turns into a little boy when denied what he wants. It was adorable. She wrapped her arms around his neck and pulled him under the water with her, her chest pushed up against his as she stood on her toes to reach him. She ran her hand over his cheek, fresh with morning stubble.

Pobrecito.” She allowed spanish to roll of her tongue. “Don’t pout, papito.”  

The water soaked through his hair, turning it an even darker black. It ran across his sharp jaw and dropped down onto her. She felt his arms tighten around her waist, drawing her even nearer.

 “Why don’t you speak spanish?” He asked, cocking his head to the side, his honeyed eyes surveying her. He seemed genuinely interested in the answer.

 “That’s where you want to start?” She laughed. Out of all the things he could ask her, should be asking her..  “Ok. Well, first, because my accent is atrocious-“

 “It truly isn’t.”

 “-  it truly is. And honestly, I don’t feel right speaking it. It’s like, it’s not mine to speak.”

 “Your mother hails from Columbia. You are Hispanic, the language is as much yours as it is mine.”

 “Yes, my mother hails from Columbia. Me? I’m just an amalgam of all these different ethnicities. Too light for this. Too dark for that. It doesn’t feel like any of my cultures are actually mine .” She paused, remembering some of the teasing she had endured when she was young. People like things that could fit neatly in one box or another, and she couldn’t. “I’m a messy mutt, really.” She said, repeating one of the many insults hurled at her in her youth. 

“You’re beautiful.”

 “That’s not the point.” She smiled, feeling bashful. “You know, I speak Mandarin? Of course you do.” He read her dossier. He knew. “My paternal grandmother taught me. But I feel like a fraud when I speak it.” It was a silly insecurity, really.  Not one her brother had. Still, it was not one she had been able to get over. “Ok. My turn.” She was done talking about herself.

 “Shoot.” He responded, looking confident.

 “You know about me. I want to know where you’re from.”

 “Easy.” A look of pride crossed his handsome face. “Chile. Born and raised.”  

 “Wow! So simple! I’m almost jealous.”

 “Don’t be. You’re beautiful.”

He looked down at her with an intensity that made her feel nuder than nude. This was absolutely the longest his eyes had ever stood on hers. She felt her cheeks heat up once more.

 “You’re a flatterer, Vidal. I’m sure there aren’t many women you don’t find beautiful.”

 “Women are beautiful creatures,” he agreed. “Without a doubt the superior sex.”

 Lola nodded, looking away. That was a very Reyes Vidal answer. She felt him grasp her chin. Her eyes returned to his.

 “But there’s only one woman that I’ve ever brought back to my apartment. Only one that’s slept in my bed. And is welcomed to again. There’s only one that’s currently hogging my shower while I freeze.” Lola laughed and shimmied to switch spots with with him. He groaned happily as the warm water hit his back. “You’re too good to me, muñequita .” The bathroom was beginning to fill with steam and heat. Becoming a sort of private oasis. Lola ran her hand over his broad shoulder and down his arm, as he held fast to her waist. Scars littered his skin, both large  and small. She lightly traced over every mark, each long healed injury. The skin raised in some places. Darker and lighter in others. He was no stranger to combat, to violence. 

 “The tats? The scars?” She asked, looking up at him, his brown skin glistening from the shower water. “You don’t like Omni-gel.” She said. She had noticed. He seemed to preferred to heal slowly, painfully. He wanted the scars.

He tisked. “It’s no longer your turn.” He paused. Then he looked down at his arms and chest, sighing, as though unsure of where to begin. “Each has their own story. Their own reason for being.” His eyes met hers. “ And no. No Omni-gel. The scars, they’re reminders.” His hands began to travel away from her waist.

”Reminders of what?” 

“Stick around long enough and maybe you’ll learn of them all.” His hands slid over the outside of her thighs. Her backside.She shot him a warning look. “I told you there was only one way this was going to end did I not?”

 “You did,” she acquiesced. 

“So, Lola? Where do we stand?” He asked, his face turning serious, even as his hand began to travel over the swell of her breast.

 “Reyes, I-” She began, unsure. There were so many things. So many things wrong with them being together. 

 “It’s a simple question, Lolita.” His hand moved to the base to her neck, his thumb running lightly across her bottom lip. “I’m not a fan of sharing. I’d wager you aren’t either.” 

 No. She wasn’t. She truly wasn’t. She leaned into his touch.

 “And I can promise you, the sex-” he sucked his teeth, and shook his head, closing his eye momentarily.  “It only gets better when you’re mine mine.”

 She laughed. She didn’t doubt it.  “Are you trying to bribe me with amazing sex into a relationship?” She asked narrowing her eyes at him.

“I’m merely listing a pleasant benefit.”

“This is going to end terribly,” she murmured, lightly kissing the palm of his hand on her cheek.

 “Does it have to?” He asked. There was a sadness in his voice. Had he also thought of all the terrible ways they could end? His eyes lingered on hers, as though he felt she was the one who got to decide how this ended. If they went up in flames or not. She was sure she didn’t wield that much power over anything. She kissed him. She didn’t have an answer for him. To her, the chaos they would cause seemed inevitable. But, worth it. His mouth on hers, he pulled her into the stream with him. The water was warm but Reyes’s body was warmer. He gave off an intense heat that she felt all the way to her bones. She wrapped her arms tighter around his neck. Standing on her toes,  she deepened their kiss.

“I just got you and you’re leaving me to go after the Archon,” he murmured.

Lola pulled back, breaking the kiss. “How did you-”

“How long will you be gone for?” He asked. His eyes were like small golden suns, searching hers.

 “I-I don’t know. Three weeks. A month? Two? It’s impossible to tell. It depends on so many different things.”

 


 He nodded. He hadn’t needed to ask. He had been on enough missions in his own day to know.

 “Better give you something to remember me by then,” he said, the words coming out low and rough. He lifted her off the shower floor by her waist, her legs immediately wrapping around him. Dios. She felt even better wet.

 “Ouch,” she whined, bumping her head on the shower head. He turned them only for her knees to bump into the wall. There wasn’t enough room.

 “Contra,” Reyes grumbled. He held onto her not yet willing to give up.

 “Lo siento. Let me try..” he attempted to maneuver them once more only to run up against the glass wall. He was seconds away from knocking the whole damn glass door down.

 “Reyes, I don’t think this is going to work,” she said, laughing. Giggling. Light bells ringing, completely different from her breathy voice. Child-like, infectious. It immediately melted away his building frustration. He felt her lips at his neck, her hands massaging the back of his head. “It’s ok, we have all day. There’s no rush.”

 Yes, and he desired to make good use of the day. Starting now. Frustration rebuilding.

 “Fine,” he huffed, preparing to carry her out. “We’ll go back to the bed.”

 “No!” She wiggled, attempting to get out of his hold. “Your apartment is freezing! Beyond freezing! It’s cold as fuck. And I need to wash my hair or it’ll dry into a knotted mess.”

 “You’ll just have to re-do it after I fuck you back into my bed,” he growled taking her bottom lip between his teeth. He was getting aggressive, he felt it, heard it in his voice. She moaned.

“You’re impossible when you’re horny, you know that?” She rested her forehead on his. “The quicker you put me down, the sooner I get back to you.”

 “Fine,” he grunted. Not at all happy with the compromise.

He gave her neck one last nip before putting her down.

“But don’t bother to put clothes on when you get out. I’ll just be removing them.”  

He placed her back on the ground, slapping her ass when he left. He debated staying and watching. Then decided against it. She’d call him ‘pervert’ for days after.

He stepped out the bathroom and ran his hand over his wet hair, smoothing it back. He grabbed a towel and dried up, tossing it to the side once done. He didn’t bother to cover or clothe himself. He enjoyed the feeling of the cold air on his damp skin. A welcomed change to the Kadaran heat he was constantly suffocating in. He laid back onto his bed. It was nearing 12 p.m. They’d need to eat at some point. Not so much him. He’d be fine. He could survive on whiskey, black coffee, and cigars, but she needed to eat. He wouldn’t have her laid out unconscious on his floor again in an attempt to rid herself of a migraine. She’s done it before. Had SAM alter her chemistry. It was a disturbing thoughtHad he not walked in, had she not been at his place,  he would’ve never known that she did such a thing. How much more she was keeping to herself, keeping from him. Probably just as much as he was keeping from her. 

He rested his hands behind his head. Tilting it to the side, he was able to see into the bathroom. He grinned a scoundrel’s grin. It truly were the little things. He was attempting to recall when he last enjoyed a woman’s company enough for her to shower in his bathroom when the soft swish of his front door opening cut through the apartment’s silence. 

“Keema.” He called out with certainty. He got up, softly closed the bathroom door, and reached for the pistol he kept in the nightstand drawer. Keema was the only one who had his apartment access codes. He had reluctantly given them to her, and solely for the sake of emergencies. Clearly they had different ideas of what constituted an ‘emergency’.

 “Skit! Do you have any idea how worried I’ve been?” A pause. “Gods, Reyes! Where are your clothes?” She placed a webbed, cerulean hand in front of her eyes.

 “I wasn’t expecting company,” he responded, placing his pistol down. He walked over to his dresser and pulled out a pair of black jeans. “Keema, we had an agreement. Emergencies only.” He did his best to keep the irritation out of his voice.

 “I believed you to be dead. That is an emergency.”

 “Why would you think that?” He asked, slipping his jeans on. “It’s safe, Keema.”  He sat at the edge of the bed, resting his elbows on his knees. She removed her hand from her eyes and looked at him. His eyes flicked to the bathroom door. How long it would take Keema to figure it out?   

 “You weren’t at Tartarus,” Keema replied, stepping further into his apartment. “You’ve missed meetings. You never miss meetings.”

 Mierda, had he really missed meetings?

“It’s fine, darling. I handled it.” Keema replied reading the concern on his face. “Kian alerted me as soon as he detected a problem. You don’t pay that man enough.” She wiggled a thick finger at him. Reyes snorted. He paid Kian more than enough. Perhaps even too much. 

 “And you didn’t think you call me?” Reyes asked.

Keema narrowed her large eyes at him. “Truly? You truly believe we hadn’t attempted that first? You think us fools.” She frowned, waving a hand at him dismissively . She perched rigidly on a kitchen chair, as though she was afraid to touch anything.

“I called. Kian called. Repeatedly. You didn’t pick up. It’s very unlike you.  I pictured you laying here with a bullet in your head. Our concern was more than valid.“  

So it was.

 Her eyes scanned the room. The heels at the door. The black dress on the floor. The pink stuffed kitten on his counter. His unmade bed sheets. Here it comes. Her face bloomed into a smile. 

“She’s here?” She asked rising from her chair. She turned toward the bathroom where the sound of water running came from. “She’s showering!” Her smile faded. “Reyes. Please tell me this isn’t a one time thing and-”  The water had shut off. “ And- ” Keema continued with a lower voice, “that you’ve spoken to her. That you’ve told her.”

 He didn’t. He hadn’t. Reyes approached Keema, and began leading her to the door. She enjoyed acting as his conscious, and he didn’t want that now. 

“Goodbye Keema.”

“Wait. Her crew mates were looking for her. They went by Tartarus.”

 Dios.¿Otra vez? Do they ever let her breath?  He pinched the bridge of his nose.

“It’s her day off. She doesn’t need clearance on her days off.”

“No, but apparently disappearing is unlike her as well. They claim to just be concerned, but it sounds much more pertinent.”

 “I’ll have her contact them.” He continued to guide Keema toward the door. Once outside, she stopped and turn back to him. “Reyes. Ryota is refusing to play ball.” She said, her voice low.

 “¿ Qué ? No.”  That wasn’t right. “We had that settled.”

 Keema shook her head. “He’s been going up to every Collective agent he could find. Demanding that they tell the Charlatan that  ‘he will not be used as a pawn in a criminal organization ’.”

 “ Coño.” Reyes cursedThat man was becoming a larger pain in his ass than any female he’s ever been with. “So, blackmail him.” Ryota didn’t want to bend? Then he’ll break.  

“The squeaky clean doctor?” Keema asked, skepticism filling her voice. 

 “Everyone has something, Keema.  Something they’d go to extreme lengths to hide. You know this.” She did. She could be more ruthless than him when she wanted to. “Find it. Exploit it. He doesn’t want a visit from me.”

 “She won’t like this.,” Keema said, titling her head toward his bathroom.

 “She won’t know,” Reyes responded.

 He closed the door behind Keema, done with the conversation,  just as Lola stepped out the bathroom. A small towel wrapped around her body.

 “You’re dressed?” She asked, a hint of disappointment in her voice. He removed his jeans and made his way back to her, stopping by the control panel to raise the temperature. He didn’t want her uncomfortable while she was with him. She began unwrapping herself.

“Wait.” He said placing his hand on hers, stopping her from removing the towel. He didn’t need the distraction. He sat back on his bed. “How much do you know? About me?”

 She lowered herself onto his lap. He placed an arm around her. “I know you’re not just a smuggler.” She replied her grey eyes on his. “It’s a front, for something else.”

He stood silent. Not wanting to confirm or deny until he knew all she knew. She wrapped an arm around his neck to better steady herself. She smelled like his soap, her hair like his conditioner.

“I visited the hideout in Dralluir. The guards were ready to shoot me. Kill me right there, but they stopped. They recognized me, not so much because of who I am, but because of what I meant to The Charlatan. Apparently, he was expecting my visit. Wanted his people on their best behavior.”

 So, she knew? Did she really know? He felt a weight being lifted off his shoulders.

 “And?” He prompted. He needed her to say it. Say that she knew who he was, what he was, and that she didn’t care. That she’d stay. That he was more than the sum of his corrupt deeds. “What is that you think you mean to him? The Charlatan?” He traced small circles on her exposed thighs, his finger tips moistening from the dampness of her skin.

 “I’m someone he wants alive. Someone he wants to impress.”

 Both sentiments were true.

 “I think he trusts me. He let me run around his compound completely unsupervised. His soldiers even stopped torturing their prisoners when I asked them to.” She paused. In thought. “He gave me authority over them. Which is odd. Nice, but definitely not something Sloane would do.”

 He’d give her authority over all of them. He’d let her control Kadara Port right along with him.  His circles became tighter as he slipped his hand under her towel eliciting a small moan from her. Her hand released the towel and he immediately went in to nibble on her neck, slipping his fingers between her folds.

 “You came in me yesterday,” she murmured.

 Reyes nearly choked on an inhale. “I did.”

He had. Fuck, that’s right, he did. Idiota , he chided himself. She had blockers. All the Milky Way species did. So, no fear of accidental impregnation or STDs. Still, it was an incredibly intimate act. Even for him. Many humans still wore condoms just so they wouldn’t release unwelcome into their partner. He should’ve asked permission. “If that wasn’t what you wanted, I apologize.” He spoke into her skin.

“Do you normally cum in women that aren’t yours yours?” She asked. He could hear her breath growing heavier from his touches. “Women you don’t belong to?”

Her fingers played with the hair at the nape of his neck. The lids were low on her grey eyes, if his previous action had ruined the mood, her face wasn’t showing it.

“No.”  The truth.  “And I haven’t belonged to a woman since long before leaving The Milky Way.”  Also the truth.

 She moved to straddle his thighs with hers, leaning back, a movement that caused her breasts to angle up toward him and put his attention wholly on the body in front of him. Slowly, she reached down behind her, her hand on him, touching him, massaging him, her touch immediately exciting him. A low moan left his lips and he moved his hand to caress a breast still damp from the shower and watched as she bit her full bottom lip in response.

 “Will you cum in me again?” She asked, her voice a near whisper.

 “I’ll do whatever you want,” he groaned, her touch working him up.

 She took his hand from her breast and guided it back down between her legs where she was already wet. He heard himself growl out words of approval, as he began to rub at her, caress her.  One arm wound tightly around her waist as the other worked dutifully between her thighs. He had her moaning his name, soft and low like a prayer, but the position was awkward. He swiftly removed his hand from in front and, instead, reached behind her. Forcing her body to push completely up upon his as his hand circled around her ass to get to her pussy, to continue its work.

 “When was the last time you let a man cum in you?” He whispered roughly, his mouth by her ear.

 She arched into him, giving his hand better access to her.

 “Only you,” she breathed. “Never. Not without protection.”

He slipped a finger inside of her, there was a sharp inhale and then she rested her head on his shoulder. Her breath coming in sharper and quicker as he massaged her from within, his thumb circling her clit.

 “How-” She moaned. “How are you so good at this?”

 He smiled. Practice, he thought, but knew better than to say. Instead he bit and kissed at her exposed neck. Using his free hand, he grasped at her ass, arching it further out and her further onto him. He slipped another finger inside, winning a small sob of his name from her. He pumped them in and out, his thumb never straying from her bud. Her breaths grew shallow and her lips were upon his, her hands grabbing at his skin, nails lightly scratching at his back. She bit at his lower lip, a move he was sure he had taught her but drove him insane all the same,  as she  tightened around his fingers. She was getting close but this wasn’t how he planned to finish her. He continued to fuck her with his fingers and massage her with his thumb until her breath hitched, until she was right at the precipice. Just at the edge. Then he swiftly removed his hands from her and gently guided her down onto him. A long fuck escaped her lips, and he could feel her shudder from within, as he began moving within her, building her up again.


 Something new Lola learned about herself: she cursed like a sailor when the sex was good. And right now, the sex was good. She had been close when he had slipped himself inside her, so close that it had set off a small orgasm, but not one nearly satisfying enough for her to want to him stop. His signature smug grin grew on his face at the feeling of her shudders as he began to move within her. 

She adjusted herself for better leverage and began moving on top of him. He groaned in appreciation and grabbed her waist, aiding her. His eyes locked on hers, his expression serious as he urged her on his native tongue.  He pulled down on her waist causing her every movement to grind up against him. She was building up a sweat, and right after she had showered, but the pleasure that swam through her, along with the expression of pure desire on his face kept her going, kept her wanting more.

 She leaned back placing her hands behind her on his legs and began rolling, long and slow on top of him. He cursed with each thrust, his eyes narrowing as his lids fell. She watched his head roll back and eyes close and was sure she had him when she felt his arm wrap around her, and his hand run up the front of her body, over her stomach, her breasts. He gripped lightly at her throat, licked his lips and bent forward. His mouth and free hand were on her breasts. He began sucking, licking, rubbing, coaxing her nipples out, one  arm holding her close, keeping her from falling back. Every where he touched her, he drew out pleasure. She allowed her head to roll back, trusting his grip on her, her hair falling off her shoulders and cascading to the floor. Her hands moved to the back of his head, and the only word she seemed to know was ‘yes, yes yes.’

 


 

A month, he thought. A month or more without being able to touch her, taste her, fuck her. He planned to get his fill. Form enough memories to last him a month or more from this fuck alone. He looked up from his spot on her breast. Putty. She was putty in his hands. Head thrown back, eyes closed. Her hair skimmed the floor. She was deliciously easy to read. Vocal. Responsive. No guessing, he knew exactly what she wanted. He moved his mouth upward, kissing and licking his way to her neck. Then from her neck to her mouth, pulling her back up to sitting with him. He felt her place her hands on his chest and with a firm push, she pushed him back onto the bed. She bit her lip and leaned forward with him still inside her. Her dark curls falling forward separating them from the world.

Slowly, excruciatingly slow, she began to move her hips. To ride him. He reached his hand to her neck gripping it he brought her face down to kiss him. He closed his eyes enjoying the way her pussy gripped his dick. Held it.  Like it owned it. The kiss grew deeper, rougher as his pleasure mounted, his tongue roughly entering her mouth to meet hers. To dominate hers.

 “Give me something to remember you by, mamita .” He crooned lowly to her. A mischievous glint gleamed in her eye. She broke from their kiss and sat back up on him. Returning back to her slow grind, she ran her own hand up her body, grasping at her own breasts, biting on her own fingers. Giving him a show. Giving him what he asked for. He watched as she snaked on him, savoring the the view from below, the sounds she made, his name on her lips.  He slid his hands up her thighs and between them, rubbing at her as she moved on, increasing her pleasure. She began breathing through her mouth, a moan escaping with every exhale. She tensed.  Her eyes closed. She was climaxing. She tensed around him and let out a low moan. He waited for her to ride out her orgasm. For her to finish, for her to open her eyes to him. Those grey cat eyes he was beginning to love. She opened them, a blissed out smile on her beautiful face.  He sat up, holding her head in his hands, feeling her pulse racing through her neck as she fought to slow her breathing. He kissed her, swallowing her moan.

“We’re not done yet, munequita ,” he whispered. Her snow colored eyes widened as he flipped their bodies, moving her beneath him, never removing himself from within her.

 


 Lola gasped as he grabbed her waist and placed her beneath him. He wore a wicked grin,  a grin that was in sharp contrast with how he tenderly he reached down to brush her hair out of her face. His elbow supported his weight and his free hand lingered on her cheek, caressing it.

 “What?” She asked, slightly out of breath, she must look a mess.

 “I can’t decide which view I like better.” He lowered himself onto her. “You on top. You below. Coming. Going. It’s impossible to choose.”

 “Shhh,” she shushed him with a kiss. Him being sweet..being tender..“Stop being sweet to me.”  

“Why can’t you accept my compliments?” He asked. He began moving his hips, pulling completely out then returning, quickly, roughly.  Her orgasm had left her sensitive and every thrust of his shot through her like electricity. She could feel the pleasure shoot all the way to her fingertips, her toes.

“Hmmm?” He asked again, not slowing his pace. “Why do you shy away from them?”

 She bit her lip in an effort to stop herself from crying out. He lifted her legs, held them back, going deeper. A small cry of ecstasy escaped her lips, followed by a curse. He lowered his mouth to her ear, biting at the skin directly below it, then kissing the sting away.

 “You deserve to be worshipped, do you not know this?”  She couldn’t respond, she was close, she was going to come again when he suddenly stopped. She groaned in frustration. 

“Answer or we’ll never finish.” He sucked at her neck.

 “Is that a promise, Vidal? Because it doesn’t sound like much of a threat.” Lies. She was coming undone. He stroked her once, deep. She moaned out his name. He stopped again.

“I’ve known women of lesser value to act like goddesses. Women with personalities so wretched that it would make the gods themselves frown.” He stroked her again.

 “I hate you,” she gasped. He laughed. Even his laugh was accented.

 “You don’t,” he responded.  She didn’t.  She couldn’t.

 She moistened her lips and writhed under him, her frustration mounting. He hummed appreciatively. “You want to come, don’t you?” He stroked her a third time. Pleasure exploded through her. “Answer me and we’ll both come. I promise it.” He stroked her once more.

 “Goddess.  Because I could fall in love with a man like you,” the words spilled out. She felt her eyes grow wide at her confession and  fought the urge to cover her mouth with her hand. Because. They were true. The moment they left her lips she knew how true they were.  “I could fall in love with a man like you.” She repeated, slower, clearer. More for her own ears than his.   He grew still for a moment, something she couldn’t quite place shifting in his gaze, then he grabbed her hands entwining his fingers in hers. She felt him move within her as he began rocking his hips once more.  Slowly than quickly, and he was right. They both came, hard. Her world shattered then rebuilt itself, all in a matter of seconds. He lifted himself off her, and laid down beside her. His breathing sounded surprisingly even.

 


 

Minutes later Lola was in his small kitchen eating. Keema had sent someone to deliver food and clothing for her. He could just picture Keema fretting over the idea of Lola leaving in the same outfit she had arrived in a day ago: “She’s The Pathfinder, darling. She can’t be seen in ‘ a morning after outfit’.” 

 “You never finished telling me what you felt you knew about me,” he said from the sofa, where he was checking his Omni-tool’s messages. He had gotten distracted and had pounced on her before receiving an actual confirmation of his assumptions.

 “Hmm?” She asked, her mouth full of pancakes. “ Oh, that you work for The Charlatan.” She said swallowing.

 “I.. work for The Charlatan?”

 “Not just work for him. I believe you’re a high ranking officer in his regime. That you’ve seen him. That you know him. That he trusts you enough to make decisions.”

 Reyes looked at her. She didn’t know. She was so close, but in the end she didn’t know. He got up from the sofa. He was clothed save for a shirt and shoes. CarajoHow could he have been so wrong? Idiota.

 “Do you think you might be able speak to him about the torture?” She asked, her voice small. As though she wasn’t sure if it was ok to ask anything of him. “ They had stopped when I asked, but I’m sure they just started up once again after I left. It was pretty gruesome.”

 He turned from her. He couldn’t look at her. He couldn’t think.

 “I don’t know,” she continued. “ It takes a certain type of cruelty to be able to perform torture.” She paused. “A certain type of monster.”

Her voice faded into the background.  Monster. He caught his reflection in the mirror. The scars that littered his body, the violence performed that put them there. Monster. He had never been concerned with being a monster before. Never felt like one, until now. Until her. She has done so much good, and he, he did the opposite. He knew what he had to do. He turned to her, forcing his most charming smile.

“We had fun, you and I, right?”

 She looked up from her food. Sat up straighter.

“Right…” she said, her voice uncertain. She placed her fork down. She wore the dress Keema had bought for her. A simple orange summer dress. Reyes could tell, She’s had this talk before. Some pendejo had done this to her before. Fucked her then dumped her. Bueno. It’ll hurt all the more. She’ll stay away from him. He’d rather her see him as an asshole, than a monster. 

 “I think you were right.” He said as nonchalantly as he could. He began gathering his clothing. Slipping them on. Getting ready to leave.

“About what?”

“That this is only going to end terribly.”

She got up from the chair, her eyebrows knitting together, her voice rising. “What are you saying, Reyes?”

Anger. Good she was getting angry.

“We should just stop while we are ahead.”

“What. Are you joking? But you were the one who said you wanted us together. You said-“

“And you said you were falling in love with me.” Silence. She recoiled, hurt filled her face. “I said I could with someone like you.”

“Different words. Same sentiment. I don’t need it, muñequita .”

Her fists clenched, her eyes grew glassy. She was holding back tears.

“You didn’t have any problems with it when you were fucking me.”

“There isn’t much I have a problem with when I’m in the middle of getting pussy.” She cringed. Visibly cringed at his tone, at his choice of words. But she was silent. That was his cue.

 “Por favor. Finish your meal. Yo voy.” He reached out to touch her, to feel her once more, but she jerked away from his touch. Hugging herself. Trying to hide herself from him.

”Fuck you.” 

He left the apartment, but he didn’t go to Tartarus. Instead, he waited. It took less than 15 minutes for her to exit his apartment. He watched her from a corner across the alley. He could see her clearly, but she’d have trouble locating him within the crowd should she try to. She had changed out of the clothing Keema had delivered for her and was back in the clothing she had worn the night before. The black dress. He watched as she bounded down the steel steps, a pair of male taurians turning to watch as she walked by them.

“Where is she going?” He asked.

“Back to her ship, sir.” A voice responded on the other end of his omnitool.

Reyes watched as she stopped by a dumpster. She stretched her arm out to toss something out then hesitated. It took her a few moments but in the end she tossed it and continued on her way. He waited until she was out of sight before heading to it. Inside was the stuffed pink kitten he had won her. He fished it out, dusted it off and brought it back into his apartment with him. She had left everything as it was. Nothing was destroyed or defaced. He would have preferred it if she had. If she would’ve done something alleviate his guilt. Instead he was left knowing that even in her anger she was better than him.

“What was the message her squadmates left for her?” He asked, his voice flat.

He had her Omni tool hacked weeks ago but had hesitated accessing it. He had been trying to keep his sins to a minimum. Hoping he’d have less to repent for when he finally had confessed to her. But, that was no longer happening.

 “Sorry, sir?” The voice responded.

 “The message. What does it say?” He asked again, his patience failing quickly.

 “She’s, uh, The Pathfinder is going after The Archon.” The voice cleared it’s throat.  “ Her crew has pinpointed his location. They depart the moment she returns to her ship.”

 

Chapter Text

It was a challenge, making it all the way back  onto her ship without shedding tears. She had kept her head down and moved quickly throughout  the crowded port, dodging clusters of beings as her emotions cycled through her.

She wanted to burn the whole damn port to the ground. She thought of all the ways she could hurt Reyes, knowing full well  she never would, when she collided head on with another passerby.

“Watch where you’re going!” She growled out after her butt hit the cold metal ground.

“Shit, I’m so sorry,” a rugged, male’s voice replied, extending a hand to her.

She smacked it away. It’s bad enough that she was traipsing around on the damn metal grates that served as the ground in heels, but now she had cut herself. She sucked in her breath through her teeth and lightly dabbed at the wound on her thigh with her bare fingers. It wasn’t bad. She was more pissed than hurt.

“That looks bad,” the voice said.

She laughed ruefully. “This? This is nothing.”

He extended his hand once more. She looked up.

“I know you,” she said, narrowing her eyes at him. He had deep green eyes and black hair that fell just long enough for him to tie it back, but what she recognized was the neck tattoo he wore, a series of black squares like pixels arranged in different patterns flowing from his ear, down his neck.

She placed her hand in his.

“Possibly, I’m Ryker, ” He said. He gripped her hand and pulled her up. “I do a lot of work here.”

“Yea, well. I hope your work is better than your walking,” she said, dusting herself off.

He laughed. “You are not very welcoming for a Pathfinder.”

She looked at him “Fuck,” she said pushing her hair out her face. “So, I’ve reached the point where people can recognize me without my badge. Fantastic.” She rounded him and continued her way back to the Tempest.

“No,” He called after her, trailing her.  “It’s just that you’re right, I’ve seen you in Draluir -“

“Look,” she said, turning to him. She didn’t have time for this and ultimately she didn’t care. She continued walking, backwards. “I need to get back to my ship and-” Her sentence was caught off by the impact of colliding into yet another pedestrian.

“Are you fucking kidding me?!” She cried, after she fell to the ground once more.

“Oh, Madam. I apologize,” a second voice called, extending his hand.

“It’s fine. It’s fine. It’s my fault. I wasn’t watching where I was going.” She took his hand and was once again pulled to her feet, where she once again began dusting herself off.

“Mrs. Vidal! I hadn’t recognized you!”

Lola looked up. She blinked hard, cursing under her breath. It was the man from the other night, the vendor of the carnival style game. She just couldn’t catch a damn break.

“Hi,” she said, forcing a smile. Was she to deny it? Should she correct him? No, because then she’d have to explain why they had lied. Goddess, she just wanted to get back to her ship!

“How is Mr. Vidal?” The vendor asked.

Lola could feel the other Ryker’s eyes on her.  She looked at him. He looked confused. Draluir. Ryker had said they knew each other from Draluir. As in The Collectives hideout? If he worked for The Charlatan, did that mean he knew Reyes? If so, then Ryker knew she was lying.

“He’s fine,” she said, avoiding both men’s gazes. Praying that Ryker would just stay quiet.

“You know Reyes Vidal?” Ryker asked, looking at her curiously.

“She’s his wife,” the vendor replied, before she had a chance to respond. He was beaming as as though thrilled by it.

“I didn’t realize he was married,” Ryker replied, crossing his arms.

“Well, they are. I assure you, just last night Mr. Vidal intro-“

“Okay!” Lola said, cutting the conversation short. “I’m gonna get going.”

“Of course, Mrs. Vidal! I apologize, again.”

“Right, ok, bye.” She said, before quickly walking away. Should she be worried that now there are two people that believe she is married to Reyes? No. It’d be more of a hassle for Reyes than her. Let him deal with it.


 

She had alerted her crew that she was on her way back. Told them to stock up on necessities because once they leave Kadara’s port, they’ll be gone until the job was done. They were going after the Kett flagship, come what may. With her crew off the Tempest stocking up on whatever they each deemed necessary, the ship was left empty for her to board. A small mercy.

Going straight to her cabin, she tore off her clothing and shoes. Perhaps she’d burn the dress (she’d never burn the dress, it made no sense to burn the dress, but pretending that she would burn the dress comforted her). She threw off her necklace, and earring, stopping when she reached the bracelet on her wrist that  Reyes had won for her.. She had forgotten about it. Had she remembered she would’ve tossed it in the trash along with the stuffed kitten he had won.

He had been so handsome and charming. So open, she felt she was seeing a secret side of him, a sign of how close she had believed they were becoming. What a fool she was.

She turned her wrist over, the small rose colored beads scattered the sunlight as it streamed through her cabin’s window. She slipped her fingers under the bracelet’s band, preparing to snap it, to watch the beads fly off and scatter to the ground, when she spotted a stack of books in the corner of her cabin. She released the bracelet.

“SAM? What are those?”

Books ,” SAM replied.

She sighed. “SAM, I know that they’re books. I can clearly see they are books. I mean, whose are they? What are they doing here?”

They are yours. A gift from Mr. Vidal ,” SAM alerted her.

She stopped before the stack.  Not daring to lay a single finger on them, as though Reyes could be conjured by just a touch .

“How?” She asked.

“He had it delivered, under the guise of it being something you had ordered for yourself .”

There were seven books. She read their spines.  He had chosen titles that were all in a similar vein of Jane Eyre. They were all gothic literature, her favorite, and they were all in impeccable condition.  How had he found these?

“When?”

The digital receipt shows he had paid for the delivery a week before your birthday, and had it scheduled to be delivered the day of your birthday. Yesterday.”

“We weren’t even speaking at that time,” she said to herself.

She ran her hands over the top book’s cover. Carmella. Had he hidden a note in one of these as he did the first? Picking it up she began flipping through the pages,  and sure enough, a thin sheet of paper flutters to the ground. She picked it up and read it.

 

Lolita,

Feliz Cumpleaños.

You remain in my thoughts.

X

Reyes

 

Water hit the paper. She touched her face. It was wet, she was crying. All the tears she had been holding back had finally found their way out.

“Fucking Reyes,” she sobbed.

She sat on the floor by the pile of books and allowed herself that, a moment to sob. A moment to feel the sadness that had been bubbling up inside of her.

The callousness of his words... She shredded the note in her hand. He had  wanted to push her away. Not just push her away, but keep her away. He was trying to stop her from ever going back to him. And it tore her. He’d rather be cruel than honest. Why was he so certain he couldn’t trust her? How bad was it that he would choose his secret over giving them an honest chance?

Ultimately, Reyes always chose Reyes.

But why? Why that specific moment?

“SAM, what was your read on Reyes?” She asked wiping at her eyes. “Did he sound like he was telling the truth back there?” Lola didn’t elaborate. SAM would know exactly what part of the conversation she was referring to.

No, it would appear that Mr. Vidal was not being honest. Mr. Vidal is an exceptionally good liar, however, I was able to detect a slightly accelerated pulse indicative of a lie.

She nodded, running her arm under her wet nose like a child.

“I thought as much,” she sniffed. Though having her suspicions confirmed did nothing to comfort her. Wait. It did mean she must’ve touched on something, something he didn’t want her to know. She had gotten close, so close he got spooked.

She rose to her feet. The feeling of regaining some control, and possibly understanding, over the situation calming her.

“SAM, at what part during the conversation did Reyes heart begin to accelerate? Was there any moment when his vitals or voice displayed any sign of….fear, or maybe panic?”

She walked over to her closet and pulled out her Nexus uniform. The others would be returning soon, she wanted to be dressed and ready.

Monster,” SAM replied. “ His vitals displayed signs of mild panic when you said the word ‘monster.’ “

Lola sat on her bed and pulled her pants on.

Monster?

“When I was talking about the Charlatan?” She asked, pulling on her shirt. “Can you replay back my exact sentence?”

It takes a certain type of cruelty to be able to perform torture. A certain type of monster.”

Lola zipped up her Tempest colored blue and white jacket.

She replayed the sentence in her head. Why? Why would that word specifically have caused him to pull away? She hadn’t called him a monster. Though perhaps The Charlatan was so close a friend that he felt protective? No, that explanation didn’t feel right. She sighed.

“I have no idea.” And there was no time to think on it

It was there. The answer was there, but she just couldn’t see it.

“The others are now boarding,” SAM alerted her.

“Alright, thanks SAM.” She grabbed a hair tie and tied her up.

There was nothing she could do lest she went back to Reyes and begged for an explanation and, if nothing else, he had made it abundantly clear that explaining himself or the situation was one thing he wouldn’t do.

She fought back the threat of fresh tears.

“Get your shit together,” she said, scolding herself. She lightly smacked at her cheeks with the palms of her hands. Then with one deep inhale, she opened her door and left to greet her crew.


 

They had been in flight for 72 hours and would be reaching the Tafeno system within the next 12. In less than a day, Lola and two of her teammates would be boarding a Kett Flagship.

 The atmosphere was understandably tense. Their nerves were palpable. Each of her teammates seemed lost in their own world, each caught up in doing whatever it was that calmed their specific set of nerves.

She, however, had spent every moment waiting. Waiting for her Omni-tool to beep. Waiting for a new message to come through. Waiting for Reyes.  It was stupid and pointless, and a waste of fucking time.

There was a light knock on her cabin door.

“Yea, come in,” she called, expecting it to be Peebee or Gil. They often found themselves in her room, poking around, chatting. Though Peebee had been spending more and more time with Jaal, lately.  Lola closed her Omni-tool and sat up on her bed as the door slid open. Peebee and Jaal were cute together.

“Hey,” Liam called.

“Hey,” Lola called back, surprised to see him in her doorway. They haven’t hung out since… since..well, she couldn’t even remember when.

“Is it cool if I come in?”

“Umm…” she said, looking around her room, for what she didn’t know. “Sure.”

Liam entered. Instead of the Tempest uniform he wore a t-shirt featuring some long forgotten Milky Way television show, black jeans and sneakers. After their first day in flight, they had unanimously decided to ditch the uniforms in favor of comfort. Even Cora had agreed.

“The tv in the storeroom is dead,” he said.

“Ok..”

“You have one, yea?”

She looked around her room, spotting the bottom of the tv that held fast to her ceiling, it was put away, slid into its proper compartment.

“That I do,”

“Mind if use it?”

“You want to come into my room and use my tv?”

“Yea,” he said approaching the bed. “Can I..?” He pointed to an empty spot beside her.

“Sure,” she scooted over. He slid into the bed beside her, kicking his sneakers off. Lola looked at him in disbelief.

“What?” He asked, noticing her staring.

“I mean- are you comfortable enough?” She asked, motioning to his relaxed figure, leaning back on her pillows.

“Yea, your bed is insanely plush,” He answered, bouncing lightly on it.

Lola chuckled. “I’m so glad you're comfortable in my bed,” she said, climbing out of it. She was going to leave Liam to it and go find Peebee, when Lola felt Liam’s hand on her wrist.

“Stay,” he said. Simply. Clearly.  His large brown eyes searched hers.  It was all so familiar. Liam must’ve had the same thought, his brown skin reddened, a light blush ghosting over his face. He removed his hand from her.

“Alright,” she said, her voice soft as she climbed back into the bed with him. He extended his arm, offering her a spot nearer to him. In his arms.

Lola looked at him, hesitating.

“It’s just a movie, Lola. Not asking for your hand in marriage, yea?”

That’s true.

“Alright,” she said again, scooting up beside him, he wrapped his arm around her shoulders and she settled in, leaning into him. He was warm, like gentle, steady heat from a nearby hearth.

They had done this many times in the past. The only two real cinephiles on the ship, they’d binge watch movies and shows together constantly, just enjoying each other's company. They could do that again. This didn’t have to be weird.

“What are we watching?” She asked, curling into him, he wrapped his hand around her.

“A horror. You’re gonna love it.”  She felt his hand caress her exposed shoulder.

She did love horror. She asked SAM to lower the tv from its spot in the ceiling, and turn off the lights. Liam accessed the movie via his Omni-tool.

And for the first time in 72 hours, Lola wasn’t thinking about Reyes Vidal.

 


 

She awoke the next morning to the sound of SAM’s voice.

“Pathfinder, it is currently 5:30 a.m. We will be arriving at the Kett Flagship’s location in less than 4 hours. The ship’s crew will be awaiting you in the meeting room at 6:30 a.m.”

“Okay, SAM,” she yawned, wiggling out from under Liam’s grip.

Wait. Liam? She rolled over, rubbing her eyes. Sure enough,  Liam laid behind her lightly snoring, his curls in adorable disarray.

She looked at the clock. According to SAM she had one hour until she was expected. She looked at Liam. There’s no harm in a consensual cuddle between two adults. She curled back into Liam’s arms, she had slept well. Better than she had the last few nights. She laid her head back on the pillow it seemed they had been sharing, and attempted to scoot back into the position when she accidentally awoke him. Liam groaned and wrapped  his arms around her waist, pulling her back into him.

“Hey,” He said into her hair. It had come loose at some point during the night. “Your hair smells so good.” He said taking an exaggerated breath in. She laughed. Then she remembered the last time she had washed her hair was at Reyes’s apartment three days ago. Liam was smelling Reyes’s conditioner.

She turned over in his arms until they laid face to face, her hair behind her and away from Liam’s nose.

“Hey,” she said mimicking his greeting. His large brown eyes were full of sleep.

“So, I fell asleep here last night,” he said, yawning, a smirk on his face .

“Yea, apparently you did. I told you you were getting too comfortable,” she said.

 “I always suspected you had the most comfortable bed in the ship. I was right.”

“You’ve been thinking about my bed, Kosta?” She reached up and twirled one of his curls around her finger, watching it coil tighter until it finally sprung back into place.  It was nice waking up near someone, waking up with a friend.

“I’ve been trying not to. To not think of your bed, but then I remember you’re in it and then… Then it becomes impossible not to think about .”

Lola’s eyes slid to Liam’s.

“Liam,” she began, she knew that look on his face. “We can’t.”

“But I want to kiss you,” he said, his eyes on her lips.

“You don’t want that,” she began. She backed out of his arms, making space between them on the bed.

“Why?” He asked, his eyes moving from her lips to her eyes. “Because I’d be the rebound? I know you were with Reyes.”

Lola sat up in bed.

“How did you-?”

“Ryota isn’t your type. No way you spent the weekend with him.”

She climbed out of bed. They knew. They fucking knew. It’s only a matter of time before she gets called in by Tann and -

“Lola,” She felt his hands on her shoulders. He had followed her out of bed. “No, it’s ok,” He said turning her to him. “Cora bought it. You don’t have to worry.”

Tears began streaming down her face. The fear subsided, but only slightly. One misstep. Just one, that’s all it would take for her to lose her brother.

“You’re beautiful, ya know?”

Reyes voice echoed in her head. Bella.

“Liam,” she tried again.

“He hurt you, but if you let me. I could kiss that hurt away.” Liam’s voice was soft, he had her face cupped between both his hands now, his thumbs gently brushing each tear away as they fell.

“That was a good line ,” she said, sniffling with a small chuckle.

“Hey, I could be smooth. Plus, it made you smile didn’t it?”

“It did,” she said.

“Yea, it did,” he said his thumb moving from her cheek to her lips, only making her think of Reyes, how he would run is thumb possessively over her lips.

She moved to close the space between her and Liam, planting her lips on his. He groaned into the kiss, kissing her back with earnest. His arms snaked around her waist and pulled  her to him. He was tall, taller than Reyes, even on her toes she could barely reach Liam.

Not letting go of her, he spun them around, settling himself on the edge of her bed, he brought her to him. His hands at her waist, guiding her to stand between his thighs.

“This ok?” He asked, his voice slightly deeper than usual. Lifting her shirt, he began to lay kisses on her stomach.

“Yes,” she responded, her eyes fluttering close as she focused on Liam’s touch. Her mind flashed back to Reyes, his rough touch, his nips, growls and swearing. His crooked grin, honeyed words.

She opened her eyes. Liam’s head was below her, he was kissing his way up, slowly lifting her shirt off her in the process. She wouldn’t think of Reyes. Not now. Liam. She’d focus on Liam.

“We don’t have much time,” she said. She brought her hands to the top of his head, allowing her fingers to tangle in all his curls, urging him upwards.

“Five minutes. Half hour. I’ll make it worth it, yea?” He asked, his voice confident. He brought her shirt up over her breasts. His eyes moved to hers, asking for permission.  She gave him a small nod and he let out a low groan of appreciation, before bringing her closer to him, closing the small gap that had been between them. He buried his face in her breasts, his stubble scratching at her cleavage before kissing the top each one. One hand holding the hem of her shirt and her neck. The other splayed across her lower back, his finger slipping into the hem of her shorts. Liam moved slowly, each kiss tender and soft as though giving thanks. Reyes had always kissed her as though he wanted to devour her.  

Liam’s lips moved over her collarbone to her neck. She reached up and allowed him to pull her shirt off over her head, then she reached down and removed his.  His arms slide out of his tee with ease. Her eyes roamed over his dark, toned shoulders and chest, the tips of her fingers skimming along his rich chocolate skin. No scars, no tattoos. Liam’s  skin was smooth and undamaged. It held no stories.

Liam folded her into his arms, placing her sideways on his lap.

“You took my Andromeda virginity, you know,” he said looking down at her.

“You took mine,” she said, giving him a small smile.

His grin widened as he lowered her onto the bed. “Did I?”

“You didn’t know that?”

He shook his head, pinning her body under his. She moved her mouth to his ear.

“You were the first man to have made me cum in over 600 years,” she whispered, speaking to Liam the way she would’ve spoken to Reyes.

“Void. That’s hot,” Liam groaned, returning his mouth to hers.

“I thought you’d appreciate that little fact,” she said, disappointed that he hadn’t had something cheeky to say back to her.  She felt his hands make their way to her back where they undid her bra.

“Yea?” He asked his eyes on her partially covered breasts.

“Take it off me, Liam.”

His dark eyes flew to hers. “You speak and I just - words .”

She reached up and removed her arms from her bra, tossing it to the side.

His eyes slide down.

“God, yes,” he murmured. His normally open, bright eyes, glazing over. She felt his hand move up the side of her body, over her thigh, hip, ribcage, until he finally reached her breast.  He lowered his mouth to her neck as his thumb ran over her nipple, gently, incessantly until it hardened and she began softly moaning.

“Good?” He asks.

“Yes,” she breathes out. Desperately wanting to feel his teeth on her neck. She arched into him, giving him a firmer handle on her breast. He groaned at her movements, and she could feel the vibrations through his lips on her neck. From her breast, his hand traveled down her stomach to the hem of her cotton shorts.

“Can I touch you?” He asks, not hiding how eager he is.  She gave her head a little nod. A small smile grew on Liam’s face. He slid his hand in her shorts, into her underwear.  He watched her face as his long fingers slip between her folds, and lets out a groan when she begins to snake her body, rubbing herself onto his hand.  

“God, you’re hot. Have I told you’re hot? ‘Cuz you are. And wet. God, you are wet.”

She shushed him. Placing her mouth back on his, his tongue entering, wrapping around hers. She had forgotten how sweet he tasted. Like rainbow colored candy. It was good, nice but...It wasn’t whisky.

He continued to play with her, building her up as his mouth worked on hers. His kisses, more urgent than when they first started but not as rough as she had grown to enjoy her kisses. She felt him insert a finger, and gasped at the pleasure it released in  her. Her hands roamed down his back missing the feeling of long healed scars under her fingertips, a feeling she had gotten used to with Reyes.

“Take off your jeans,” She breathed, not sure when she’d become so vocal.

“Yes, ma’am.” He removed his finger from her and immediately began pulling at the button on his jeans. He stood up and pulled them down, kicking them and his boxers off. His cock pointing the way back toward her.

“You next,” he said, leaning forward. He hooked his fingers around the waistband of her two remaining garments, and pulled sliding them off her. Tossing them to the ground, he turned and looked her over once before kneeling before her on the bed.

“Lola, you know, for a six hundred plus year old, you are looking amazing.”

“You don’t look so bad yourself,” she said, watching as Liam took her foot in his hand. He began placing light, taunting kisses on her ankle, then her calf, lifting her leg to his mouth as he worked his way up, slowly moving up the bed closer to her core. His lips travels over her  thighs, stomach, breasts, his mouth separating from her momentarily as he reached over to her nightstand. Stretching to reach, he pulled out the top draw, and picked up a condom.

She had forgotten about those, the condoms Lexi had left in everyone’s sleeping quarters.

Apparently, Liam had not.

He ripped the wrapper with his teeth, taking out  the condom, then slipped it on.

“Ready?” He asked. His long torso bent over as he lowered himself back onto her.

“Yes,” she replied, reaching down to guide him into her, a small moan leaving his lips at her touch.  She let go when they were aligned. His chest pushed into hers, and Liam entered her, she inhaled as he moved to fill her up. The sway of his hips quickening almost immediately, taking her by surprise.

Lola closed her eyes. Reyes’s smug smile formed in her mind. She opened her eyes again. Liam licked one hot stripe up her neck, and looked into her eyes.

“What do you need, Lola? Tell me. I’ll do anything.”

“Just” she exhaled a moan as he pulled all the way out and slammed back in. “Lift my leg up.”

Liam immediately moved to lift her leg, placing it on his shoulder. She moved her hand between them and began playing with herself as he continued rocking his hips. His eyes followed her hand.

“Shit, yes. Watching you touch yourself is -“

“Hot?” She supplied.

“Yes.”

She closed her eyes once more allowing the pleasure of Liam and her own fingers to fill her up.

“Are you close?” He whispered, his mouth moving down on to hers.

“Yes,” she moaned. “Don’t stop.”

“Never,” he replied.

His hips began to stutter just as she was peaking. He groaned out her name, as he slammed into her finishing. She stopped herself from moaning Reyes’s.

Liam cupped her face once more, giving her one last kiss before rolling off her.

“Pathfinder you have fifteen minutes before your are expected in the meeting room.”

“Shit,” Liam said rolling off the bed. He scooped his clothes up and began dressing himself. “I’ll let you get ready. I better go. Gotta keep the others from wondering where I’ve been all night.”

Lola sat up in bed, she had forgotten about the others. Their gossip, and intrusive questions.

“No worries,” Liam said with a sweet smile. “ I’ll just tell them I fell asleep on the storage room sofa. Wouldn’t be the first time.”

“Thank you, Liam.” That was one less matter she needed to worry about. 

“I’ve  got your back, remember?” He slipped on shoes. “I’m really glad we did this, Lola.” He shot her one last glance and left.

 

Lola got dressed, quickly throwing on her battlesuit. Pulling back her hair in a neat bun, she began mentally preparing for the fight to come.

She looked at herself in the mirror, and had just stepped out of her room when her Omni-tool beeped.

“Incoming video call from Reyes Vidal, on your private line,” SAM alerted her.

“What?” She asked stepping back into her room.

She watched as his name flashed on the screen. Bracing herself, she fixed her breasts in her suit… “What the void am I doing??” She removed her hands from her breasts and told SAM to patch him through.

At first the screen was empty. A black screen, a dark room...nothing.

“Reyes?” she called out. She should’ve hung up. “Reyes? Did you call me?”

“Oh my god!!!” A high pitched voice crackled through.

Lola cringed, and moved her Omni-tool away from her body. The sound was painful. After a sudden moment of silence, a chorus of voices exploded through the tiny vidcom. Three women appearing on the screen. A blonde, a brunette, a red head.

“It’s her!!!” The blonde called out.

“Hi!!  The brunette nearly sang.

The red head just smiled. She looked confused but happy.

“Uh, hello..” Lola responded awkwardly. “I’m sorry, who are you, exactly?”

“I’m Kerry!” The blonde responded. “This is Mazie,  and Lottie.”

“Ok… how did you get the number to my private line? Is this call being made from Reyes’s Omni-tool?”

“Oh yea! He’s right here!” The camera wobbled a little, it was being hauled across a room Lola was unfamiliar with.

This woman has his Omni tool. What is going on?

“Hey, sweetie, we got her!” The blonde spoke once more.

See, I told you I know The Pathfinder,” Reyes’s face appeared on the screen. Lola’s heart seized. It was him but his eyes seemed heavier than usual, his words slurring together slightly.

Que bella,” He crooned into the vidcom. His eyes settling on her. This was cruel. She felt her anger resurfacing.

“What are you doing Reyes? Why are these women calling my private line from your Omni-tool?”

“They didn’t believe that I knew you. We made a wager. I won,” he chuckled. “I miss you, you know.”

Lola shook her head at him. She had never seen him drunk, but he was here. Most certainly drunk. Drunk Reyes missed her, but sober Reyes wanted her gone. One of the women sat down on his lap, the back of her head blocking Lola’s view of him. She had seen and heard enough. 

“You’re drunk, Reyes. Don’t call me again.”

Lolita -“

Then she did one of the most difficult things. She ended the call.

 Damn it, she thought, looking into the mirror once more. She looked how she felt, like she was about to cry. She forced a smile at her reflection, then allowed her face to return to neutral. No, she just looked tired. It’ll be fine.

She smoothed her hair back and once again stepped out of her room.

“Pathfinder, you have an incoming call from Keema Dohrgun.”

“Are you fucking kidding me?” She stepped back into her room. “Patch her through, SAM.”

“Lola, darling” Keema’s lyrical voice floated  through. It looked like she was at Tartarus. “I apologize for this call. I’m aware you’re a busy woman, but I’m afraid this is a bit a urgent.  I’ve been unable to contact Reyes. It has been three days and I am beginning to feel alarmed. I have never had an issue contacting Reyes.”

Lola sighed. Half relieved. Reyes would be ok. He has a good friend in a Keema. Half irritated with herself for being concerned about the asshole. He’s drunk, and surrounded by half naked women, he’s fine. He’s more than fine. 

“Reyes is drunk off his ass somewhere with a gaggle of groupies. He seemed to be exactly where he wanted to be. I’m sorry that’s all I know,” Lola said ending the call.“ SAM, do me a favor and block Reyes’s and Keema’s calls.”  

She left her cabin. Heading for the meeting room, Lola’s mind remained on Reyes, she pushed down the sorrow but allowed the anger to consume her.

Chapter Text

“What in the void have you done?” Keema demanded, charging into his private room at Tartarus. Reyes lifted his eyes to her. She had her hands on her hips, her eyes set intensely on his. Without a doubt, she was pissed.

“I’ve no idea what you’re referring to, Keema,” he said, his words slow and slightly slurred. His head felt heavy. His neck weak. He had no fight left in himself for Keema. Keema scoffed and opened her mouth to speak once more when her attention shifted.

“Who are these? ” Keema asked, disgust in her voice as her large eyes moved from Reyes to the three women seated on either side of him, all in various states of undress.

“Hmm?” He asked, uninterested. 

These! ” She repeated with more irritation, pointing at the women. “ Those? Who are they??”

“Oh, they are..” He looked at the women, their names slipping his mind. Did he know their names? Had he even asked? He couldn’t be sure.

“¿ Como te llamas? ” He asked the redhead on his right. She sat with her bare legs slung over his. Her hand reached up, presumably to push his hair out of his face. It was an unruly mess, had been for the last week, but that didn’t mean she could touch it. His hand shot out and grabbed her wrist, stopping her.

“No,” he said, simply, firmly. As though talking to a disobedient puppy. “Now, tell my friend your name,” he said, releasing her wrist. She frowned, returning her hands to her lap.

“I’m-”

“No.” Keema interrupted her. “I do not care what your name is.” She looked at three women once more. “I want you gone. Now. All of you.”

But the women didn’t move, instead, they continued to lull about, petting and cooing at him. The Asari reaching over to massage his neck, while the redhead went to refill his drink. Keema looked at them, eyes wide with disbelief.

“Reyes, if you do not tell your playthings to leave immediately, so help me- I’ll take that.” Keema said, swiping the drink from the Asari before she had a chance to hand it to Reyes. “You’ve had more than enough of this,” Keema said to him. She set it back down on the counter away from him.

Reyes narrowed his eyes at Keema then moved to grab a cigar, one of the three women immediately lighting it with a lighter.

“No,” Keema said, plucking it from his hand. She took a drag before snuffing it out. “This room stinks of alcohol and cigars, and whatever other substances you’ve stuffed into your body.” She looked at him pointedly. “ What are you doing, Reyes? What is going on?”

“I found women to service me, Keema. Just as you had suggested,” he said, lifting his head to her, it lulled back. Everything about him felt heavier. Full of lead, like he was made of rusted metal instead of flesh and blood.

Keema shook her head, her eyes trained on his. “This is not how I meant it and you know it.” Her eyes scanned the room. They roamed over the cornucopia of empty alcohol bottles, of varying sizes and brands, the clothing the women had left lying about in small piles about the room, his disheveled, intoxicated state. “Is this about her?”

Reyes didn’t answer. He rested his head on the seat behind him. A headache threatening to overtake him. Keema tensed her jaw and nodded to herself as though his silence was all the answer she needed.

“Ask these tarts to leave or am I going to talk about her in front of them all.” Reyes hauled his eyes back up to Keema. Torn between telling her to get the hell out, and acquiescing, he settled for the latter. Keema could be a dangerous adversary when angered badly enough. He sighed. Respect for their friendship being the only reason he hadn’t lashed out at her.  

“Sweetness,” Reyes called, motioning to one of the girls. She shot her head up and bounded over to him like an over energized bunny. He swiped at his Omni-tool, sending credits from himself to her. “Why don’t you go downstairs with the others and enjoy yourselves?” Their faces lit up like Christmas trees.

“Thank you!” They practically sang in unison before getting to their feet and exiting the room, taking small steps lest they tripped in their ridiculously high heels. They hadn’t even bothered to gather their clothing. Not that it mattered in Tartarus.

Keema’s bulbous eyes bore into him, waiting, only speaking once they were truly alone. Her expression letting him know that he was in for an earful. He sat back, getting comfortable, preparing for the inevitable harangue Keema was about to Unleash upon him. His stomach rolled from the copious amounts of alcohol and drugs he had drained into it. One of many regrets, Keema’s voice began drifting in and out.

“....you disappear for days on end,” she began pacing in front of him. “No communication with me or Kian or .... we have been going mad…. searching for you. ...I called Lola...you were with some unknown women….”

“You what?” He asked, suddenly feeling alert. Unknown women. It felt as though his center of gravity had just shifted. Keema stopped pacing.

“I called her, apparently, right after you had. You left me with absolutely no choice…” Keema’s voice faded out once more. Sounding distant, muffled. He remembered. He had called Lola. Fucking hell. The memory was blurry, but he remembered.  “... While still not alerting our men or our enemies that something was terribly wrong internally. ...You left us vulnerable and weak.” Reyes swayed slightly in his seat. What had he said to her? How much had she seen?  He pinched the bridge of his nose, closing his eyes he shook his head. The details were fuzzy. “... you show back up at Tartarus like nothing happened….drugs and sex…” Lola had hung up on him. Pain. The pained look on her face right before she ended the call. That, he remembered. “..you royally fucked up…”

He held up a hand in an attempt to silence Keema. His head was beginning to pound. He was nauseous, all the substances he ingested were threatening to make their way up and out.

“Are you done?” He asked. His voice even, careful not to betray how ill he felt himself growing.Keema stopped pacing, and narrowed her eyes at him.

“No, Reyes,” she said,  approaching him. “I’m not. I’m nowhere near done.”

He gulped down, hard, attempting to keep the rising bile down, and his wits about him.

“Not only did you ruin the one good thing you had. ..you jeopardized our whole operation!”

Reyes shook his head. That wasn’t entirely true.

“Sloane is out of the question. I made sure of that. Lola may hate me, but she has no choice but to work with me. With us. With The Charlatan. So, when she returns, you handle business with her. I’ll remain out of sight.” It pained him, but it’d be better that way. Or else he’d just find himself flirting with her again, attempting to re-draw her back to himself. “Just let me know when she is back.” He wanted to know she was ok.  Lola must’ve found the tracker he had placed in her Omni-tool because her signal had went dark weeks ago. He had no idea where she was or how she was. The tracker presented jus another reason for her to be pissed with him. A valid one, but still.

“Reyes,” Keema said, her eyes softened. She looked away and back at him, and he immediately knew something was wrong. He felt his heart beat harder in his chest. “Reyes, Lola has been in a medically induced coma for two weeks now.”

“¿ Que? ” He asked. He hadn’t heard her correctly. He couldn’t have heard her correctly. He tried to rise to his feet, to draw nearer to Keema, to hear her clearer, but his feet felt clumsy and large.

The last thing he heard was Keema shriek as he tumbled to the ground. His vision narrowing to blackness.


 

When Reyes awoke it was morning and Kadara’s sun beamed through a large window with a ferocity that felt personal. He squinted at his surroundings, grasping at his pained head. He was in a large overly ornate room, laying in a plush, overly blanketed bed. He was at Keema’s.

Pieces of the night came rushing back to him.

“Lola.”

He threw the covers off himself and climbed out of the high four poster bed, only to be swept up in a wave of intense dizziness and nausea. The room spun violently and his hand shot out to grip the nearest bed poster in a weak effort to steady himself.

“Reyes,” Keema called, sweeping into the room. “He’s awake, Kian,” she called back behind her.

Reyes reached out behind him,  grasping at the bed sheets in an attempt to straighten himself up, but before he had the chance, Keema and Kian were at his side, guiding him back onto the bed.

He shrugged them off him. “Lola. I need to -“

“Not so quickly there, laddie,” Kian said, holding him down. “You had a shitoad of substances in your system, you need time to-“

“I’m fine,” he growled.

“You will be,” Keema said. “But you’re not now.”

“I’m not asking permission,” he said, climbing out of the bed once more only to lose balance. “¡ Malparido! ,” he cursed.

“You can’t even walk, and even if ye could you wouldn’t be able to reach her,” Kian began. “You’ve been banned from The Nexus, Romeo, remember?”

“Keema..” Reyes said, turning to Keema. There were ways, there were always ways.

“We’re working on it. We think we have a solution. We would’ve had one much quicker had we not been using our resources searching for you,” she responded, shooting him a look. He’d never hear the end of it, perhaps he didn’t deserve to.

“Tell me what happened,” he demanded.

“You broke ‘er heart that’s what happened, mate.”

Reyes shot Kian a look.

“We don’t know much more than the public does. The Initiative is working overtime keeping whatever is going on private,” Keema said, perching on a pink ottoman she had stationed near the bed.

“They’re telling the public that she’s takin’ time off,” Kian said.

“The people we have stationed there, say otherwise,” Keema added.

Reyes was glad he had insisted on stationing men on The Nexus. It was paying off in ways he couldn’t have anticipated.

“They’re lying to the public,” he said. Their only Pathfinder being in a coma leaves them vulnerable. That isn’t something you’d want advertised to your enemies.  

“The coma she is in is medically induced, and it’s been two weeks..” He said, repeating what Keema had told him the other day. “Do we know why?” He asked.

Keema and Kian both shook their heads in unison. He felt his frustration growing. What good was paying people what he was paying them if they ended up failing him when he needed information the most.

“Usually a person is placed in a coma because they’re injured in some way, correct?” Keema said, “but that isn’t the case here. One of our men works in the medical station, they were able to get their hands on her medical records, scan them. You should have a copy.”

Kian brought Reyes his Omni-tool.

“She has suffered no major injuries, not so much as a bone is broken,” Keema explained. “We believe the Initiative, Tann, paid off a crooked doctor-”

“You believe they placed her in a coma for their own benefit,” Reyes interjected. Tann, that bulbous eyed, power hungry, little shit.

“We do,” Keema said.

Reyes pulled up the medical report on his Omni-tool.

Mierda. It was convoluted and pedantic. Some of it was legible, most of it was in indecipherable medical jargon, impossible for any of them to understand. He sighed loudly, immediately knowing what they’d have to do next. They had no choice. They’d have to go to Ryota for help.

“Ok, tell me what we know,” Reyes said, closing the report.

“We know she successfully reached the Kett’s flagship, but found the Salarian Ark instead. Rumor has it that she chose to save a group of Krogans over the Salarian Pathfinder.”

 Coño ,” Reyes swore. If that was true, then she acted in direct discordance with the Initiative. They would not be pleased with her.

“The media is claiming that her sympathies for The Krogan species clouded her judgement leading her to make a decision based more off emotion than logic. They are calling for some kind of severe reprimand,” Keema explained, “but the news reporting sound biased. Like The Initiative is trying to paint her in bad light.”

“Keema, give me an Omni-gel shot,” Reyes said. 

Kian and Keema exchanged looks. Keema gave Kian a short nod.

“As you wish,” Kian said, leaving the room to retrieve it.

“Get me on that ship, today.”

“It’s not that easy, Reyes,” Keema responded taking a seat near the bed.

Kian entered with the shot. Reyes took it and immediately stuck his arm with it. He couldn’t remember the last time he used Omni-gel. The serum hit him quick and hard. He passed the empty syringe back to Kian, who left once more to dispose of it.

“You’ll be paying for this later,” Keema said, referring to the syringe. An Omni-gel syringe is only to be used in extreme situations, absolute emergencies. It’s supposed to give the fatally injured a chance to make it to a medical professional. The kickback is intense. He looked around the room for his things. Rising from the bed, he went to retrieve his shirt, his jacket and gun belt.

“What’s not easy?” He asked, “You get me a false ID card, a ship under a false name. We’ve done this before, Keema.”

Keema shook her head. “They’ve changed their system. It’s no longer ID but fingerprinting.”

Contra ,” Reyes cursed, slipping his shirt back on. His muscles ached but not bad enough to slow him down. Kian re-entered the room, posting himself up against the wall.

“So what are my options?” Reyes asked

“Our people were able to find one option, one weakness in their system.”

Bueno. One is all we need,” he said, slipping his gun belt on.

“You’re not going to like it,” Kian said, a mischievous grin forming on his face.


 

Reyes waited until the dead of night to board The Nexus. There was shift change that occurred around 2 a.m. when the lesser experienced, younger Nexus workers began their shifts. They scanned his prints and waved him on without so much as batting an eye at the name that appeared on the screen.

He wasted no time and went straight to the med bay, where Lola was being held. Entering the passcode Keema had provided to him, he was given immediate entry.  The door slid open and sure enough she was alone in a private room. Tann was either over confident or a complete fool to have not posted guards outside of her room. The room itself was dark except for one small light above her bed. A heart monitor beeped endlessly beside her while tubes and wires wound their way around and into her motionless form. Still, she looked serene, even in this environment, even in that state, she looked serene.

Reyes looked around the room one last time before taking a seat on the small stool beside her. She laid there on the hospital bed, unmoving, the slow rise and fall of her chest, the only indication that she was still alive.

“Aye, Lolita,” Reyes sighed. It pained him to see her like this. More so, because it was completely unnecessary.

He placed his hand on hers, it was cold, hard. It felt nothing like the warm, soft skin he had caressed all those times. He noticed there was something shiny under her sleeve, something that caught the room’s small amount of light. Holding her hand, he pushed her sleeve up. Underneath was the bracelet. The one he had won her on her birthday.  She still had it, she still wore it. He smiled to himself, guilt consuming him. He felt his jaw tensing, his leg bouncing, he wasn’t the type to cry. Shedding tears how he grew up meant weakness. It meant being beat down, it meant you lost. Being seen shedding tears was the worst offense of all, he learned early on that anger was the only emotion he was allowed to openly feel. Which made this all the more difficult. There were things he wanted to say to her, things he wished he could properly communicate, but had simply never learned how. Still, he’d try.

“I’m sorry, Lola.” He said, pausing, attempting to gather his thoughts, put words to his emotions. “Hurting you…” He took a deep breath and exhaled loudly. This was still difficult. Talking to her, even when she couldn’t hear him. It was still difficult.

“I- Those things I said to you the day you left. The things I said to make you leave…I ... it’s... I just...” He paused, growling to himself. The words, they wouldn’t come to him. He rested his head in his hands, his fingers tangling in his hair. Had he done this more, been honest more, perhaps he wouldn’t be struggling right now.  Gathering his thoughts, he sighed loudly and lifted his head to look at her once more.

 “Lola, they weren’t true. They could never be true.. I’ve done things. Unforgivable things. Things that if you knew about - I was afraid you’d look at me differently. Everybody. Anybody else can think of me as a monster, but you,” he shook his head as though she could see him.  “Not you.  I couldn't handle it if you did. It’d make it all true if you thought it was.” He weaved his fingers through hers. The feeling of holding her hand odd without her grasping him back. 

”You’ll pull through. You’re strong, muñequita. You pull through and you give us another shot. Because …” He sighed, realizing the words were true before they even left his mouth. “ Because you’re the type of woman I could fall for.”  

No. That wasn’t right. He chuckled to himself, catching his own lie.

 “That’s not true either. Estoy enamorada. It is done.” He ran a hand through his hair. She wouldn’t rememberer this, when she woke she’d have no idea that he bared his soul to her, or at least had attempted to. Still saying it, admitting out loud, it was liberating in a way e’d never experienced before.  “I’m sure a part of me knew as much the minute I saw you. I don’t expect you to forgive me. I never did, for anything. But know, I will right this. We will get you out of here.”

He stroked her cool cheek, and moving his face closer, he laid a tender kiss on her forehead.

De ilusión también se vive.

Reyes stood up as he heard the doors of her room sliding open. He was ready for whoever was entering. At least, he had believed he was.

“Who the fuck are you?” Asked a man, entering and stepping into the light. Reyes recognized him immediately.

“Leo?” Reyes asked, unable to keep the shock from his voice. Leo had a deep tan that held the same warmth as Lola’s, his black hair was braided back on top with the sides shaved close to his head, but most telling was his eyes. Two mismatched eyes starred back at Reyes, one grey that matched Lola’s, their father’s, and one black that matched their mother’s. As if that wasn’t prominent enough, centered around Leo’s grey eye was a face tattoo, black. It enclosed his eye, tapering off as half of it strayed toward his ear, the other half strayed down his cheek.

Leo Ryder was awake.

Leo looked at Reyes, his eyes narrowing.

“Do I know you?” He studied Reyes, his eyes roaming Reyes’s face as though the answer was hidden somewhere on it. He was slightly taller than Reyes, thinner, less muscle, but fit. Leo would be able to hold his own in a fist fight.

“You’re awake.” Reyes said, he was itching for a cigar. Leo Ryder was awake and no one knew. Reyes wanted to laugh, Tann was absolutely up to no good. “Did she know? Did Lola, your sister, know?” This was a tremendous. “She was worried about you.”

“I woke up after she was already -“ Leo motioned to Lola on the bed. “- like this,” his face was pained as he looked down at her. Leo cared for his sister. Good, he’d be more likely to accept Reyes’s help.

“You don’t find that odd?” Reyes asked. Something was amiss here.  He wondered if Leo also sensed it.

Before leaving to come to The Nexus, Reyes had personally stopped by Ryota’s clinic. Needless to say, the doctor was not thrilled to see him, but time was of the essence and Reyes didn’t have time for Ryota’s questions or complaints. So, instead of forcing Ryota’s compliance, Reyes tried something different: honesty. He explained to Ryota that the Initiative had Lola in a medically induced coma, that they were hiding it from the public, and that he believed she was in need of help. Ryota was hesitant, but after Reyes provided him with the medical reports, after seeing they were genuine, Ryota acquiesced and explained them to him.

“Odd? That we basically switched places? Yea, that’s fucking -“ Leo stopped and turned his eyes away from his sister back to Reyes. “Who the fuck are you?” He approached Reyes, stood right in front of him. Reyes met Leo’s steady gaze with one of his own. The few times Lola had spoken about her brother, she gave Reyes the impression that Leo was straight laced and stiff. But seeing Leo now, hearing Leo now, he looked and sounded like he stirred up just as much trouble as his sister, if not more. “How do you know my sister?”

Reyes put his hands in his pockets. “It’s ...complicated.”

“Complicated? Can’t be that complicated. You’re here, after visiting hours, in the middle of the night. Sneaking about. Kissing my sister on her head. Yea, I saw that.” Leo’s expression went from serious to smiling. He looked almost maniacal as he took a step back from Reyes and rounded Lola’s bed.  They were staring at each other, each standing on one side of Lola. “You see, my sister,” Leo said, crossing his arms and pointing down at her. “She has a type.”

“Does she now,” Reyes asked, uninterested in the answer.

“You’re it.”

“Am I.”

“Oh yea. The type that can’t visit during normal visiting hours with the rest of her friends and family, either because they’re presence is not wanted by the others. Or. Because they simply couldn’t step foot on this ship without immediately being detained.” His eyes scanned Reyes. “Which are you?”

Reyes didn’t answer.

“You’re both. I can tell.” Leo placed his hands on Lola’s bed and leaned forward a moment, squinting at Reyes before pushing himself back and away, off the bed. He walked to the far wall, retreating to the shadows.

“Wanna know the difference between Lola and me?” Leo asked, his grey catching more light than his black one. “I look like trouble but I know how to stay out of it. Know the rules, and you know exactly where to push-,” he mimed a pushing motion, “- to bend them just enough-” he mimed bending an object, “- to get your way without doing a damn thing wrong. You get me?” After a moment, Leo smiled and nodded at Reyes knowingly. “You get me. Lola’s past boyfriends never understood that. Never understood all the damage that could be done without me actually doing anything at all.”

It was a threat, but Reyes was sure that whatever Leo was capable of, he, himself, was capable of much worse.

 Leo looked at Lola from his spot leaning on the far wall.

“Lola,” Leo shook his head, “She looks like trouble, and she is, in the sense that she never bothers to learn the rules. Just goes around breaking them. Doesn’t even know them, still manages to break them. No regard or respect for authority, rules, protocol. Just goes bopping around space doing whatever she thinks is best. The kicker? She actually cares about people.”

“And you don’t?” Reyes asked, biding his time.

“Hmmm, well, I’m more in the school of thought that the only real innocent are children. Makes my job easier.”

Reyes nodded, not moving from Lola’s side.

“You look like the fuck ‘em and leave ‘em type.”

“Normally,” Reyes said.

“Normally,” Leo chuckled, ruefully. “Wait, let me guess. You had plans to fuck and leave my sister until you got to know her ” he said, using air quotes, “and then all of your plans magically changed. And she became a real flesh and blood person, and not just a piece of ass.”

“Something like that,” Reyes responded.

“SAM?” Leo asked, seemingly speaking to the room itself. “Who is this asshole standing by my sister’s bed?”

“He would be Reyes Vidal. He was exiled during the uprising, and currently is the most prominent smuggler, and exchanger of valuable information, on Kadara,” SAM replied.

Leo raised his eyebrows, and stepped out from the shadows.

“Reyes Vidal. Of course. Liam  told me about you. You’re the fuckboy my sister got herself in trouble for.”  Leo rubbed at his chin, surveying Reyes once more. “Yea, I figured you’d make it here sooner or later. When the first week went by and no one suspicious came around, I thought to myself: this guy either isn’t as good a smuggler as people say he is, or, everyone was right and he never cared for my sister at all.”

“Why not just ask SAM?” Reyes asked, honestly wondering how much about him SAM would reveal if asked.

“Oh, I did. Didn’t I, SAM?”

“Mr. Ryder did indeed inquire about you, Mr.Vidal. Lola has had those memories locked.”

“Imagine that? My twin, keeping things from her twin.”

Mrs. Vidal is not legally required to reveal any information on her husband. According to Article 5.11 section C -“

“Wait. What?” Leo asked, holding his hands up in the air as though SAM could actually see him. Hell, maybe he could.

Nexus law states that a spouse is not under legal obligation  to -“

“No, SAM. Shut up. Stop talking,” Leo spoke to the room, his eyes not straying from Reyes.

Husband?” Leo hissed. “You’re fucking married to my sister? Her crew told me those were just rumors. Rumors that were solely confined to Kadara.”

“To the public, they are just rumors,” Reyes clarified, settling for half truths.

 Leo pinched the bridge of his nose. “Shit. I swear she’s hellbent on fucking herself over.” He settled into the seat on the opposite side of Lola’s bed. “Does Tann, know?” Leo asked lifting his head from his hand.

Tann is unaware. Even so, there would be no repercussions. There are none to be had legally. Director Tann cannot discriminate against a team member’s spouse,” SAM clarified.

“What he said,” Reyes responded. “ So, you want to tell me why you haven’t attempted to have me removed yet?”

“You’re her husband. Clearly, I’m unable to.”

“You want to tell me the real reason?”

Leo leveled his gaze at Reyes.  “SAM, are there microphones in this room?”

“There are.”

“SAM,” Reyes began. “Erase this conversation from your records, and stop recording for the remainder of my visit.”

Yes, Mr. Vidal.”

Leo looked at Reyes impressed. “SAM has to listen to you.”

“In regards to your sister, yes.”

“Good,” Leo said.

“You sense something is wrong.”

Leo looked away, folding his hands into his lap. “With her unconscious SAM should be transferred to me, but Tann, the fucker, he’s halted everything. I have no power over SAM. I have no say over what happens to my sister.”  He growled to himself, placing his heads back in his hands. “Look,” he said looking back up at Reyes. “I don’t fucking know you, and I want to be perfectly fucking clear, you and I are nowhere near done with each other, but you’re obviously a shady fuck, and I can use that right now. If you care about Lola at all, I think she needs our help.”

Reyes nodded. He opened up the terminal on his Omni-tool and sent Ryota’s notes on Lola’ medical records to Leo, as well  audio he was able to access via SAM. Leo looked at Reyes curiously and then checked his tool.  He pressed play on the audio, Lola’s voice came streaming out.

Tann. I know you don’t approve, but saving the Krogan, that was the right thing to do. After all you’ve done to them -“

“After all I’ve done to them?” Tann responded, his voice clearly frustrated, angry. “The Krogan species are a menace to society-“

“- that isn’t true.”

“- they are idiotic brutes, whose only redeeming quality is that they make excellent blunt tools! You sacrificed the Salarian Pathfinder, for useless Krogan! Their lives would never be worth hers!”

“To Raekka they were. We don’t leave the innocent behind to save ourselves, Tann -“

Tann scoffed. “- The Krogan are never innocent-”

“- Raekka knew this. She was brave and selfless, and understood the responsibility her position held-”

“AND THAT WAS WHY WE NEEDED HER!  She understood her place, her spot in this.“ Pause. “Now I continue to be left with you. And all you’ve done is prove how incapable and -“

“No! No. What you can’t stand is that I won’t fall in line. That I’m not the perfect Initiative pet that Raekka would’ve been. That I call you out on your bullshit!”

There was a silence. A long pause. Then rustling, the sound of extra people shuffling around.

“What are you doing, Tann? Who are they? Tell them to get off of me. Let go off me!”

“You know what, Ryder. You’re right. What I detest most about you is that you absolutely refuse to heel. I have a vision for this new world, and you could’ve aided in that, been the perfect tool. You have all this power at your fingertips, a super AI practically built into you, and you just refuse to comply. But I’ve been doing research-”

“Tann! No! Don’t do this!”

“- And I found a way to take back control. It won’t hurt, Ryder. Think of it as a much needed nap.”

“Tann!!”

“Do it.”

Lola screaming. Objects crashing. Then silence.

“Is it done? Good. Now get rid of Dr. P’Terro and Carlyle, and wake Leo Ryder. We’ve kept him on ice long enough. He’s always played better with others.”

The audio cut off.

Rage flowed through Reyes just as it had done the first time he had listened to this audio.

“Tann either didn’t account for SAM recording the whole audio, or he was sure destroyed it,” Reyes explained.

“It was the only way I could aid her,” SAM replied.

“We know, thank you, SAM. That recording will save her,” Reyes responded to the AI. “Read the report I sent you, it further confirms that the coma was not medically necessary.”

“Holy fucking shit,” Leo said, after taking a moment to read what Reyes had sent him. He looked up at Reyes smiling, a smile eerily similar to Lola’s. “Yea, you’re an A plus criminal, alright.” He slapped his hands together. “We are getting her the fuck out of here, then we are nailing Tann to the damn wall.”

Reyes was about to respond, explain what he believed would be the best approach, when the rooms doors slid open once more.

“Leo, I’ll watch her from here, you can go rest.” Liam said, stopping  in his tracks the minute he saw Reyes.

“What is he doing here?” Liam asked, his eyes locked on Reyes. “Leo this is the guy that-“

“That’s going to help us get Lola out of here,” Leo responded, rising from his chair.

“He’s a criminal, Leo. A liar. We can’t trust him,” Liam replied. “I guarantee you he was the one that started the rumor that they were married, it benefited him in some way that-“

“-Liam,” Leo said, his tone soft.

“Yea?”

“Liam, it wasn’t just a rumor.”

“What? What do you mean? Of course it’s just a rumor, Lola wouldn’t marry a guy like him ,” Liam said, motioning toward him. Reyes stood where he was, Leo had it under control.

“Yea, she would, Liam, and she did. She did.” Leo wrapped his arm around Liam’s shoulders, and lead him out the room.

Reyes had to admit he genuinely felt for Kosta. The only problem they had with one another was their shared interest in the same woman. Liam was probably a stand up guy, but if Reyes sat here and told them the truth, that altering her marital status without her knowledge was the only way he was able to board the Nexus without suspicion, the only way he was able to get close enough to help, or access SAM, they’d have him arrested. Whatever trust Leo was beginning to place in him would be gone. He’d be leaving The Nexus in handcuffs, and Lola would never wake up. 

The plan had sounded illogical, when Keema and Kian first relayed it to him. Changing Lola and his marital status, but after they explained it, it made sense. Reyes’s name was flagged in The Nexus system, usually that would mean all he had to do was assume a false identity, use a false ID card, but with the new system in place, a false identity wouldn’t cut it, but marriage to The Pathfinder, that would. The Collective technicians found that there wasn’t a comprehensive system set in place for new marriages in Andromeda on The Nexus yet. With the delay in the arrival of The Pathfinders and the uprising, updating the systems to contend with things like marriages and births just fell by the wayside.”It sort of glitches,” Keema explained to him.  Changing a marital status in the system ends in the two profiles being merged. As the Pathfinder, Lola’s profile holds infinitely more weight than Reyes’s, it practically absorbed his. He was immediately granted access to all she is granted access to, including the Nexus, including SAM. His past transgressions were wiped clean, as though he was granted immediate clemency. Now, when his fingerprints were scanned, no flags, no alarms, he’s the Pathfinder’s husband.

Dios , Lola was going to kill him once they finally woke her up. But she’ll kill Tann first.

Chapter Text

 Reyes patiently waited for Leo and the others to align the pieces necessary to get Lola out of here. 

To nail Tann to the wall. 

He spent the night beside her, sitting uncomfortably in a tiny plastic chair by her bedside. The constant drone of the ship’s powerful air conditioning, and the steady beep of the heart monitor lulling him into a fitful sleep, the noises performing his own personal medical themed lullaby.

Throughout his shallow sleep, he’d hear the soft swish of the room’s door sliding open. Her crew members would slinked in to peer at him from the doorway. He’d feel their eyes on him, assessing him, deciding his worth, his sincerity, and it would seem that to each inquiring member of her team, he came up lacking, as they’d leave almost as quickly as they had entered.

 Except for Peebee and Gil.

    Gil brought him a cup of coffee, black. Exactly how Reyes preferred it. 

“Lola mentioned it once,” Gil explained, as he handed Reyes the styrofoam cup.

    While Peebee popped in with a donut, leaving just as quickly as she had arrived.  

The small gestures enough for them to relay to him that they didn’t scorn him the way others did.

    Eventually, he fell into a deeper sleep that lasted him until morning.

 When he awoke, he knew his time was up.

    “You don’t look so well.” A lightly accented voice called out to him, pulling him from sleep. 

 Reyes opened his eyes to see a small redhead standing before him. Suvi. She was studying him as though he was an unknown specimen. Eyes squinted with her face nearer to his than necessary. 

    “I suppose I must look as well as I feel,” he replied, his voice hoarse, gravel on pavement. And, indeed, he felt like shit. His muscles had begun to seize and cramp, his head was splitting in pain, his vision blurred, and the nausea had returned with a vengeance.

The Medi-shot, as predicted, had finally nearly worn completely off. It was time for him to leave. “Has Leo-”

    “Yes,” Suvi said, straightening herself. “Leo has everything in place. Tann has a lot to answer for.” 

Reyes nodded. He had wanted to remain to see the whole thing through, to see her awakened with his own eyes, and to personally deal with Tann, but his body had decided otherwise. 

For once the success of an operation depended on his lack of presence, and as difficult as it was, Reyes now needed to trust that Leo would handle it, handle Tann, in a way that would best benefit Lola.

“Good,” Reyes said, forcing his body to a standing position. He blinked away his double vision. 

    “Sure you don’t wanna be here when she wakes?” Leo asked, entering the room. His eye tattoo making him look more the villain than the hero. “Or at the very least when we confront Tann?” 

    “I’m confident you have things under control,” Reyes replied, having no desire to explain to Leo that he had spent the last two weeks on a sex, drugs and alcohol binge that his body was overdue paying up for.

    Leo smirked, and rubbed at his chin. A smirk that said he knew more than he was letting on. 

Throwing a final look back at Lola, Reyes gathered himself and headed for the door. 

    “I’ll be sure to let Lola know you’re the reason we were able to wake her,” Leo said, as Reyes passed him. Reyes stopped in his tracks, they stood nearly shoulder to shoulder, facing opposite directions.

    He side glanced at Leo, their eyes locking. “That won’t be necessary.” 

    “You mean to tell me she wouldn’t be pleased to know her husband came to her rescue?” Leo paused, his sarcasm evident. He snapped his fingers, “That’s right. It’s complicated. ” 

    Reyes opened his mouth, ready to deliver measured threats of his own - 

    “We won’t tell her, Reyes. If that’s what you wish,” Suvi said, speaking up, stopping Reyes before he responded.  Her soft, lyrical voice cutting through the tension.

    Reyes nodded, his head throbbing with every movement, and left with a silent prayer to whichever god still listened, that he’d make it back to Kadara before he completely blacked out.

 


 

    Lola’s vision swam before her eyes, double of everything attempting to re-align itself into one. 

    “Where am I?” She croaked, her throat dry, her voice weak. She looked around the small brightly lit room, nothing looked familiar. 

    “Hey,” A soft voice responded. “How are you feeling?”

    It was Suvi, sitting beside her. 

    “I don’t - I don’t  know,” Lola said. She looked down at her own body, she was covered by a thin blanket, and dressed in a wrinkled, blue hospital gown. Why were there so many tubes coming in and out of her?  She went to sit up only to feel several pairs of hands on her.

    “ Don’t touch me! ” She nearly shrieked, the hands immediately releasing her. She watched as her crew exchanged concerned looks. 

 “I- I’m sorry,” Lola said. She felt her cheeks burn as she carefully scooted herself up into sitting position. Her response had been more intense than the situation called for.  

“I just don’t remember…” She ran her hands over her face. “Why am I here?” 

She looked at her crew mate’s faces. Vetra, Suvi, Peebee. Gil,  Drack, Kallo and Cora. Liam...they were all there. All staring at her. She watched as they turned to look at one another, uncertainty on all of their faces.    

    “She doesn’t remember,” Suvi whispered to Peebee.

    “How could she not remember?” Peebee whispered back.

    “I told you Lexi should have stood here,” Gil hissed.

    “She’s with Leo. They should be back any minute now,” Vetra responded.

    Wrex grunted from a corner. “All they had to do was send me in there to deal with Tann. It would’ve been over by now.”

    “They have a plan. Leo has a plan. We need to trust that he knows what he’s doing,” Cora replied, defensively.

    Leo?  Her Leo? Her brother, Leo? 

Her crew mates continued to bicker amongst themselves through tight lips and hiss like whispers, as though she couldn’t hear them. Thin smiles were glued to their faces which only served to further unnerve her.

Something was wrong. Lola’s heart sped up.

    “Leo?” She asked. “Leo’s in a coma. Why are you talking about Leo like he isn’t in a coma?”

    They all went silent at once.

    “ No! Did something happen to Leo?!”

    “No,” Cora said, approaching her bedside. “Leo is fine. In fact, he is better than fine. He’s better than he’s been in some time. You’ll see.” Lola calmed down. Cora wouldn’t lie about Leo’s condition. If Cora said he was fine, he was fine. 

    “Lola, how much do you remember? About why you’re here?” Suvi asked from the small chair beside her. Suvi always had a calming energy about her, Lola always appreciated that. She felt that steady energy, even now. 

    “I…” Lola trailed off, racking her brain. What was the last thing she remembered? 

It hit her.

    “ Tann ,” she said, her eyes growing wide. “Tann. I remember Tann. His men, they grabbed me. They- they had injected me with something. I couldn’t use my biotics. It was punishment. He was upset I let Raekka die and chose the Krogan…” She remembered, she remembered it all. She grabbed Suvi’s arm.  “We have to leave! Tann has lost his mind. He’s on a warpath. We have to go. We have to-,” She stopped. She heard herself, she sounded panicked, hysterical, but she was the only one. Her team looked calm. She had missed something. There was something she wasn’t getting. Something they haven’t told her.

    “What?” She asked, once more searching their faces. 

Liam sighed, heavily from the corner of the room.  “Not telling her isn’t doing her any favors.” He looked disgruntled, like he wanted to be anywhere but there. “Lola, You royally pissed Tann off. He placed you in a coma. Woke your brother up to replace you and was, basically,  just making a huge play for power.”

“SAM?” She asked.

“I am afraid, Mr. Kosta is telling you the truth,” SAM spoke from her Omni-Tool.

Lola inhaled a shaky breath. “How- how long has it been, SAM? How long have I been out?”

Sixteen days, exactly ,” SAM replied. 

Lola took a sharp inhale, her world tilting off its axis. 

Sixteen days.  

 Everyone’s face confirmed that it was true. All of it. Nothing but grim looks filled the room. 

“And, Leo?” Lola asked. “You said Tann woke him?”

“Yea,” Liam responded. “He should be-”

“Hey lil’ sis,” Leo called, from the doorway, a huge smile on his face. “It’s about time you joined the party.”

 


 

Seeing Leo up and about was a confusing  mixture of joy and surrealism. After living close to a year without him, little details such as how he walked, like he was never in a rush, or how he tugged on his ears when he was nervous, were almost forgotten. But for however odd it was for her, it must’ve been doubly odd for him, to awake and find she had taken his place in the medical unit. 

“So, the coma wasn’t medically necessary for you either?” Lola asked, from beneath the Nomad. Once Lexi had assured Leo that Lola was stable enough to move, and Leo had assured everyone that matters with Tann had been handled, they had all retreated back to the safety of The Tempest and departed from The Nexus. She was supposed to be taking it easy but she couldn’t stay still. She felt incredibly anxious and unsettled. 

 Leo passed her a wrench. She had no idea what she was doing, but tinkering underneath the huge vehicle somehow made her feel better. 

“It was, at first,” Leo responded. He began pacing the cargo bay. “But Tann kept me under much longer than needed. Apparently, your medical records weren’t the first he had ever forged. Seemed having one Ryder twin wreaking havoc was more than enough for him.” 

“I didn’t wreak havoc,” Lola mumbled from her spot beneath the Nomad. She had been screwing and unscrewing the same bolt for the last twenty minutes. 

“That’s not what those reports I read said.”

Great. So he’s read the reports. 

“So, Tann gets pissed,” Lola continued, eager to stay on subject. “-puts me under, wakes you up to take my place as The Human Pathfinder but-”

“But finds that SAM won’t transfer from you to me,” Leo said. She heard some crashing, Leo’s face then popped up beside her as he slid underneath the Nomad to join her. A ridiculous grin on his face. 

Ryder had not perished. I had no reason to transfer, ” SAM said, speaking from the ship’s speakers. 

Leo’s grin turned into a frown. “Does he do that often?” 

“You’ll get used to it,” she said, waving her hand dismissively. 

“Yea, nah, I’d rather not,” he said, staring at the underbelly of The Nomad. 

“So, SAM is stuck with me…” she prompted.

“Right. And Tann can’t  kill you. That would’ve raised too much suspicion, but more importantly it’d mean losing your unique SAM.”

“Yea, my SAM and I are stuck together..indefinitely.”

Leo hummed, his eyes studying her. He clicked his tongue. “Right, so,  Tann is stuck. I’m stuck. Can’t be the Human Pathfinder without a SAM.”

“So, you sense something is wrong, and dig around and find out that I was forced into a coma?”

“No, no. Not exactly,” Leo tugged at his ear, a nervous tick of his. “I mean I couldn’t dig around, I  couldn’t access anything without SAM. I had no credentials, no authority over SAM…”

“So how did you find out, Leo?” Lola asked, placing the wrench down. She sensed that this was the key information they had been avoiding telling her all along. The thing that would tie this altogether for her. “Leo. How did you find out there was foul play?”

“I didn’t. Someone else did.” Leo said, sliding out from beneath the Nomad. 

Lola followed. 

“Shit. Fucking Suvi made me promise not to say anything,” he said, he had begun pacing again. Lola’s eyes following his frantic movements.  “Fuck it. It was Reyes.” Leo said, throwing his hands up in the air.

 Lola felt her heart stop. She got to her feet.  There was fresh anger blazing in Leo’s eyes. 

“But what, were we all supposed to pretend like we don’t know you eloped with a shady exile? As though, it’s something you wouldn’t do?” He scoffed, and shook his head. “Though, I suppose in the end it saved your life.”

Lola stood silent. Her mind working out the information Leo had just given her. 

Reyes. Eloped.

“What? You’ve got nothing to say for yourself?” 

“You think I married Reyes Vidal?” Lola asked, confusion enveloping her.

“I don’t think, we know-”

“-This doesn’t make sense”

 “- your official records show it, Lola! Don’t deny it. He confirmed it himself, when he showed up in the medical unit.”

“The marriage gave him access to me…” She said, finally understanding.

“As your husband, he has your credentials, Lola. He’s able to easily access SAM.” 

SAM.

Of course. Realization dawned on her, it was never about her. 

She felt like she was going to be sick.

“Do you know how dangerous that is, Lola?” He asked.

She did. She absolutely did.

 “Upon marrying him, you immediately gave him full access to everything you have access to. Once that marital status was updated on The Nexus system-” Leo clapped his hands, rubbing them together dramatically as though washing them clean, “- it was over. The power you’ve handed to him.” Leo shook his head. “He’s a damn smuggler! Did you even think it through, or did you just get so damn drunk that the safety of everyone on The Nexus just completely ceased to matter?”

That wasn’t fair. “You know I barely drink.”

He grunted. “I know that the few times you have drank in the past, you ended up making shitty decisions.” He paused. “ Like the time you snuck away while on duty to meet him.”

Lola’s eyes shot to Leo’s. His single grey eye seemed to be burning with more fury than his black one. “So, you really did it, huh. You really went and wedded a criminal?” His eyes roamed her face as though answers laid just beneath her skin.  “Lola, did he do something? Did he force you or ..I don’t know access records without your consent. Because if he did, we could lock him away, Lola. And I mean, for good. He’d rot behind bars. Exile or not. The Initiative still holds some authority over him. They’re itching to get their hands on him. Just say the word, we’ll go right now and get him. Make him answer for everything. Everything he’s ever smuggled. Stole. Accessed without the proper consent.  You’ll never have to see him again.”

Fear gripped her. The meds he stole from The Nexus was enough for them to seek to execute him. They’d make an example out of him. Images of Reyes’s body hanging like the Kett’s  outside of Kadara Port flooded her mind. No. That was too cruel. They wouldn’t do that, would they? Did she want to take the chance of finding out? 

Reyes’s smug smile, his firm touch, his honeyed voice...it flashed in her mind. She had fallen for him, a long time ago she had fallen for him. She couldn’t implicate him.

Lola tore her eyes away from her brother. “No, Leo. I - you’re right,” she looked back at him. Her gaze even. “I eloped. It was quick and I was sober. It was spontaneous and I wasn’t thinking of what it meant as far as SAM was concerned. I just- I just wanted to be with him. Nothing else mattered.”

Leo’s face changed, disgust. He was looking at her with utter disgust.  “I guarantee you, Vidal was absolutely thinking of what it meant as far as SAM was concerned. You just handed a smuggler access to all the information SAM has to offer and constant access to you, The Human Pathfinder. The only Pathfinder. Should’ve just fucked him and called it a day,” Leo finished, and headed for the doors. “ You know,” he called over his shoulder. “He didn’t even stay to ensure you were ok when we woke you. A real winner you chose there.”

Leo was trying to hurt her. He wanted to, her punishment for the poor decisions he believed she had made. 

Lola blinked, quickly wiping the tears as they fell.  “Wait, Leo. I want to talk to Tann,” she said, stopping him.

He turned, and walked back to her. “ No . You don’t get to talk to Tann. I already handled it.”

“Why not? You handled it? Handled it how?” She sniffled, willing the tears to stop, to at least wait until she retreated to her quarters before they fell.

He looked down at her. “I got you your freedom. You’re no longer obligated to answer to Tann or The Initiative for the decisions you make.”

“I’m not The Pathfinder?”

“Oh, you’re still The Pathfinder. You have SAM, you have no choice but to be The Pathfinder. I just forced Tann to climb out of your ass, meaning your actions will no longer face any punishments or negative repercussions from The Initiative. The public, however still holds their own opinions on your actions, we can’t control that, but other than nasty news reports-” He shrugged. “You’re free.”

No. She didn’t care about that. Tann abused his power, he assaulted her. He needs to answer for that.  Why hadn’t Leo asked her what she wanted? “I want to talk to Tann.” She repeated,her voice firm. “I need to talk to him. I deserve the chance to say what I need to say after what he’s done.”

“Maybe, but you don’t get to have it. Part of the deal was that he doesn’t want to see you. “

“Why does he get any say after what he did?!” Lola asked, she was practically yelling now.

“Because the man’s not an idiot, Lola. The same way we had shit on him, he had shit on you.”

Lola took a step back, away from her brother, as though needing more room to breathe. “Shit on me? What shit could he possibly have on me that would be half as bad -“

Leo rubbed at is temples, his eyes straying to the door. He was done with this conversation. “I’m tired, Lola. I don’t have time to explain your own fuck ups to you.”

Lola recoiled like she had been slapped.

“We had the upper hand, but not by much. I worked with what we had.” He sighed, looking at her. “Look, if I was you. I’d be more worried about my crew than Tann.”

“My crew?”

“Yea, they don’t trust you. You are now the leader of a crew that questions your honesty and loyalty. Congrats, Mrs.Vidal .”


 

News spread across Andromeda like wildfire of the second Ryder twin’s awakening:

  Leo Ryder Joins His Twin Lola Ryder OnThe Tempest. 

 Ryder Twins: Re-united. 

Leo Ryder Awakes After A Near Year Long Sleep. 

  Together, they began carving out human settlements and activating vaults quicker than ever. To the world, they were one solid, functioning team but on The Tempest, they were anything but. 

The fallout with her crew had been swift.  They had iced her out. Communication was limited to talks that pertained to the Initiative, Kett, or missions. Overnight she had become the enemy, and Leo had become her liaison. 

“Can you ask the others if they plan on eating tonight?”She asked Leo when she found him in the hallway.  She rubbed at her eyes, she hadn’t been sleeping well. She had been plagued by insomnia, only to have horrible nightmares when she actually did manage to fall asleep. She was tired, and despondent. She felt ragged.

Leo gave her a blank stare.

“It’s my turn to cook, Leo.”

“Oh, yea, about that…” He tugged at his ear,

“Are you shitting me? They won’t even eat my food anymore? What am I going to do, poison them?”

“They just need more time, sis.”

“It’s been two months! How long? How long are they going to ostracize me?!” She felt like she was going mad, whatever it was they believed she deserved, she didn’t deserve this.

Leo shook his head. He couldn’t answer that, though right now he was infinitely closer to her team than she was.  During the past two months he had made a place for himself within her team. They had begun looking to him as the unofficial second in command. It was more than clear to Lola that they’d wished him to be leading, rather than her. 

Leo had even begun dating Cora, much to Lola’s chagrin. 

“You said you’d talk to them for me. They respect you, they’ll listen to you if you tell them I’m not the enemy.”

“I heard you made some changes while we were in Elaaden.”

Lola looked at him blankly. “Leo, focus.”

“Cut your hair. Got new ink.”

She shrugged, not wanting to discuss it. After successfully activating the vaults on Elaaden, her team had went to a bar to celebrate; Uninvited, Lola had went off on her own. 

“You could’ve came.”

“I wasn’t invited.”

“I’m here, Lola. Wherever I’m welcomed, so are you.” Leo peered down the hall before grabbing her arm, and leading her into the galley. “More importantly, why haven’t you spoken to Reyes?”

“I don’t- I don’t understand the question,” She replied, fidgeting with the ends of hair.

“You risked everything to be with a man you’re not even talking to?” He shook his head. “It makes no sense. We can all see that it makes no sense. You want me to tell them they can trust you? I don’t even know what the hell is going on with you.”

Lola looked at him in disbelief. “You don’t trust me either.” 

“Look, I don’t think you’re selling Initiative information to an information broker or anything like that-“

“- is that what they think?” Lola asked, eyes wide. “That I’m selling information to Reyes?”

“- but. I do think you’re hiding something. And I do think that whatever it is you’re hiding is in his best interest, and not yours.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” she said, shifting her gaze back to  a split end.

“Then why haven’t you spoken to him?”

“What are you watching me?” She asked, looking up at him.  “How would you know if I spoke to him or not?”

“You haven’t stopped to visit him on Kadara.”

“Yea, because stopping to visit a man no one approves of will certainly win me points.”

Leo narrowed his eyes at her. He bent down to look her directly in her eyes. “Why are you lying to me?”

Lola turned to leave the galley. She had suddenly lost her appetite. 

“You want my opinion?” He asked, after she had walked past him. “I think visiting Kadara would help.”

“Bullshit.”

“Could it get any worse, Lola? At least show them you risked it all for someone you actually care about. Unless,  of course, you didn’t…”

Lola looked him in the eye, meeting his challenge. “Fine,” she said. 

“And talk to Liam.”

Liam? Liam hated her. At least the others would make eye contact with her, Liam wouldn’t even look at her. He didn’t want to talk to her. She didn’t want to make him. 

“I don’t want to talk to Liam-”

“Good,” Liam said, walking into the galley. He walked past her to grab an apple. “‘Cuz I don’t really feel like talking to you either.” He tossed the apple up into the air, caught it, and left. 

Lola could’ve died. Zapped herself into oblivion if her own biotics could actually damage her. 

Her brother shook his head. “You and your mouth.”  Leo followed Liam out. 

Lola slammed a cabinet door close. “Fuck!” She cried.

“Bad day, Mrs. Vidal?” Cora asked, walking in. A smug grin on her face.

Lola was not in the mood. 

“Oh, go fuck yourself, Cora. Or better yet, go fuck Leo. Maybe you two humping will dislodge that stick you have stuck up your ass.”

With that Lola left. 


 

Lola walked into her room, exhausted, flustered, and ready to be alone, only to find Liam sitting on her couch. She stopped, surprised by his presence.

“I thought you didn’t want to speak to me,” she said, shoving her hair behind her ears.

“I don’t,” he replied. “But Leo insisted.”

“Ok,” she said, choosing her words carefully. She sat down on the couch with him,  leaving plenty of room between them. If he didn’t want to talk to her, he certainly didn’t want to be near her. 

“Liam, I-“

“Look, Lola. I didn’t come here for empty apologies or weak explanations -“

“Ok...,” Lola said, feeling a little taken aback. 

“I just want to know one thing.”

“Alright.” She sat up, steeling herself. 

He looked her in the eye. His normally open brown eyes, hard and distant. 

“Did you, or did you not, sleep with me while being married to Vidal?”

Lola swallowed.  “I-” Lola quickly did the math. 

Fuck .

“Cuz,” he continued. “I’m having a difficult time believing you’d do that. I know I had been the one that had insisted, but if I had known...Why would you keep that to yourself? I mean, I know why. No one would have approved, no one does approve. But in that situation, that specific moment when we were together, alone,  why you’d allow me to believe I had a chance…” He trailed off, shaking his head. He looked to his hands. “You knew how I felt about you, yea?”

Felt. Past tense.

“I made that clear, yea?” Liam continued. 

Lola looked at the ground. She nodded. She did know how he felt. He had made it clear. 

“I’m sorry,” she said, her voice a near whisper.

“Lola, if he did something..” Lola looked at Liam. He sounded so much like her brother. “If he in someway forced you or altered information without your consent ... we can fix it. We can make him answer for it.”

“Why does everyone think the worst of him?”” She said, suddenly feeling defensive over Reyes.

Liam stared at her. “Maybe because he has consistently shown us nothing but the worst of himself?”

“And if you’re wrong? If there’s more to him than that?”

“I don’t understand the question, Lola. If you’re married to him shouldn’t you know for a fact whether or not we are wrong? Shouldn’t you be able to argue it? Defend him?” Liam shook his head. “You really are hopeless when it comes to him.”

“He saved me.”

“His access to SAM saved you. And that’s not really it, is it? Because he bounced before you were even awakened. Leo did the work, Leo did the bartering, Leo had you woken up. All Reyes did was deliver information. Which is pretty much all he ever does.”

“But-“

Liam looked at her exasperated. “We all know why he did it, why don’t you?”

“Why?” 

“Because access to a Pathfinder in a coma is useless. You’re useless to him if you’re not up and around collecting data, Lola.”

“You’re saying all he sees in me is a human data collector. Someone to use and throw away.”

Liam looked down at her. “I’ll tell you what, I doubt he sees you as I did.”

Lola swallowed, refusing to cry. “And now?”

“Now, I don’t even know who you are. But hey, maybe I never did. Maybe I was just always seeing what I wanted to see. I certainly didn’t see a woman that would use me for a quick lay just because ...what? She was mad at her husband?”

Lola winced. “I didn’t-“

“But you did, Lola. You did.” He waved a hand at her dismissively. “Whatever. I’m done.”


 

Lola spent the majority of their journey back to Kadara holed up in her quarters. Occasionally, Gil or Peebee would pop in, but they never stood long, lest they got caught fraternizing with the enemy.

“For what it’s worth, I don’t think he did for information,” Peebee said, during a late night visit. She sat beside Lola on her bed, stroking her hair.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about, Peebee.”

“Lola, if you had eloped, I would have been the first person you told. Me. Non-judgemental, accepting, open minded Peebee.”

It’s true. She would’ve. Getting married is not information Lola would have been able to successfully keep to herself. 

“I don’t tell you everything, Peebee.”

Peebee rolled her eyes. “ Sure you don’t.” She climbed off the bed. “Fine, play it that way. But I mean it, I don’t think he was seeking access to SAM, and I don’t think he’s using you. He’s shady, yea, but he isn’t the devil. I, personally,  think he cares about you.” Peebee shrugged, traipsing out. “Talk to him when you get there, Lola. You gave up everything to protect him. You obviously care about him, you might as well talk to him.”

“ETA to Kadara: thirty minutes, Pathfinder,” SAM said.

“Alright thanks, SAM.”

Lola had no plans to visit Reyes, but she did plan on getting very, very drunk. After all, Umi owed her a drink or two.

 

   

   

 

Chapter Text

Reyes stepped off the lift that brought him up from Kadara’s slums. His steps quick, as he headed for Kralla’s Song. 

Darkness had already engulfed their make-shift city allowing the neon signs to take center stage; Kadara’s very own artificial, glaring stars. 

Reyes reached into the back of his pants and pulled out his revolver to double check the chamber. Full.  Kadara Port may be a cease fire zone, but Sloane’s authority was the least of his concerns. He returned the piece back to the rear band of his dark jeans and re-covered  it with his shirt. 

 He walked into Kralla’s song, its harsh lighting causing him to squint. It was irritatingly bright, cramped, and ridiculously loud, but even in the throng of drunken, stumbling patrons, he didn’t see Lola. 

Where the fuck was she?

He went straight to the counter, where Umi stood tending bar.

 “Where is she?” 

“Who?” Umi asked, cleaning her counter, pouring drinks, placing her focus on anyone and everything but him. This was a normal habit of hers, to outright ignore those she should be attending to. She was ‘angry Umi’. Always bitter. Bartending merely because she was good at it, not because it was something she desired to do, and it seemed important to her that people understood the difference. 

“Lola. Where the fuck is she?”

Umi’s eyes finally slid to his, amusement coloring her face. “Oh, Ryder? Your wifey?” She leaned on the counter. “Tell me, are you two really hitched because-”

Reyes slammed his hands down on the counter, the hollow sound of metal being struck ringing out loudly, startling Umi. He rarely needed to repeat himself, and this interaction was only serving to remind him why he detested dealing with people. Like Umi’s bartending skills, handling people was something Reyes was good at, a means to an end, not something he desired to do. 

“Umi, I’m not asking again. Where the fuck is she?” With his palms placed flat on the counter, he leaned forward, toward her, almost wishing that she’d fuck with him once more.

Umi studied him, than held her hands up in defeat. “Alright, no need to get all nasty. She left with two human men-”

Reyes’s Omni-tool beeped. He held a hand up silencing Umi.  It was a Nav-point. SAM was letting him know where Lola was. It was right around the corner, not far at all. He turned on his heel, leaving just as quickly as he had come, entering back into Kadara’s muggy, inky night. With his boots beating on the metal ground, he rounded the port’s corner, immediately spotting three shadows ambling a few meters ahead.

“Don’t fucking touch me,” a woman’s voice pierced through the night, breathy but authorative. 

Lola.

Two male voices laughed in response. They were grabbing her, dragging her down the dark alley.

“I thought she was biotic.” One said, the shorter of the two.

“Umi’s drinks could take down a horse,” a gruff voice responded. 

“Let her go,”  Reyes growled out. His hand tightened around the handle of his gun. 

They turned to face him. Lola was practically limp, struggling to stand on her own, her body glowing blue on and off in rapid succession like a short circuiting light bulb. The bastards had one of her arms draped around each of them.

“Who the fuck are you?” The larger of the two spat. His voice the sound of gravel in a blender, his face no better. 

“Motherfucker!” The smaller one screeched, a look of shock on his pale face. He released Lola from his grasp, “The bitch zapped me!” Without missing a beat, he raised his hand, and brought it down across her face. Her head snapped violently to the side and she fell to her knees. Had she not been so intoxicated, she could have blown them away with a twitch of finger. 

In a blink of an eye, Reyes had his revolver under the man’s chin, the pressure of the barrel forcing his head back while Reyes held the man steady by the scruff of his fat, greasy neck.

“Chill man! We’re cool,” The guy said, holding up his hands, though he was shaking. “We know how to share.” 

Reyes pulled the trigger.

 The man’s head immediately snapped back as his body tumbled over backward.

The taller one tried to make a run for it. Reyes waited for a moment, wanting the runner to build up false hope, to believe he actually had a chance of escape, before raising his gun and shooting him in the back. The body fell over with a dull, hollow thud. 

Puta,” he mumbled under his breath as he placed his gun back in his pants. He spat on the lifeless body next to him, before turning to Lola and bending down beside her. She laid hunched over on the cold steel ground, curls covering her face. This amazing woman he had come to know, and admire, was now laying on Kadara’s muck filled metal ground. He reached over to remove her hair from her face. She flinched at his touch, and shocked him. A strong wave of electricity moved off her into him through the floor grates, he gritted his teeth at the pain, but didn’t move from his spot beside her. 

“Reyes.” Covered in a hazy blue glow she looked up through the dark curtain of curls. After a moment the glow completely disappeared and the waves of electricity ceased. “ What are you- how did you find me?”

“I’ll always find you when you need me, Lola.”

Her gaze softened, her head swayed. “I don’t feel well.” Her words came out slow, heavy.

Aye, Lolita.” He sighed, relief flooding through him. If SAM hadn’t sent him that Nav-point. If he had arrived a little later... Despite his desire to elevate the life of those in Kadara, Reyes had never felt the need to protect a singular person, until he met Lola, and the intensity of such feelings alarmed him. 

He touched her chin, lifting her face into the light of one of the many neon signs that dotted Kadara Port. 

A dark bruise had already begun blooming on her cheekbone where she had been struck. He ran his fingers over it causing her to flinch for a second time. It looked bad. He regretted killing her assaulters. It had been an easier way out than they deserved, and had only left a mess of bodies his people would have to clean up.

“We can’t stay here,” he said as he picked her up, carrying  her as a husband would a bride. She didn’t fight him, though it seemed she’d be unable to even if she wanted to. He looked down at her in his arms. She looked exhausted, her combat suit was dirty and torn. She had no weapons, no guns. Whatever she was doing here, it wasn’t work. So, what she doing here at this time? And why was Leo not doing a better job looking after his sister? Though if he had time to think better of it, Reyes would’ve realized how unfair that question was. Lola did as she wanted, when she wanted. 

“Reyes, no. I can walk.” Though she made no moves to try.

The Pathfinder is in an extreme inebriated state, and should not be left without supervision,” SAM said.

“Sshut up, SsAM,” Lola slurred, her voice rising. 

I am also picking up traces of the drug called Oblivion in her system.”

“Shit,” Reyes muttered under his breath. Fucking Sloane. She was nothing more than a glorified drug lord, a stain on Kadara Port he was close to wiping clean. Lola had retrieved the formula from Sloane’s camp, but it hadn’t done much good. The drug still flooded the streets. 

“Ffucking assholes drugged my drink?! That, I did not  know. Thank you, SsAM” She said, wrapping her arms around Reyes’s neck, she rested her head on his shoulder. Her body felt limp in his arms, it was disconcerting.

“SAM?” Reyes asked, sure that the AI was still under marital obligations to respond to him. 

Yes, Mr. Vidal?” SAM’s voice carried clearly through her Omni-tool.

“Does she need medical attention?” He began walking toward The Tempest, ready to deliver her to Lexi if need be.

No, Mr. Vidal. With rest and proper hydration, she should be better by morning,” SAM replied. 

Ok, so this could have been worse.

 It had been months since he last saw her. There was so much he desired to ask her that she was in no condition to answer. 

After he had left her in the medical unit on The Nexus in order to seek medical attention of his own, he had not heard again from any of them. Not Leo, nor her. It wasn’t long after he had returned to Kadara that news broke across Andromeda about the second Ryder twin being awake. Videos of Lola and Leo together flooded the news streams. He had expected Lola to come kicking in his door demanding an explanation as to why she was now ‘Mrs. Reyes Vidal’, but days came and went without that ever occurring. Time went on, and slowly, Leo’s new presence became old news as the re-united Ryder twins went on to activate vault after vault, and settled new homes for mankind all across Andromeda. So much time had passed that it got to the point where Reyes began wishing that Lola would come back to Kadara yelling and swinging at him, if only so he could see her in person again. He had spent his time and energy focusing on The Collective, strengthening their weak areas, and recruiting more members. The time was quickly approaching when he’d have to make a final move onto Sloane’s territory. He needed to be ready, so, he also spent time on himself. Lessening his whiskey consumption and quitting cigars altogether. But in all honesty, all he was doing was killing time, waiting until the moment he finally got to see her again, maye as a slightly better man than she had last seen. Seeing her now, hundreds of questions ran through his mind. How much had they told her? How much had they kept from her? But one question stuck out above the rest:

“Why contact me, SAM?” Reyes asked.

The Pathfinder explicitly asked me not to contact anyone from The Tempest. You are not from The Tempest, you are her spouse, and the first to be contacted when she is in peril,” SAM responded.

Reyes nodded to himself, he had suspected as much. He had assumed she would have gotten the marriage annulled just as swiftly as she had learned of it, but apparently, their marital status remained active. 

“I can’t. Go back like this.” She said, her eyes closed as she leaned on him. “Leo would nnnever let it go.” She didn’t need to ask, he was already changing direction and carrying her to the one place he knew she’d be safe outside of The Tempest: his. 

 

 


 

 

    He grasped at her chin, turning her head to the side, surveying the bruise on her cheek as she sat on his kitchen counter. It was odd, now that they were alone, together, in the flesh, he felt nervous, which was unlike him. Somehow, this all felt like new territory. There wasn’t much he could do about the bruising, he didn’t carry medi-gel, but he could treat the wound she had there the old fashioned way. Her skin had split angrily where she had been struck, leaving a painful looking gash. 

    “You were reckless,” he said, knowing immediately that it was the wrong thing to say, but failing to think of anything better.

    She scoffed. “Are you really one to lecture me on recklessness?” She asked, her words coming out clearer than earlier, though they now contained an edge of bitterness he had never heard from her.

    “Who better than someone who excels at it?” He dabbed at the wound with an alcohol pad, causing her to recoil. Her lovely face screwing up in a wince. He waited, giving her a moment to relax. She sniffed, then allowed him to continue cleaning her wound, his fingers still on her chin. 

Her grey eyes took in her new surroundings, giving him a chance to take her in. She looked the same, with her curls haphazardly piled on top of her head, and her grey eyes lined in the same dark kohl, her lips lightly painted in the same rouge, her skin the dark tan that reminded him of home; she felt the same, warm and soft; her scent was even unchanged, that same specific mixture of exotic flowers and fruit. But in all the sameness, something was different. Something important had changed. Shifted. And perhaps not for the better.

       “This isn’t your apartment,” she said. 

      “It is.” He patted her leg, signaling he was done. “I relocated some time ago. I needed …”

    “Change.” She completed his sentence, her tone sad, wistful. Had she wished for some change herself? What exactly had occurred after she awoke? She slid off his counter, her leather combat suit squeaking as it glided across the smooth surface. Landing on the floor, she lost her footing and swayed in place. Reyes went to steady her, but she held out her hand, indicating she needed no help. She didn’t want him touching her more than he had to, or so it seemed. She looked around once more, her grey eyes containing a sadness he’d never seen before.

    “Thanks for…” She motioned to her wound, her nails were shorter than he remembered them, though still black. “I’m feeling a little better so I’m just going to…” she started heading for the door. The heels of her boots clicking softly on his kitchen tile.

    Reyes’s gaze followed her, suspicion and concern rising in his chest. “You were just drunk and high off your ass, how do you suddenly have your wits…” he trailed off.

 Of course. 

“You still allow SAM to do that?” He asked, his knuckles anxiously rapping out a rhythm on the kitchen counter she had just been sitting on. Why? Why must she be so reckless?  He did his best to keep the anger, the frustration out of his voice. Because what right did he have to judge, after the way Keema had found him?

    “SAM’s gotten better at it,” she said, her eyes sliding to the floor, she rubbed at her neck..guilt? “Practice makes perfect, right?” She added with a weak smile before turning back to the door, ready to leave without so much as a goodbye. 

    “SAM, at what percentage is Lola currently functioning at?” Reyes asked.

    Lola turned to him, a sudden inferno ignited behind her eyes. “Don’t you dare-”

    “She is currently functioning at about 50% her normal mental and physical capacity,” SAM replied.

    Reyes approached where she stood by his door. Her fists and jaw were clenched, her eyes set unwavering onto his. She looked like she wanted to strike him, and he couldn’t help but feel how he did each time she showed anger toward him, that even pissed, she looked beautiful. 

    “So, there are still traces of Oblivion and alcohol in her system, impeding her senses. Despite your efforts to accelerate re-balancing her, correct?”

    “SAM do not answer him!”

    “Correct, Mr. Vidal. Flushing the substances out of her system will take some time. I do not wish to render her unconscious as I had done in the past. Right now, she is still fairly intoxicated,” SAM replied.

    “I’m leaving now,” she said, reaching for the knob, but Reyes’s hand shot out, pressing against the door, stopping her.

    “Reyes-” 

    “Lola, you are not well enough to wander the streets of Kadara Port at night, alone. You’re still The Pathfinder, people still detest you here. You are intoxicated. SAM just confirmed that you’re not well enough to defend yourself should something happen.”

    She released the knob and turned to him. They were close, standing beside one another by his door.

    “I am not going to wander the streets Kadara Port in the middle of the night,” she said, looking up at him, her cool grey eyes holding heat he hadn’t known they could contain. “I’ll go to an Inn. I have credits, I have authority.  I’ll be fine.”

    “And if someone attacks you?”

    “Why would-”

    She knew better, he knew she knew better. She was being unreasonably stubborn. He grasped her chin and turned her head so her injured cheek faced him. He arched an eyebrow at her. See? He said silently. If it happened once, it could happen again.

  She wrenched her face away from him. 

    “Move your hand from the door, before I make you,” she said. Reyes looked at her, stifling a chuckle.

    “You don’t believe I can take you,” she said, her eyes searching his face. 

    “I never said that,” he said, shaking his head. He knew she couldn't take him, but that was beyond the point. “Stay here, Lola. Sleep it off. I have actual rooms now, not a studio. I’ll stay on the sofa-”

    Lola shocked his hand before he had a chance to finish, it stung but the surge was weak, inconsistent. He removed his hand from the knob,  but only to block her incoming swing. Her movements were slow and sloppy. It took no effort for him to grab her wrists, essentially immobilizing her. That’s when she decided to release a verbal onslaught of curses ...in Spanish. He pushed her up against the wall, pinning her arms above her head, forcing her to remain still. 

    “Since when do you curse in Spanish?” He asked, mildly amused. Mildly aroused.

    “I can curse in three different languages, Vidal,” She tilted her head back to look at him, her chin held up defiantly, curls had fallen lose around her face and Reyes was sure this was the absolute worst time for him to be turned on.

    “Surely, that’s something a husband would know about his wife,” she finished. Her eyes locked on his. She was daring him to deny it, to deny his knowledge of their marriage, or perhaps deny the existence of it altogether.

    He smirked.

How had they told her? Had they mentioned it the minute she was awakened? Hey, Lola, your asshole husband came to visit you. It was probably more: How could you go behind our backs and marry him? How much hell had they given her? One thing was certain, she hadn’t denied it. If she had told her brother or her crew mates, that she had never agreed to marry him, the Nexus authorities would have hunted him down and detained him weeks ago. He was still a free man. They were still married. So, she hadn’t denied it, which means she had lied. Was she attempting to protect him? If so, what had it cost her?

    He released her wrists. “Go.” He tilted his head toward his bedroom. “There’s a bathroom in there. Shower, go to bed.”

    He watched her walk away from him, her eyes lingering on his, her steps silent on his plush carpet. 

He placed a hand on the wall in front of him and exhaled. 

That could’ve gone better.

 He smoothed back his hair, and turned to head toward his living room, only to find Lola staring at him from outside his bedroom’s door. Her arms crossed and hip cocked out, her hair had been turned loose and flowed exactly how he remembered it, but also differently. He felt himself hold his inhale.    “You’ve cut your hair.”   It no longer fell past her waist, but now just slightly past her breasts. It looked good. She looked good. The lost inches allowed the rest to spring more, her curls were more defined than ever.

    “I needed change,” she said. They stood for a moment, looking at one another from opposite sides of the room. The air electric with energy of uncertainty. Despite her anger with him, she was still attracted to him, he was sure of it. 

    “Are you-” he cleared his throat, nerves not being something he was used to. “Is there something your missing in the room?”

    She turned, giving him her back. “I can’t unzip this suit myself,” she said, looking at him from over her shoulder. 

    Reyes approached her, promising himself his hands would complete the task at hand only, and stray no further. She gathered her hair and held it up, revealing the zipper for him, not that he needed any help locating it. Placing a hand on the zipper and one at her collar of her suit, he began unzipping. 

    “Surely, you don’t have someone help each time when you’re on your ship.”

    She shrugged. “Gil. Peebee. Occasionally, Li-” She cut her sentence off, turning her face away from him. 

    Liam. 

    “Kosta,” he said finishing her sentence. He unzipped her slowly, much slower than necessary. He wasn’t in any rush to part from her. “I wasn’t aware Kosta took pleasure in undressing married women.” He had no right to bring that up, to say it as though she had agreed to wed him. He wasn’t even sure what he was hoping to accomplish with that sentence, or what he wanted her to say in return. As he reached the end of the zipper he noticed something red peeking out on her skin from beneath her suit. He opened her suit wider. It was a tattoo. A Chinese dragon laid sprawled out on her skin, traveling up her spine. Yet another change she apparently felt she needed. Was it in honor of her father? Her Asian heritage?

    Lola turned back to him, preventing him from further inspecting her new mark. 

She shook her head at him. “He was broken, Reyes.” It took Reyes a moment to realize that they were once again talking about Kosta, his mind still on the tattoo. “I don’t think he’ll ever forgive me. I’m working with people who no longer trust me. I’m leading people who ..” She trailed off, swallowing. Her eyes growing glassy. “And I had a chance to tell him the truth, to tell them all the truth. That this was your doing, that it was done without my consent, but I didn’t. Because once again, I chose you,” she said, tears springing to her eyes. “I chose to protect you. Over everyone else. Over myself.  I chose you.”

“Are you upset that nothing more will happen between you and Liam?” Stupid question. Wrong aspect to focus on. What was with his growing obsession with Kosta, and his new inability to check his thoughts before they left his mouth?

“No, no,” she responded, exasperated.  “Nothing could have ever grown past just sex between us. He was just too..too-”

“Nice,” he smiled. A smug smile, an inappropriate smile. Reyes was saying and doing all the wrong things but couldn’t stop himself. 

“Fuck you,” she said shoving him, her suit sliding down her shoulder. He didn’t budge. “You’re whole bad boy thing-”

“Is one of the reasons you were drawn to me,” he said.

“Ugh, I need to have a serious talk with Lexi,” she said, shaking her head. “Liam thinks I slept with him while being married to you.”

Esperate. He slept with you? ¿Otra vez?” Reyes asked, unable to keep the jealousy from his voice. Had Kosta seen the tattoo before he had? Reyes shook his head at himself. Why would it matter?

“What?” Lola asked, a hint of aggression in her voice. “ No. You don’t get to be jealous.”

“I’m not,” he lied. “But Kosta certainly didn’t waste any time, did he?”

She narrowed her eyes at him. “And how many from your harem did you sleep with? Hmm? One? Two? All three before gathering three more?” She shook her head and held up her hands.  “You know what, I don’t care. I’m not having this conversation with you. I’m not yours. You’re not mine. And our marriage is a scam even if we are the only two people that know it. But hey, you got what you wanted, access to SAM and constant surveillance of The Pathfinder. So, congratulations.”

“Wait. Is that what you think it was about? Power?” 

“Are you saying it wasn’t? Was it or was it not you that had a tracker placed on my Omni-tool?”

Reyes cleared his throat. “So, you did find it.”

”So, you’re admitting it?”

”Did I place a tracker on your Omni-tool? Yes. But it’s not-“

“The last time we were together you threw me aside like yesterday’s trash, after convincing me that you wanted to be with me. Then you video called me to tell me that you miss me, while being in the same room with three naked women. I can’t trust a damn thing that comes out of your mouth. I’m done. Goodnight Reyes.”

With that, she closed the door, leaving him in the darkness of his living room.

 

 


 

 

Reyes slept fitfully. His dreams shifting endlessly from erotic, to her attempting to beat the shit out of him. 

She had every right to be pissed with him, to not trust him, he knew that, he accepted that. Still, he didn’t want her to be. There was so much information she was missing, so much that she was misinformed about. But he wasn’t sure which truths would help, and which would only make things worse.

He awoke in the early morning to whimpering sounds coming from his room. He climbed off his sofa and headed for his room’s door, moonlight from one of Kadara’s many moons streaming  in through a large window, lighting his way. The sounds grew louder, clearer, as he approached. She was talking, and crying in her sleep. Her words were incoherent and nonsensical, but it was clear that something in her dreams was scaring her, hurting her.

  At the risk of pissing her off further, he entered the room, where she was tossing and turning in his bed. She had kicked the sheets onto the floor. He edged up to the bed, and kneeling by it, he placed his hand on hers. She was dressed in one of his dress shirts, a black button up, and it looked infinitely better on her than it ever would on him. 

Lolita,” he called gently, stroking her cheek. “Muñequita. It’s just a nightmare. Open your eyes.”

She did. Her eyes fluttered up. She woke up, sitting up immediately, she edged herself up to the headboard as her eyes darted around the dark room. Reyes stood up, giving her room to work out her confusion, her apparent disorientation.

“Where am I ?” She croaked, she was breathing heavily. Her arms wrapped tightly around her legs.

“You’re with me. You’re in my new apartment. You’re safe.”

Her eyes landed on his, and she nodded, small quick nods, and even in the blackness of the room he could see the glisten of tears sliding down her face. He wanted to comfort her, wrap his arms around her and draw her near, but he also didn’t want to overstep any boundaries. He didn’t want to accidentally make things between them worse, so he began to force himself to back out of the room.

“No.” She called out. “Please. Stay, Reyes. Please.”

The sound of her begging. His chest tightened. He went and climbed into the bed with her.

 “Shhh,” he said, wrapping his arm around her shoulders and bringing her to him. 

“I can’t move. I can’t- My heart. Please, don’t leave.”

He recognized this. She was panicking. When had this began? When had she begun having panic attacks? She hadn’t always dealt with these, had she?

“It’s ok. I’m here. I’m not leaving. I’m not moving until you tell me to.”

She grasped at him like he was the only person in the universe that was keeping her from falling into the abyss, her slim fingers wrapping themselves tightly around his arms. He regretted not sleeping with a shirt, if he had one she’d have had an easier time gripping at him,  instead she was left wrapping her hands as best she could around his biceps or waist, and as much as he wanted her to want him, to need him, it wasn’t like this. He had never wanted her to feel like this. He held her close, willing her to relax.

 “Shhh, it’s ok. Just breathe. Just breathe.” He stroked her head with his free hand, his fingers rolling over her soft curls. She curled up into him, her head resting on his chest, her arms firmly wrapped around his waist, and he was sure he could feel her heart hammering in her chest. It’s chaotic rhythm beating heavily against her into him. And he knew, all he could do was wait.  So, he stood unmoving, steady, as she held fast to him. He waited until her eyes finally closed and she fell asleep in his arms. Her breathing finally slowed to a more normal rhythm. Her heart beat finally calming down. The last time she had fallen asleep in his arms he had broken her heart. Now it was his that was breaking, for completely different reasons. 

He remained incapable of protecting her. 

“SAM?” Reyes whispered.

“Yes, Mr. Vidal?” SAM replied, keeping his voice just as low.

“When did these begin?”

After she awoke from the coma, Mr. Vidal.”

Reyes released a loud exhale. Tann had hurt her in more ways than one. He gritted his teeth. 

“How were things handled, SAM? After Lola woke up, what did they do with Tann?”

“Leo had handled Tann and his co-conspirators before Lola’s waking. Tann is still in a position of power but Leo used the information of foul play you provided to him as leverage to win Lola freedom from Tann’s and The Initiative’s rules and watchful eyes. While she continues to work for the Initiative, she no longer answers to them. She is in essence, a free agent.”

Reyes nodded. He looked down at her asleep in his arms. A light snore escaping her lips. That was something. It wasn’t how Reyes would have handled things, but Leo did alright.

May I offer my insight?” SAM, asked. Reyes marveled at how incredibly human SAM sounded in that moment.

Si. Por favor.” If SAM had insight, Reyes wanted to hear it.

Lola has not been allowed to confront Tann, nor has she been given time to digest what had happened to her. She immediately went back to work, ostracized from her crew mates, I have witnessed an increase in hostility, violence, depression, anxiety -“

“She is not doing well,” Reyes interrupted, not wanting to hear anymore.“You believe it would be healthy for her to confront Tann? Perhaps take some time to herself?”

Yes. That is what I believe,” SAM confirmed. 

Reyes thought this over. A decision already made. “Ok. Then I guess it’s time we pay Tann a little visit.”