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I woke up. You'd slammed his head against the metal floor of the shuttle. Apparently, I'd slept through it when you stole his blankets and rolled his meat out of the bunk and onto the floor.

"Wake up, bitch," you said, slamming his head down again. The impact reverberated in his skull.

"I'm awake." His voice came out rusty with sleep.

"Show me your eyes."

I cracked them open. They were crusty with sleep, but they would tell you which of us you'd pulled. I could only hope you'd be pleased with the result.

If you weren't, you didn't say anything about it. Instead, you said: "You changed your hair." You had your forearm over his throat. It was a commanding position. His body warmed to your touch.

"I just haven't cut it." Defensively, I reached up to touch it. It had been a few months since either of us had seen you, and we hadn't made it home since. His hair had grown, long enough that I wanted to scratch it off his scalp. Not so long that either of us could justify delaying the mission to cut it. Even traveling through the River, which he could do and I could not, it was a long way back to the Mithraeum, and it wore hard on the shuttle.

"I didn't say I didn't like it." You fisted your other hand in the hair at the top of his scalp and slammed his head down again. "It has its uses."

"Do you want me concussed?" I demanded. My head was starting to spin. I thought I could feel things in his brain repairing themselves, or maybe that was just the effect you had on me.

"You'll heal." You hauled his head up again for a fourth strike-- fifth strike?-- and I ripped it away from you. (You couldn't mind too much. If you'd really wanted me to stay down you would have tied his body to the cot, as you had done so many times before.)

I planted his hands, which you had left free, just below your collarbone. Bunched up his feet and found purchase on your hip bones. Flung you off of me hard enough that you hit the wall. You rolled with the blow, easy, the buckles on your jacket sounding like a skeleton tossed down the stairs. So you'd been expecting this. My retaliation had been your gift to me. Even after I knew the source of your recklessness, it astonished me how many of these gifts you gave. You were mortal. We were not. And somehow, you always had the upper hand.

Reflexively, I reached out for my weapon and came up empty. It wasn't where I had left it. I should never have taken my eyes off of you. Rolling into a defensive crouch, I scanned the shuttle. The narrow bunk could fold into the wall, and the skinny cube that housed the sonic squashed against the back wall. That left scant space to maneuver, and we hadn't packed weapons to spare. As for the weapons we had packed--

You held both my rapier and my spear. I'd been smart enough, or fool enough, to tell you what that did to me. And now, I would pay the price.

That left me two choices: to fight or to submit. The latter meant you would take me apart with my own blade and my own steel. I wasn't ready to give in. Not yet.

This was one of your favorite games. You would disarm me and attack with guns and knives, letting his body soak the damage that would have killed you three times over.

I had no more time to mull it over. You lunged in with my rapier, your form owing more to your strength and your enthusiasm than to your training, but it was effective nonetheless. You scored a bloody line into his arm, and I had no way to parry.

I rolled out of the way of your next sloppy thrust, judging the dimensions of the shuttle. Every move you made banged my elbows up against a wall or a built-in cabinet, and you were already lining up your next hit.

You came at me over and over again, forcing me to duck, dodge, and weave. I hit his abused head on the overhead storage bin as I jumped to keep my sword away from the tendons of his knee. With every motion, his muscles shook a little more sleep loose. When I could, I hit you with his bare hands. You might actually kill me if you thought I was going easy on you.

Meanwhile, I could see the fatigue begin to wear on you. Your muscle fibers wouldn't knit together as fast as his did when we overextended ourself. I started looking for my opportunity, even as you scored hits on the flesh of his body: through his thigh, piercing his chest to only to bounce off his sternum, nicking his forearms in a dozen places as I fended off your relentless assault. You couldn't keep it up forever, though.

At last, you gave me an opening. (No one else has ever held out for as long against me as you do, not even when I was alive.) Still, this fight had gone on long enough. I moved in to knock my spear out of your hand. You didn't have the training to use it. Maybe someday, I could teach you.

The move brought me so close to you that I could feel the heat boiling off of your skin, even as you swept my feet out from under me and I fell heavily to my knees.

You spat onto the floor of the shuttle and grinned down at me with bloodied teeth. Whip-fast, your newly emptied hand darted out and took firm hold of the hair just behind my ear. 

This was why I had kept my hair short before he killed me. This was why he kept his hair short now that I was dead. There was no way out now, unless I wanted to rip half his scalp off. And you knew it.

You held the blade of my rapier under his chin. I could barely feel its honed edge as I shook under you: lust and adrenaline and the shakiness of your own exertion conspiring to make me quiver where you held me. Instead, I felt the blood as it beaded, dripped down my throat. The faint prickle as the wound knitted back together. And then, the blood again, as you reopened it.

"Do you yield?" You stood over me, vibrant with victory. In your hand, my rapier kissed into the skin of his throat.

There was no other possible answer. "Always," I told you. (Maybe that was too much, but I could never resist you.)

"Fuck." You tossed my sword aside-- it licked one last time into my shoulder before it clattered out of range-- and dragged me up against the wall of the shuttle by his hair. Held me there with a boot planted against his chest, even as you undid the buckles of your trousers and shoved them down to your knees.

I had to admire your balance as you looped a leg over his shoulder. Your trousers pulled me in by the back of his neck, dragging his face toward your crotch.

Every time you brought us down, we made you sweat. I lived to lick the salt of exertion off your inner thighs. But you were impatient: the fight had done as much for you as it had for me. You yanked on my hair and smothered me in your cunt. As I leaned in to taste, you steadied yourself with your spare hand on the handle of the overhead storage bin.

I brought his hands up your thighs and fit his palms over the flesh of your buttocks: to support you, to help me position myself, but mostly just to feel the warmth of your body. You wore all your softness in your meat. There was none in your soul.

The millenia had carved away our softnesses-- the fat on our body, the grace in our souls. As you worked your hips against his face, something tender stirred in me anyway.

You dug your knee into his gut. Your shin pressed between his thighs, and I could tell by your wild laughter that you liked what you felt there.

Too soon, you swung your leg off his shoulder. You laughed again when I whimpered. I could have spent hours buried in the scent and taste of you, but you had begun to shake stiffness out of your limbs, which was fair.

Instead of pulling your trousers off, you started to work them off over your boots. His heartbeat accelerated. I tried not to let it show too much.

"More?" I asked. It had been a couple months since you’d caught me, and I was always hungry for you.

"I want to ride you." You ripped at the buckles on your jacket and tore off the thin undershirt you wore beneath so you could stand above me, nearly naked. Fuck, you were hot like that.

Two oblongs of thin hammered metal hung on a chain between your breasts, twins to the ones tied into the laces of your boots. As if I had the capacity to dismember you, as if our clashes would leave enough pieces to identify, as if anyone would ever find your corpse this deep in space. 

Didn’t matter, because you pointed at the bunk and I went, still licking the taste of you off my lips.

By the time you joined me, pulling his fly open and swinging a leg over his hips, his enthusiasm had flagged. It wasn’t your fault: you were a vision above me, and the way the soles of your boots digging into his thighs kept me company for several nights after you’d gone. If you’d put a picture of you like that on one of your posters you could have recruited half the Nine Houses to your side, which was probably why you’d never done it.

"You don’t like this?" you asked, even though you knew full well I did.

"I'm not him," I said, by way of explanation. You terror, you never could stop testing me.

"Need a little help?"

I snorted. "You could always ride my face."

"But then I couldn't do this." You took a knife from your boot and pulled his robe aside so that you could play the blade along his skin, collarbone to chin. It wasn’t a lot of room to play, but you’d shown me before that you worked well in tight quarters.

Fair point. Anyway, it was enough to rouse his body again, which must have been what you were looking for. You played the odds well, and you’d won again. I couldn’t find it in me to complain.

You sank down on him, slick even without the remnants of saliva I’d left behind. I’ve always admired your coordination: you used it to fix my attention on the shallow cuts you made over his shoulders and neck even as you took what pleasure you wanted from his body.

For my own part, I couldn’t keep his hands off your flanks and hips, your shoulder blades and your breasts. It was luxury to get to watch you in motion. All I had to do was lie there and watch you take and take.

You leaned over so that your face was close to his and bit at his lips until they bled. His mouth filled with his blood and your hair.

"There’s no one else like you, Pyrrha Dve," you whispered into his ear, caressing his carotid artery with the sharp tip of the knife. I couldn’t answer, not with your weapon so teasingly close to his larynx. "Not even him."

In spite of my best efforts, I groaned, and the knife cut into him. There would be blood on the sheets again. By now, he didn’t even blink when I left him to clean up our messes. He left me your messes, too, so in the end, it all worked out.

Eventually, you fisted the knife into the thin shuttle pillow. It bit into the cartilage of his ear, but I don’t think you noticed. This meant you were close. You sank your teeth into the muscle next to his trachea and moaned against his skin as you quaked above me.

I held you through it. Your hair kept falling in his eyes and tickling his nose, but I couldn’t spare his hands to brush it away. When you went quiet, I made his mouth a curve against your shoulder. "Is that all you’ve got?"

"You’re trouble, Pyrrha Dve," you told me. "What did you have in mind?" 



"I like your hair this long," you said later, when you'd wrung me out. "It's good to pull."

"You're not the only person I fight." Anyway, it wasn't up to me. None of it was.

"Shame," you said, and left it at that. Probably because you were falling asleep on his shoulder. You were warm in the cold, dark void of space; I was falling asleep too.

When I woke up, you were gone.