Chapter 1

William buried his hands and face into long lush locks of ruddy mahogany hair, which was as soft as satin. He breathed in deeply: it smelled of vanilla. Without restraint, he ran his hands across a slender jawline and over ebon, velvet flesh until strong hands grabbed his. His partner shifted beneath him, and William opened his eyes to look down into liquid pools of amber. Cheeks flushing, he quickly took back his hands.

Veylas's eyes followed him fondly as he walked around to the other side of the table. William had snuck up while Veylas was reading peacefully in the kitchen, thoroughly engrossed in whatever romance novel he was eating up now. William himself had come from his room where he'd been working on his own; his alarm had gone off, so he'd left to gather his partner. His plan to just grab him and get to straight work had gone off the rails, though, as drunken impulse had taken over.

"Sorry," William said as he placed the half finished cooler on the table.

"Come back," Veylas said, closing the book and laying it down. "I was done reading, anyways."

William averted his gaze. "I came up to tell you that we need to pack."

"Pack?"

"The contraband, Veylas. We talked about this."

He was already working himself up into a ball of nerves. His hands shook; he threaded them into his fluffy, sandy blond hair to try and hide that, but it probably didn't escape Veylas's eye. They both knew that planetary security was not an easy test to pass. In fact, he could almost convince himself that Divinity was watching their ship now, waiting for them to try and pass onto the planet of Denem with their illegal cargo.

Veylas snorted and grabbed the drink that William had abandoned. "C'mon, Voss, that's nothing," he said. "It'll be a quick 'n' easy thing. Take a deep breath."

"You always say that," he said. "And then one of us gets shot."

"So I've been shot a couple times. I didn't die."

"Right. Luck. That seems to be the only thing that gets our arses outta dead or jailed these days, innit?"

With that, William turned and walked out of the kitchen with quick, stiff strides, not waiting for Veylas to reply. He snatched his green ball cap off of one of the posts that flanked the stairs and placed it backwards on his head as he went down to the dusty cargo hold. He heard his companion following him down as he reached the bottom.

"Do we hafta do it now?" Veylas asked as he caught up. "You went and had a drink without me and now you'll be sober and serious from packing up all this soon enough."

"If you like me better drunk then why travel with me?" William said as they reached the back. He reached up to find the box they needed.

"I just mean that you take these jobs way too seriously," Veylas said. William bristled when he felt Veylas's hands on his waist. The rest of his bulky warmth followed as he pressed into him from behind and spoke into his ear. "And I love you when you're sober too, but there are certain parts of loving you that you won't allow me to do when we're sober because you're—"

"Stop, let's get this done," William said, stepping away from him. "We don't have nearly enough drink for even you to get pissed on anyways."

Veylas huffed, but helped him move boxes around. Their latest job –and soon-to-be latest failure, William suspected– was a bit of weapons smuggling. They'd done it before and they'd been successful before, even he could admit that, but he had a bad feeling. He had a bad feeling about Denem, the Mar'ethen colony they were smuggling the weapons onto. He had a bad feeling that something bad would happen to their ship, lovingly named the Huntress, if they went planet side. He had an especially bad feeling about the next job he'd lined up for them, the very reason why he hadn't told Veylas about it yet.

He poked his head around the boxes when he heard Veylas start sneezing. "Alright, Vey?" he asked.

"Fine," his partner sniffed. "This is dumb. No one ever checks the hold anymore, y'know. No one cares."

William adjusted his glasses with a sigh. "Maybe, but when they do planetary security is usually thorough, and it'll be just our luck that they decide to care when we're heading through," he said. "It's better to be safe than sorry. It won't take long. All we gotta do is tuck these boxes into the fragile label and fill it with packing...put something else near the top for them to find when they take a gander down here."

He heard Veylas huff as they went back to moving the crate to the floor. William almost chuckled when Veylas started sneezing again from the stirred up dust. He whined about the unfairness of it; William hadn't sneezed once. William reminded him that at least Veylas didn't start sniffling whenever something with fur was nearby.

"Now much are they paying us again?" Veylas asked as William handed him one of the smaller boxes.

"Not enough for a beer run, if that's what you're thinking."

"Voss, I'm hurt that you would even suggest that."

"You carry a water bottle filled with bourbon whenever we leave the ship I think I have many perfectly legitimate reasons to assume that," he said, shooting him a look.

Veylas shrugged, accepting the next box from William. "Sure, maybe," he said. "I mean, we're gonna buy some anyways. We're running out." William bristled when, instead of taking the next box he held out, Veylas slung an arm across his shoulders. "A celebratory drink never hurt anyone, right?"

William shrugged him off. "Understatement of the century," he said beneath his breath. He shoved the box into Veylas's hands. "Last one and then we'll put in the false bottom and fill it with packing. Then you can go back to reading or what have you. I'll be bringing us in within a couple hours." Just enough time to burn off the half bottle he'd had, hopefully.

"You should auto-pilot and sit with me."

"You can't auto-pilot planet entry."

"Yeah, I know."

William rolled his eyes and grabbed the false bottom. While Veylas figured that out, he left and dug out two bags of packing peanuts. He passed one to Veylas and tore open his own to be poured in. Once they'd packed away the dummy items, William went up to the cockpit at the top of their small three layer ship with Veylas at his heels like a happy, loyal puppy.

"Veylas, go read," William said as he sat down.

Veylas leaned on the back of the chair. "Will we be able to pay off anything after this?" he asked, ignoring him.

"With ten thousand credits? Sure, sure, that pays off our bar tab after someone bought the entire room drinks," he snapped. "Twice!"

"That's an exaggeration, Voss, it was only like two hundred credits."

William huffed and they both stared out the front window. Denem was well within sight, green with red seas, lit from the side by the solar system's bright yellow sun. The window itself was shielded to prevent the star from damaging their eyes. Plus, William's tinted lenses were added protection since he spent a whole lot of time staring out the window.

Because of the tint of the window, he could see their reflection, including Veylas's half-lidded expression, pointed ears levelled and calm. He wasn't human, but neither of them knew what he really was since he'd been adopted. He had two rows of three nubby horns on his head and the constitution of a space ogre, so whatever he was William figured they were mean; he was glad that Veylas had been raised by humans (although those humans were arguably just as mean). William himself was human, though, with fair skin, grey eyes, and messy hair that was overdue for a cut.

"We've got a job offer lined up right after this one," William said to break the silence. "You'll see a little more action. You're up for that, right?"

"Oh definitely!" Veylas said, leaning over top of him. He planted his hands on the arms of the chair and leaned forward to look at William. "What is it? What are we doing? Should I clean up the guns?"

"If you want, but we're not shooting unless it's absolutely necessary," he said as he inched away. "Our client wants some Denemian political advisor and they want him alive, but we'll be nabbing him off the street. He's human; his name's Osvald Dalca. I've got the time and location in Denem's capital tomorrow, which is where we'll be, so we'll have plenty of time to grab him and go..."

"But?" Veylas said. "I sense a but."

"They contacted us with the job," William said.

"Oh, how cool. No one ever contacts us."

"Yeah, I know, and that's the point. Vey, the only thing we're known for is botching up jobs and not paying off debts," William said, planting a finger in the middle of Veylas's forehead to push him away. "No one contacts us. Not with our reputation."

Veylas straightened up. "Well they clearly trust us to do the job."

William folded his arms across his chest and looked up at him. "Don't you think this is a little suspicious?"

"Don't you think you're being a little pessimistic about this job?" Veylas replied. "What's the pay?"

William closed his eyes. "...Two million seven hundred thousand credits."

He swivelled his chair around to face Veylas when he whooped. Veylas just about crashed into him when he planted his hands on the arms of the chair again and leaned in until they were nose to nose. William felt the blood rush to his face, as if the proximity of Veylas's lips to his were some sort of blood magnet.

"Voss, that pays everything off plus a little extra!" he said. "If we do this, I bet we'll get a lot more contracts to boot!"

"I don't have a good feeling about this," William said. "Don't you think it's a little too good to be true?"

Veylas drew away, face falling into an expression that was a lot more serious. "You've got your bad feeling," he said.

William let his head sink into his hands. "God, Veylas, no, not this again—"

"Don't you?"

"Look at this logically," William said, looking up at him. "This isn't some bullocks 'misfortune sense' or whatever, this is a genuinely suspicious set up. Why would they contact us, the galaxy's biggest fuck ups? You're the one doing the shooting and getting hurt if this isn't what we think it is, Vey. All we are is a couple of small time mercs or what have you, criminals might I add, and for all we know, we could easily be cannon fodder for some political war. Is that what you want to be? An example set by a bunch of old, rich blokes who want nothing more than to step all over people like us? Blokes who are so rich that they spend their free time playing ruddy, bloody games with people's lives?"

Veylas's ears drooped and his expression faltered. He threaded his fingers together and pursed his lips, caught in thought for a second. "Well... Well, that's true, yes, but if we don't do anything then we're just going to stay on the bottom, y'know. Sometimes you need to risk it. Maybe they contacted us because we were the only people in range and it needed to be done tomorrow. It sounds like an opportunity. We're not the best around, but we're better than letting the opportunity slide, right?"

William sighed. "Maybe, but it just seems... There has to be planet side mercs but..."

"And we need the money. Maybe we're the only ones with a ship too, so that we can deliver this Dalca guy."

"You, you have a point..." William pinched the bridge of his nose between a finger and thumb. "Fine, fine, but you can't run in. I know it's hard for you to sit still right now and I doubt that's going to change by tomorrow, but please try and put that aside long enough for me to tell you what to do. You're on an up. Let's try to put that to use while we've the luxury."

"Bah, we'll be fine," Veylas said, grinning. "Let's say we save the celebratory drinks 'til after we've got this guy tied up, then?"

William was relieved by the suggestion. His shoulders lost some of their tension. "Yeah, that's fine," he said. He swung the chair around once more. "I'll call you when we get to the station for the check. Might as well make yourself useful while we wait."

"Alrighty," Veylas said, turning to march out of the room. "I'll be in the kitchen if you need me." He paused at the doorway. "Ohh, maybe I'll paint my room in the mean time. What do you think, Voss? Green this time? Or maybe I'll do the stars like my old one... Do you think we have glow in the dark paint? That's a thing, right?"

"You're gonna repaint your room again?"

"Yeah!"

"I'd find a better time," he said. He couldn't stifle his chuckle, though. "We don't have much paint anyways. And not glow in the dark paint either."

"Aw. I guess I'll just clean, then."

"Alright. Have fun."