Harper found himself pacing the corridors, winding his way up through the body of the ship. Away from his workshop. Away from his disappointment.
Nothing had changed.
Earth was still going to be one f*cked-up, dead-end shithole of a planet, pillaged and raped by freakish siblings and ravenous nightmares.
OK, so he was personally responsible for the deaths of over ten thousand of the f*ckers. He should feel good, right? But apart from a faint low-grade sickened sensation, he didn't really feel much at all. Yeah sure, he was angry. But that anger was like a distant star - white, faint and untouchably remote. It didn't warm him like the red hot fury that sometimes spewed up from deep inside him. A fury that curled around his insides and made him shake with the urge to kill, dismember, eviscerate.
No, he just felt...numb. Depressed. Flat. Score one more point on the side of the Universe, one more big fat disappointing zero on the side of Seamus Zelazny Harper.
On the plus side, if it hadn't been for his little 'nebula surprise', the High Guard would have been f*cked but good.
But. But he'd wanted more.
More dead ships.
More dead Nietzscheans.
More for his planet. For his people. His family.
More for him.
Frak it, it even would have been worth dying for, like he'd told Trance.
That wasn't something he'd ever truly felt before. Plenty of things in this life were worth killing over - friends, family, money, Sparky Cola - damn few worth dying for. This was the only one Harper had seen so far.
He found he'd made his way onto the Observation level, and there was a sudden tight need to remind himself of distance and freedom.
The Obs Deck was dark, an inky night-jungle of plants and hard metallic edges. The only noise was the almost imperceptible hush of the air regenerators. Harper walked to the viewport, leaned his hands and forehead against the cool surface. Allowed his sight to wander over the landscape of space, mind relaxing. Some hard little kernel of feeling breaking off and dissolving into anonymity and acceptance.
Harper had a lot of experience at accepting.
And it could have been worse.
It might not have happened at all. A dozen things could have screwed his plan up. Trance could have destroyed the firing control. Tyr could have sabotaged the Andromeda. Dylan could have had an attack of over-noblilitis. Beka could have fumbled piloting them into the nebula.
Yeah, like there was any chance of the latter. And Dylan had come through as usual, even if it was late - as usual. Though when Rommie had told him about Tyr's "Angel of Death" legend, it had made all their actions seem inevitable in some weird Trancesque kind of way. He had his suspicions about Her Sparkly Purpleness's role in this whole mess. As with most of those suspicions, he preferred to leave them unexamined.
The big surprise was that Tyr hadn't done anything. Maybe he'd known it was futile. Maybe he'd tried something and it hadn't worked. Damn, but this time-travel paradox thing really bit.
Harper sighed deeply and closed his eyes, missing a movement in the viewport's reflection. Behind him a piece of shadow flowed away from the wall, coagulating into the dark outline of a Nietzschean.
Footsteps approached the Observation Deck, quiet enough to escape human detection, but not Nietzschean. Tyr uncrossed his legs, rose to his feet and silently moved into the deep shadow of the genchia tree. If he was lucky whoever it was would think the Obs Deck empty and leave. More company was not what he wanted right now.
But of course he wasn't lucky.
Harper passed through the doorway Dylan had left open a couple of hours ago. The small human headed directly for the viewport, totally unaware of the room's other occupant.
Tyr watched as Harper leaned against the viewport, his disheveled blond head bowed against the slick plexiglass. There was a disconsolate droop to the human's figure. Odd. He would have expected the Earther to be celebrating the destruction of the Nietzschean fleet, not moping alone. Perhaps the extinguishing of so many lives had caused Harper to regret his creation?
No. He didn't think so.
Regret, like guilt, was a redundant emotion. Harper impressed him as someone who never agonized over what was past. Unlike Dylan. One of the only benefits of the past few days was the knife of remorse twisting in Dylan's gut. Not that Dylan could really be blamed. The human had done what he thought necessary, to protect the remains of his Commonwealth and the future.
No, if there was blame to be laid, it didn't lie at Dylan's feet, but rather at the feet of the man now leaning against the viewport. Had Harper not been there, had he not created the fusion-catalyst bomb, Dylan would have been weaponless - an angel without a sword. And no matter who had spoken the final words, it was that sword which had destroyed the Nietzschean fleet.
But a sword was a weapon for whomever held it.
And perhaps that was what could be personally gained from this debacle.
He pushed himself away from the wall, walking silently up behind the human. In the reflection of the viewport he could see Harper's eyes were closed, discontent or some similar emotion twisting the cupid's bow mouth. He placed his left hand on the plexiglass beside Harper's small pale one, then leaned over so he almost covered the human. Harper's eyes flew open as the sudden warmth of a body behind him registered. Harper gasped and shock blossomed in his face as he realised just who encircled him. He turned quickly, the wrong way, and found himself nestled even tighter into the Nietzschean's arms.
Harper took a half-step back, all that was possible without actually melding into the plexiglass itself. Tyr watched blue eyes dilate and his every hunter's instinct sang red. He smiled, a slow baring of white fangs that lacked any reassurance or warmth, judging from the fear that flooded over the face upraised to his. Defiance surged over the pointed features in its backwash. Harper inhaled deeply, about to speak or call for help, but Tyr silenced him. Tasted traces of effervescent caffeine. Breathed in the unique mixture of engine oil, sweat and sweet muskiness.
Harper grunted in shock as Tyr's mouth covered his, a sound the Nietzschean swallowed. Tyr slid his right hand around the back of the human's neck, grasping him firmly by the nape, rather like a mother cat with an unruly kitten. Harper brought his hands up, tried to push the other man away but only succeeded in imprinting his palms with the chainmail's mesh design as Tyr pushed back against him. Harper panicked, and Tyr's arms were suddenly full of wriggling human. He pressed Harper even further back against the viewport, immobilizing him between hard plexiglass and warm solid wall. Harper's struggling became centred on trying to wrench his mouth away, but Tyr crushed his lips against the human's. As Harper's breath ran out, the struggles became frantic, then weakened. Tyr judged the time right and lifted his mouth. Harper heaved for breath, too winded to even whisper. Tyr traced his left hand across the sharp cheekbone, dragging his palm down Harper's face, rested his fingers against the open gasping lips in a quietening motion.
Harper's eyes glared defiance, but he was silent. Tyr smiled, then backed off slightly. Enough for comfort, enough for Harper to differentiate between the parts of the heated body covering his. Harper's eyes widened as he registered Tyr's arousal. Tyr took advantage of the other man's confusion to lean forward and kiss him again. Gently, this time. Harper's lips parted in surprise and Tyr laid siege to them with his tongue, caressing them slowly before sliding inside. He stroked Harper's mouth with brief curling licks, reveling in the blend of sweetness and spiciness he remembered the human tasted of. He ran his tongue around Harper's, sucking it gently but firmly outwards so that he was no longer the invader, but the opponent in a pas-de-armes, mutually engaged.
Harper had closed his eyes, Tyr noted, loosening his grip slowly. He eased his fingers through blond strands, stroking his other hand up and down Harper's back. Tyr took a half step back, tugging Harper with him. Harper fell forwards, off balance, clutched him, trying to murmur something but the Nietzschean didn't raise his mouth. If anything, he kissed Harper even more passionately. Harper groaned, clinging to him. Tyr could feel the evidence of the smaller man's growing interest, the metallic tang of fear now swamped by the scent of arousal. Amongst the reflex actions of fight, flight, or f*ck, Harper's subconscious had obviously decided the latter was the optimum survival choice. Good.
Tyr shifted, positioning his body so their cocks aligned, side by side through layers of heavy cotton and leather. He slid his hand down the side of Harper's erection, stroking up and down in short insistent movements. Harper grew harder, started pushing back. Whimpers issued from the back of Harper's throat. The human attempted to break their liplock. Tyr allowed it, pulling Harper hard up against him, cupping tight buttocks, grinding against the small blond in increasingly urgent movements. Harper was clinging to him now, bucking against him, uttering wordless moans into his shoulder.
Tyr had noted before that Harper was singularly inarticulate in the grip of passion. This time was no different from the first. Tyr pushed the human to the point where only sensation mattered, and Harper's world shrank to nothing but the large hard body against his. Harper's small frame felt good - writhing and hot and desperate. The musk aroma of male sweat and arousal sank through Tyr's senses deep into his groin. He heard himself groaning and for that instant was tempted to continue, rutting against Harper until he came.
But no. He wasn't going to lose control like that.
He dragged a hand through damp fair locks, sank into the moist warmth of Harper's mouth, tongue mimicking the rhythmic thrusting of his groin, harder and faster. Moans and frantic pressing from the human, louder, more insistent. Then the body under him tensed, and shuddered as Harper came, crying out, fingers digging into Tyr's shoulders with sharp little stabs. Harper slumped against the viewport, mouth sliding from his as he gasped for breath.
Tyr wanted nothing more than to finish himself off, but he stepped backwards, disconnecting from Harper. Harper looked up, dazed and groggy from his orgasm, incomprehension written on his face at Tyr's withdrawal. He lifted a hand towards the Nietzschean's groin. Tyr caught the hand, licked the palm, smiled at the confusion interlaced with desire. He leaned forward and kissed Harper softly on the mouth. Then he turned and left the Obs Deck, his normal smooth gait hiding the discomfort of his still hard state.
No longer owning bones in his legs, Harper slid down the viewport to slump into a jellified puddle on the floor. Breathless, sweaty, sticky and confused.
What the frak was that?
Why had Tyr done it? OK, it had been the hottest (and scariest) sex he'd had since, well, since the last time they'd done it, but why? Harper hadn't been drunk or stressed out this time. And Tyr had just watched thousands of his people die because of Harper's bomb. He should be righteously pissed at Harper just now. Why jerk him off and not take satisfaction himself?
Maybe Tyr was f*cking with his mind as payback for Harper's f*cking with his species. But how could his actions be construed as retaliation? And that kiss...it had been gentle, the kiss of a lover.
Shit, this was all just too confusing. Who could tell what a Nietzschean was thinking? Or what sort of powerplay that had been? He'd enjoyed the ride, why worry about what the horse was thinking?
He grimaced at the cooling liquid stickiness inside his pants, struggled to his feet and headed for his cabin.
On the edge of the genchia tree's pot, Andromeda's mini hologram crossed her arms, a frown on her face. She was uncertain as to what she should do in this situation.
On the one hand, it looked like Tyr had coerced Harper into sexual relations, and as such she should report the matter to Dylan.
On the other hand, she had seen this type of behavior from Nietzscheans before and knew it to be customary male-male sexual interaction. Rhade himself had had an onboard lover, one of the astrophysics officers. But Pericles had been from Rhade's clan, brought up to expect the sometimes-violent give and take between an alpha male and his beta, and fully able to participate in the mental and physical dominance games the two played. Pericles had understood and accepted his position in the Nietzschean hierarchy that operated invisibly within the ship's own hierarchy. And whilst that structure was no longer present and Tyr was essentially operating in a vacuum, he was behaving as a typical alpha Nietzschean with the male of his choice.
Whether Harper knew or understood this was another matter however. She had arrived just before Tyr had first touched him, and knew the two men had not spoken a word to each other throughout the entire encounter. She had been uncertain at the beginning as to the younger man's willingness, and was undecided still.
Perhaps she should wait. She would look foolish if it had been mutually consensual. And Tyr had not harmed Harper in any way other than some probable minor bruising.
Yes, she would wait.
sequel: snippet: it's alright