Thadius growled and threw his gloves to the other side of his quarters on board the Uriel. It was always the same. He was dragged from home, dragged from his comfortable quarters in Cruix City and forced out onto an airship out in the middle of the vast sky and forced to do someone's dirty work. He scowled and began pulling at his uniform, throwing the jacket and dress shirt off across the room.

"And here I thought becoming a Champion was supposed to mean something," he groused, reaching down and unbuckling his belt, the two sidearms and the saber clamped to it weighing down the leather terribly.

He toed off his shoes and sat down, looking around the Spartan quarters. He grumbled again at being pulled from his usual duties of training and threw off the last bits of clothing before stepping into the shower, letting the golden runes on the wall summon up the scalding water. He winced as the scalding liquid cascaded onto his right arm. The dark red and violet swirls led up, in their winding patterns, to a large, black scar about an inch deep in the shape of a cursive D. Thadius traced the deep scar while his eyes glossed over as memories came flooding back. He shivered at the memories. Painful images of a knife, of a ceremony, of every sort of pain imaginable.

"Please Father Anderson! Please! Don't make me! NO!" The father just glared and raised the young Thadius's hand. The dagger glistened in the terrified child's hand.

"Strike now, child, or you will burn for all eternity in Tartarus itself!" the holy man cried. Thadius closed his eyes, ignored the muffled cries of the other boy that was strapped to the table in front of him, and slammed the dagger down.

Thadius shivered, hot tears stinging the back of his eyes at the memory. He had committed one of the Three Crimes of Damnation. But how…

"Tha-Thadius…please…" Damien panted, his eyes bright next to the blush that covered his cheeks. The boy reached up, lacing his fingers with those of Thadius. The older boy smiled and leaned down, capturing Damien's in a soft kiss as he slowly…

Thadius choked out a moan. He groaned at the heat slowly building between his legs. He let his left hand stop tracing the scar and run down his arm, across his chest and towards his hips and groin. He groaned and looked up at the ceiling.

"How can something that feels so right, be so wrong…" he whispered out before he lost himself in his memories and ministrations.

------Firas------

Firefly let out a deep sigh and kicked his legs lightly. It was late, well after midnight, before the guests had finally left. It was another hour before he truly began to try and sleep. But here he was, almost four in the morning, sitting on the railing of his balcony, watching the stars and the late-night transports running in and out of the city. He, just like everyone else, had been shocked by Flare's desire to run.

"Damn it…I really like it here…" he whispered, pulling the long and loose shirt closer around him. Gusts of wind blew his hair around. He cursed at it lightly and reached around, trying to grab as much of it as possible. He stiffened when a pair of hands caught it for him.

"You never do know what to do when it isn't in its wraps…do you?" Richard Mao asked quietly, slowly pulling the hair close and beginning to braid it. Firefly sighed softly.

"No…but that's why I have an older sister who does…and you," he whispered quietly. Magenta eyes fluttered closed as the older man quickly braided his hair. It has always calmed him down, the slow twine of strand after strand that just sucked his energy and allowed him relaxation. A deep sigh shook his body and he leaned back, resting against the warm body behind him.

"You know…you're going to have to learn to do this yourself…" Richard whispered, pulling out a slender rubber band and neatly securing the braid. He wrapped his arms around the smaller boy's waist and sighed, his eyes darkening with sadness. "You're not going to be around here forever…"

"Then we just need to forget about what's going on!" Firefly cried, wiggling out of Richard's grasp—scaring the man who thought the boy was going to plummet off the balcony's railing—and wrapping his arms around the taller man's neck. "We just need to make the most of whatever time we have…" he purred, leaning forward and kissing the taller man.

The shirt Firefly wore was discarded almost as fast as the pair of sleeping pants that Richard had slipped into before coming out onto the balcony. Both items were draped across the edge of the balcony as the two bodies writhed against the cooler limestone, their soft cries punctuating the early morning air.

Firefly wasn't the only person at the meeting enjoying the early morning air. Captain Adrian Hawke was standing outside the house. She had just finished going over accounts and plans with Flare. The eldest of the triplets was definitely a stickler for planning and readiness. A rather punctuated cry from one of the balconies above her was carried down by the wind, along with a rather luxurious violet silk shirt that signaled her departure.

"At least someone is having an enjoyable evening…" she groused. Kicking her boots lightly on the edge of the sidewalk, the skycaptian set off, ambling along the dimly-lit Skyway towards her ship. "At least we have octane…" she mused out loud, reaching into her coat pocket and pulled out a short pipe and a packet of tobacco and black powder. She filled the pipe, put the packet back, and flicked the ring on her right hand. A small flame appeared in the center of the craftily concealed lighter. She owed her life to being able to light her blunderbuss with hidden ease. Two puffs of her pipe later, she let out a contented sigh.

"Nothing like a little opium to keep the night alive, aye Cap'n?" Adrian whirled to her left, pulled her pistol, and fired. There was a flicker of yellow light as she shined her lighter around the area she shot. One of the shadows moved and out stepped her first mate: Liam Colson. The young shadow-walker smirked at his captain and used her ring to light the cigarette he fished out of his tight black pants. "Edgy tonight missy."

"Yeah well…you can't be too careful when dealing with the Church," she grumbled, holstering her gun. She felt the frown crease her deputy's forehead. "Yeah, yeah, I know after our last raid on Hell I said I wanted to pull back from going against the Highborn. But this lady…" she shrugged and fished out the check, handing it over to the young man. She smirked when he heard him choking after taking a drag from his cigarette. "Yeah…she has a bit of a cash flow for us."

"Goddess…that's more than our last three jobs combined!" Liam cried out. His eyes darkened. "What exactly do we have to do?"

"That's the crazy part…" Adrian whispered lightly, taking a puff from her pipe. "That check is just the down payment. We don't really know what we have to do." She shrugged lightly, turning down the path and walking towards her baby: The Tempest. She ran a hand along the hull, feeling the fine lines of the welded metal. Strong, sleek, and powerful. The ship and her were both alike, and both had come to the aid of a young woman with a pair of fine autumn eyes…

"Whatever the problems that the church throws at us, we've dealt with them, Liam. We have a job for a group of good kids. I wanna do this one, for those we have lost," Adrian said quietly, running a hand along a mooring rope.

"Just don't let those pretty feelin's distract ya from survival, Cap'n," Liam said quietly, walking up the gankplank. "We would follow ya to da end of da Earths. You. Not some benefacta or person that you bring a'board. Just remember that ,Cap'n…" He walked onto the ship, tossing his cigarette overboard. Adrian tightened her fists and looked up into the moonlight. The first mate's voice carried over in the still night.

"Don't get attached, Adrian. She's another client: JUST another client. We deal with these people day in and day out. They can be bought and sold for a coin. And if worst comes to pass, I will sell them to the Church to save this ship."

"I know, Liam," she called back. "I wouldn't let you live if you weren't doing you're best to keep us alive."