by shukyou (主教)


He strode through the event like he was supposed to be there — which he was, or at least Jayes Tal was, and tonight he was Jayes Tal. Jayes Tal both existed and did not exist, in that he was not an actual person, but a mask that could be stepped behind as necessary. Tonight it was necessary, at the gala being held to showcase the imperial fleet’s newest mastermind-class vessel. Invitations had gone out to all the major players in the imperial economy, and as such, one had been addressed to Jayes Tal.

After an hour or so of his meandering about at an aloof distance from the rest of the partygoers, a waiter in a crisp black suit passed him with a tray of champagne flutes. One was only half-filled; he plucked that one from the batch without even so much as glancing the person carrying it. He placed his fingers under the base and felt the contours of a small, nearly flat square. With the slightest pressure, it stuck to his fingertips instead.

There. Now it was time to make a scene.

She was easy to find in any crowd; just follow the sounds of men talking about the most beautiful woman they’d ever seen. Surrounded by a dozen grinning gentlemen, she was laughing with delight every time one of them said something even vaguely witty. When she laughed, her ample bosom bounced enticingly over the plunging neckline of her dress. That was incentive enough for them to be as witty as they could be.

He broke his way into her circle of admirers with no hint of mirth on his face. When she saw him, her lovely face fell, her plum-painted lips inverting into an expression of dismay. She regained her smile a moment later, but it was diminished now, forced. “And to what do I owe this pleasure?” She had an accent neither high-class nor low-, one that vaguely sang of some far-off point of origin, but only just enough so as not to be placed.

“Julianna, please,” he said, his voice low. His eyes darted back and forth among the faces in the crowd, all of which were eyeing him with suspicion. “One dance, that’s all.”

That, she would laugh at, though the tone now had a sharp edge to it. “I’m afraid you have me mistaken for someone else,” she said with a haughty sneer. “Someone who would put up with this brutish treatment.”

He set his jaw at that. He was a powerful man; he wouldn’t let a woman speak to him like this, particularly not in front of his peers. “I am owed a dance,” he told her, his voice even with the calm that spoke of some great violence roiling beneath it. “And I collect what I am owed.”

“Is this cad bothering you?” asked a gruff career soldier with grey peppered throughout his thick black beard.

She sighed deeply and placed a hand on the concerned general’s forearm, letting it linger there long enough that he must have felt the warmth of her hand through the fine fabric of both his dress uniform coat and shirt beneath. “Don’t worry about it, my dear,” she said, then turned back to the dance-demanding intruder who had so rudely imposed on her time. “One dance, then? And you’ll let me be?”

He nodded and extended his hand. Of course he would. He kept his word. He was a gentleman.

Rolling her eyes to let everyone else know that this was such a trial, she placed her gloved hand in his. “Back in a moment, boys!” she promised them, wiggling her fingers in a jaunty little wave. He closed his hand around hers and gave her a yank that pitched her nearly off-balance, displaying a level of possessiveness he was not owed. He could nearly feel the admirers’ narrowed eyes bore into his head as he pulled her toward the dance floor.

They arrived there as the band was striking up a slow waltz, trying to make the partygoers dance to the mushy warble of tired strings that could barely keep a functional beat. For all the empire’s sins, its worst at times were aesthetic. Without letting go of the hand he’d clutched, he drew her close to him, his other hand on the small of her back. He was not a particularly tall man, and the heels on her shoes were impressive, meaning they could see one another nearly eye to eye. 

He took the first step, leaning forward as he pushed her backward. She followed, though her lips painted a perfect o of affronted shock. “I have it,” he told her as their feet together wrung what rhythm could be found in the dirgelike music.

She made a disgusted noise even as her hand held fast to his, the square chip transferring from his fingers to hers. “And I have him,” she said, spitting it like she was insulting his entire family line. “Fifth deck, room nine.”

His expression turned stormy as he spun her out and back again, letting the petticoated layers of her dress twirl beneath the room’s artificial lights. The ship really was a marvel of engineering; he could barely feel the movement of the ocean that held them afloat. And soon they’d know exactly how. “I think she poisoned the punch.”

Despite the angry tone of her laugh, he knew she meant every note of amusement. “I know she did,” she said with something close to pride. “Now say something terrible, Master.”

“You look lovely tonight,” he told her, to which she cried out as though he’d made the most obscene suggestion imaginable. She lifted her hand as though to strike him, but he caught her wrist before she could even come close. Thrown off-balance, she pitched into him, and he caught her up in a forceful kiss that bent her backward as much as the similarities in their heights would allow.

There were gasps around the room, a murmur of surprise at the breach of decorum. He held her like this for several seconds, then let up the pressure just enough that she could wrench away. She slipped her hand from his wrist and slapped him so hard that that the sound echoed off the metal bulkheads. Even the musicians stuttered for a moment, caught up in the surprise and drama. She never pulled her punches, which was exactly why she hadn’t punched him. There was nothing to be gained by tempting a glass jaw.

He staggered back, holding his hand to the unfeigned throbbing in his cheek. The general was at her side an instant later, holding her in his big, strong arms. “The lady doesn’t want your company. I suggest you leave now.”

“Julianna, I–“

Out!” barked the general, wrapping his arm around the woman called Julianna’s shoulders. “I want you off my ship!”

That would be the last anyone saw of Jayes Tal, which was a shame, as he’d put so much into building that identity. Still, some things were only ever made to be burned. He slunk out of the ballroom to whispers aplenty, snickering about what a fool he’d made of himself, and over a woman the general had clearly had his eye on all evening. Out he walked, past the rows of soldiers who glared as he passed, making sure he wasn’t going to try any funny business.

He wouldn’t dream of it. He was simply on his way back to the ship he’d arrived in. He’d pass them all by and be on his way.

Back inside his shuttle, he changed out of his party attire and into a dark turtleneck and pair of trousers, his more customary look. He ran his fingers back through his dark, loose hair, drawing it away from his face into his more usual style. Now there was only the matter of removing the prosthetics from his face without taking off too much of the skin beneath. Disguise could be a rough business.

An hour later, the waiter who’d passed him with the champagne tray marched into the airlock. She had a handsome face, severe and plain, one that in the right light could be completely forgettable. That was what she counted on. “Stern hatch two. Now.”

He didn’t hesitate, nor did he remind her that he was her superior, and she had no business giving him orders. That wasn’t how they’d ever worked. The second his ship was secure and the lock to docking bridge was disengaged, he was off, piloting his shuttle away from the other submersibles as fast as he could without arousing any suspicion. Though the weather above the surface was calm now, a storm had blown through the night before, and the water was still a churn of silt. Outside of the halo of lights from the docking structure, the sea was an inky black. He piloted the shuttle around back, hiding as best he could inside the boat’s slow wake. “Did she say what–?” he began.

His question was interrupted by the unmistakable, heart-sinking sound of a body hitting the water. He didn’t need to be told what kind of response that needed; he hauled across the distance as fast as he could. “Cut it!” she shouted from the back, and he slammed on the emergency stop button. The propulsion system ground to an immediate halt. He left his place at the console and ran back, staring down into the water through the hatch, seeing nothing in the cold, wet night.

Then a hand shot up, and she grabbed it; another followed, and he took that one, and together they hauled Widow out of the water, dripping wet and seeming to weigh twenty tons. At first he thought it might have been her waterlogged dress that had made her so suddenly heavy. Then he realized that they were pulling not one but two bodies from the water. Lashed to her back was a very familiar — and very dead — target. It looked like she’d left the literal party with the general, and then he’d left the party more metaphorically with her.

“Fucking fuck,” Recluse swore, wrapping her arms around Widow’s shaking, dripping body. “Fucking fuck, what the fuck did you–“

“Go!” Widow shouted. “Go!”

For the second time in as many minutes, Scorpion took orders from one of his subordinates. He waited only long enough to hear the hatch latched shut, and then he was off into the night. The murky water was hell on navigation, but that worked both ways. They’d be undetectable by the time anyone thought to come looking for them, ghosts vanished into the deep.

Scorpion found a place to anchor up beneath a rocky overhang and cut all but the most critical power systems. Satisfied that they’d made their escape, he got up to survey the damage.

Widow was out of her party clothes now, bundled up inside a cozy jumpsuit with a towel draped over her head. For someone who’d just taken a several-story fall into freezing salt water, she looked in remarkably good spirits. Recluse looked far less comfortable with the situation, but Scorpion couldn’t tell how much of that was her actual discomfort and how much was simply her default expression. She had a thermos in her hand that she looked almost ready to pour down Widow’s throat herself. 

“All right,” said Scorpion, folding his arms and leaning against the wall, “what happened?”

Widow shrugged. “I had to go to Plan B.”

Scorpion looked down at the body at his feet. Of course assassination was always an option in their line of work, but Widow wasn’t the kind to bring home trophies. “And…?”

And, Master,” Widow said nonchalantly, giving up and taking the mug from Recluse, “the codes aren’t in a safe, or a file, or anything else like that. They’re sewn into the linings of his clothes.”

Recluse snorted. “Remind me to teach you how to field-strip a body, you stupid whore.”

“Shut up, you ugly dyke,” Widow said with nothing but affection. “Unless you want to fuck the mark next time.”

The look of disgust that crossed Recluse’s face said she absolutely did not. Well, it was a good thing he’d never gone in much for subtlety, or else he might be upset that what had started out as a simple grab of machine blueprints had wound up with the corpse of one of the top imperial generals being stuck in his ship. Not that he lacked experience in dealing with corpses, but that didn’t mean he liked it.

A thought crossed his mind. “Did you poison the punch?” Scorpion asked. Recluse didn’t deny it, which meant yes. Fair enough. More things to facilitate a clean getaway, with fewer people able to stop hallucinating long enough to come find them. “All right. Rest up. We’ll be back to base in ten hours.” Part of him wanted to make Recluse pilot the shuttle, because her skills could have gotten the trip down closer to eight. One look at how she was fussing over Widow, though, and Scorpion didn’t dare. She could take the next shift. “I’ll let them know we’re coming. Blue will be pleased.”

Recluse’s jaw tightened ever so slightly. Widow pressed her lips together. Scorpion made the decision to ignore that. They didn’t understand, after all. They were loyal first and foremost to him. They didn’t feel the same toward Blue. But that was all right. They didn’t have to. Scorpion felt it enough for all of them.

At any rate, it didn’t matter, because Blue was their superior regardless of how they felt about him, and he deserved to know that his spymaster was returning with something very useful. “Rest,” he said again, this time with the force of a command. Maybe this time Widow would even listen. Maybe Recluse would make her.

By the time they reached the lights that marked the commercial shipping lanes, both women were sound asleep, tucked together in one of the shuttle’s two bunks, Recluse’s arm snug around Widow’s waist, as though that might be the only thing keeping her from plunging into the water again. Far above them, the faintest light of dawn could be seen breaking across the ocean’s surface. That was well enough for those on the sprawling floating structures and few landmasses that dotted the surface of their watery world. For creatures like him, though, there was only the deep.




He hadn’t always been “Scorpion.” Once, he’d had no real name at all. He’d been “Boy” to everyone in the brothel that had owned him from since before he could remember. He’d grown up there, first cleaning, then serving drinks, then servicing himself the customers whose tastes ran in his direction. It had been a hard life, but not a bad one, particularly as he’d come to understood his own sense of pleasure and how it wasn’t far from what he was getting paid to do. He’d learned the trade, until he’d gained the skills to be not only a warm body, but a desirable one as well.

What he’d really learned, though, was how to deal in information. Alcohol and sex loosened lips, and it became his job to collect what fell from them. There were men aplenty who were willing to pay to make sure he forgot what he wasn’t supposed to know.

Then had come the day he’d brought a tray of drinks to a room of men, all of whom had women on their laps. The one in their center, the one in charge, had his heroic, warlike reputation precede him. He called himself Blue for the blue-ringed octopus he’d chosen as his emblem, but he might as well have been referring to his eyes. They were intense and deep, a color the Boy had never seen on another living person. Boy hadn’t even thought about it. He’d looked right at those eyes and blurted out, “Three men at a downstairs table are planning to kill you.”

The men who’d surrounded him had outright laughed, amused that this little scrap with dark-lined eyes and ill-fitting women’s robes had brought such a dire warning. But Blue’s blond eyebrow had arched with only the slightest hint of skepticism. “Which ones?” he’d asked.

In that moment, Boy had made the decision that had changed the course of his life: “I’ll tell you if you take me with you.”

Scorpion had no taste for outright combat, unlike the men that filled the other seats around Blue’s war table, where he sat now, returned from his excursion with blueprints and body alike. These men were men of action, men who used force at the slightest provocation. They were the proverbial hammers that saw all their problems as nails. And they hated the spymaster and his delicate touch.

They called him a gossip, a sissy, a faggot. Behind his back, sometimes even to his face, it was all they said about him. Scorpion knew this because he was in the business of knowing things. He knew things that could ruin every one of them, personally and professionally. The smallest drop of information in the right place, and every one of those bastards would have shot himself by morning.

But he refrained, because Blue needed him. That was what mattered, that Blue needed him. The rest of those bastards weren’t worth the effort it would take to destroy them. Blue was the one who mattered.

Blue sat at the head of that table now, his broad shoulders framed handsomely in his uniform. “Very well, then,” he said, his voice a confident baritone rumble that could make even the stoniest facades begin to melt. “What about the plan to sabotage the cables?”

Another of the hammer-men began to speak then. Scorpion didn’t bother listening. What they did with the information he brought back was only barely his business. Whether they struck against the empire and its oppressive structures, or picked targets of more personal grievances, Scorpion didn’t know and very nearly didn’t care. He’d never been so much interested in revolution for the sake of revolution; Blue’s designs for ruling the seas were not, so far as he could tell, manifestly different from the empire’s current structures of operation. But they were Blue’s, which meant they were Scorpion’s as well.

Scorpion watched distantly, almost hungrily, as Blue began lecturing the high-ranking officials under his command about where their next attack would land, what strategic networks it would disrupt, the estimated number of casualties, and so forth. The news only marginally concerned Scorpion. His job was to get the information, the raw material. What it got refined into was none of his business.

Instead, his mind began to wander — which was always a dangerous proposition, because when it wandered, it wandered to Blue. Not to his role as the commander of their forces, which of course Scorpion should have been thinking about him, but as a man. Strong-jawed and muscular, Blue was the exact type of man Scorpion had never minded servicing back when he’d been the brothel’s Boy, when the matron would withhold dinner unless he sucked as many cocks as he needed to. Lucky for him, he had a taste for it.

How long had he dreamed of getting on his knees for Blue? Every since that pair of piercing blue eyes had stared right through him and said, All right, come with me. From that moment on, Scorpion’s entire life had been about trying to make Blue want him in every conceivable way.

Of course, Scorpion didn’t admit to these things, because they made him sound pathetic, and his survival depended on his not sounding pathetic. But still. It wouldn’t even have to count for that much. If he’d just let Scorpion kneel and suck his cock, it would be enough. Scorpion would be glad to do it, at any time Blue wanted it. In front of everyone, even. Blue could order Scorpion to his knees during one of those meetings, and Scorpion would take him all the way into his throat without hesitation, showing off his (admittedly rusty) cocksucking skills to all his peers, all the ones who sneered at him because he was slight and pretty and easily pushed around. They all thought that because he didn’t fight back, he couldn’t fight. They couldn’t seem to understand that Scorpion had no time for their macho-man sparring bullshit. If he actually entered the fight, they’d be dead. And he didn’t want to kill them, because he didn’t want to make more problems for Blue. And he wanted Blue to like him. He wanted Blue to so much more than like him.

Certainly, he’d known from the way Blue had looked down his nose at the Boy in the brothel that Blue wouldn’t want him if Scorpion continued to let other men have him. So that was the day he’d stopped letting other men have him. Blue wasn’t a man who wanted other men, especially not men had by other men. Scorpion wasn’t stupid enough to assume Blue’s tastes ran toward anything but the loveliest of ladies, the ones he always had at his beck and call. But Blue had looked Scorpion in the eye and said Come with me, and that had to count for something. If Scorpion were good enough, it could someday count for more.

Scorpion pressed his thumbnail into the meat of his other hand and sighed. True love was miserable indeed.

The meeting ended not nearly as soon as it should have, which in Scorpion’s estimation was exactly at the end of the time it took to arrive, turn around, and leave again. While the others took their time chatting with one another, Scorpion beat a hasty retreat out the room’s small side door, the one that lead to one of the servants’ passages. Blue’s underwater lair was a labyrinth indeed, such that most of its inhabitants knew better than to go wandering off from the central paths. The back corridors, the hidden ladders, the pressurized spaces between bulkheads — Scorpion knew them intimately, and he preferred to travel that way. He wasn’t too good to carry himself like the hired help. He knew what he was.

“Wait,” a voice said behind him, the single syllable echoing off the metal walls like thunder. Scorpion turned at once, unable to keep the eager expression from his face. Blue had come for him.

That in and of itself was not so strange — Blue called for him regularly. Scorpion was an important part of this whole operation, and of course Blue had use for him. Blue even let Scorpion linger in his quarters sometimes for no particular purpose, except that Blue felt like talking and wanted an attentive pair of ears. Scorpion could sit and listen to him talk for hours, even about the things that mattered nothing at all to Scorpion. It wasn’t the understanding that mattered, but the listening.

Blue strode close. He stood nearly a full head taller than Scorpion, and he used his height to loom. Scorpion tried not to let on how much faster such proximity made his heart beat. “A dead general is a pretty showy move,” Blue said, smiling in a way that almost hid his teeth.

“I know.” Scorpion had related the events of two days previous only as much as needed to explain the conclusions. He did not give details, because he had learned that details were as likely to bring punishment as they were reward. Which ones earned which, there was rarely any way to say. Some things simply displeased Blue. And some days, Blue was easy to displease.

This close, in the low, functional light of the corridors, Scorpion could see the hard lines that had begun to form at the corners of Blue’s eyes, as well as the white that had begun to frost his yellow hair. He was not as young as he had been when they’d first met, but then again, neither was Scorpion. He’d still been a boy in more than just name when he’d met Blue, and he’d grown into a man entirely under Blue’s watchful, critical, bright blue eye.

At least Blue did not appear overly upset at the moment with how things had turned out. He crossed his arms across his chest; the short sleeves of his more casual uniform bared his thick forearms. Scorpion bit his lips to keep from licking them. “Take a few days to rest here. Then I’ll want you off to the North Sea.”

Scorpion bit down harder. He hated the cold. “Are you sure that’s the best plan of action?”

“Are you doubting my strategy?” asked Blue.

“No, never,” Scorpion answered as quickly as he could. “But any activity in the North Sea is a decoy. Now that they know the codes have been compromised, they’re not going to expand into fleet production. They’re going to go back to the engineers.”

With the patient air of an indulgent parent confronted with a toddler’s view of the world, Blue shook his head. “How could that happen? They’re too far along.”

They weren’t, though. Construction on the imperial fleet was in its final stages of pre-production, but not even the first bolt on the first boat had been soldered into place yet. “This has gotten us five, maybe six months of delay,” Scorpion said, trying to make it clear that there were benefits to having taken classified information overtly, instead of covertly. “If we can get ahead of the next design, we can stop them before their warships even–“

Blue ran his fingers down the sleeve of Scorpion’s overcoat, giving the heavy black material a straightening tug and cutting off Scorpion’s protest mid-sentence. “I understand your objections,” Blue said, his voice low and soft, but not in the way of gentle things. It was a warning, one that told Scorpion he had better shape up and stop his whining. Scorpion switched to biting the inside of his cheek. “But they boys, they don’t like waiting. They don’t like a war that’s fought without them.”

Did they like living? Scorpion wanted to ask, but didn’t. He didn’t think he wanted the answer. “Yes, sir,” he said softly.

That brought a more genuine smile to Blue’s face. He rested his arm fully on Scorpion’s bicep now, leaning in close enough that Scorpion could feel his knees threaten to give way. Would Blue catch him? He dreamed the answer might be yes. “Good boy,” Blue said, giving him a little pat. “And when you come back, we’ll talk about moving you up in the ranks. What say? Spend less time in the field, more at my side?”

Scorpion’s mouth was suddenly dry. He nodded eagerly.

“Good.” Blue patted him again, then turned and began to march off with heavy, authoritative stomps. “Be ready to go by the end of the week.”

When the door to the corridor shut behind Blue, Scorpion let out an audible sigh and slumped against the bulkhead. The sheen of sweat that Blue’s presence had drawn out of him was quickly turning to ice in the dry, recycled air. 

A sound behind him made him jump. Scorpion was not a man who let anything sneak up on him, and he hated the fact that Blue could distract him until that wasn’t true anymore. He spun on his heel, feeling for the knives he’d secreted in the lining of his sleeves. At the very least, he could make anything that wanted to hurt him very sorry.

Recluse emerged from the shadows, as though she were in fact nothing but a trick of the light able to make herself manifest. She had a stern set to her jaw, one that made her sharp features even sharper. She did not greet him with any of the customary gestures that acknowledged differences in rank among those under Blue’s command, but Scorpion didn’t mind. Those were for show, for fitting in with everyone else. They didn’t mean anything when it was only the two of them. “Boss.”

“How long have you been there?” asked Scorpion. He relaxed his stance, then tugged his overcoat more tightly around his chest. Thinking about the North Sea had made the chill of the undersea compound even chillier.

Recluse gave a little shrug: maybe seconds, maybe hours. Her face gave nothing away she didn’t want. “It’s a shit plan.”

Scorpion sighed. “I know.”

“No, I don’t think you do.” Recluse folded her arms across her chest; despite the temperature, she wore only a tank top, leaving her muscular, scarred arms and shoulders bare and visible. “It’s a shit plan. All of it. Especially taking you out of the field so he doesn’t have an excuse not to attack anymore.”

“That’s ridiculous,” said Scorpion, because he wanted to believe that Blue wanted him because Blue wanted him, and for no other reason.

“Is it?” Recluse narrowed her eyes. “Because the North Sea is useless, and useless is a death trap.”

Scorpion gave her a scowl he hoped was meaningful enough before he started walking down the corridor, toward the end that would lead him to his quarters. He wasn’t going to dignify this conversation by engaging in it.

“A mission is only good if it has an objective!” Recluse called after him, using his own words against him. Sometimes Scorpion hated her eerily accurate memory. “A mission without an objective is not a mission! A spy with no target becomes the target!”

“Stop!” Scorpion snapped at her, spinning on his heel. They were the same height, so that as he approached her, he could look her right in the eye. “Stop! Just stop.” He poked her right in the middle of her chest, and he knew it was a sign of her respect for him that she didn’t chop off his entire hand right then and there. “It’s what he wants, okay? So we’re going to do it, and when we come back, we’ll be rewarded.”

Rewarded?” Recluse practically gagged on the word. “Can you hear yourself?”

Yes, Scorpion could hear himself. He could hear himself loud and clear. He could hear exactly what it would sound like to be at Blue’s side, not his hidden spymaster but his right-hand man, protected from all barbs and slights by his proximity to the greatest man Scorpion had ever met. They were glorious sounds, ones that he’d dreamed of for well over a decade now. “You’re just jealous,” he snapped, even though even he didn’t quite know what he meant by that accusation.

The dismissive laugh Recluse gave at that was a bark that echoed down the corridor. “Stop thinking with your dick.”

He had every right to execute her for that remark. He chose to take it as a sign of his respect for her that he did not. “Fuck you.”

“Fuck somebody!” Recluse shouted back. She raked her fingers through her short, shaggy hair. “Fuck anybody! You know how horny, lonely men are the easiest marks? Look in a mirror sometime! He’s made a mark of you, and you’re too dickblind to notice.”

That wasn’t true. That couldn’t be true. Fuck her for thinking that it was true. “Just because I’m not a whore like you and–“

It wasn’t a polite, girly slap that hit Scorpion’s face then, the way Widow had hit him on the ship. It was a fist. It was Recluse’s fist, landing in the same spot, and Scorpion was lucky that she went easy on him, because they both knew she could have broken his jaw without much extra effort. As it was, he was going to bruise. So much for fieldwork of any stripe until that faded.

Recluse took a step back from him, breathing heavily. She shook out her hand. “Fine,” she said, barely biting back a sneer. “Rot on his cock for all I care.” She stormed off, fist still balled tightly at her sides. She didn’t even look back.

Scorpion clutched his hand to the throbbing side of his face. He didn’t even know which one of them had crossed the line there. Probably her. Definitely her. She was just jealous that he was close to Blue, close to the center of power. That was all. And so what? She could go cry in her girlfriend’s tits about it. At least they had each other.

But soon Scorpion would have something better. He’d go to the North Sea alone if he had to, and when he came back, he’d have something much better. Just wait and see.




He knew instantly from the gentleness of the knock whose hand had made it. It seemed sometimes there were only one person in the entire command structure who did not pride themselves on their ability to announce their presence like a battering ram. “Yes,” he said, knowing both that he’d locked the door and that it didn’t matter.

A moment later, that door opened, revealing a beautiful woman who’d never met a lock she couldn’t pick. “Master,” she purred by way of greeting. Out of danger, out of the field, she was back to her more formal, feminine airs. Clearly she was up to something.

“Come in, Widow.” Scorpion waved her on.

She entered his quarters the way she always entered a room: breasts first. They really were astonishing — astonishing enough to make even Scorpion admire them, something he’d never felt any other woman’s body had warranted. It helped that everything she wore accentuated them until they were unignorable parts of any room she was in. Sometimes he’d found himself staring simply because it didn’t seem what architecture her bodice provided could be sufficient to keep them from spilling right out. He’d seen a whole crowd transfixed by the tantalizing prospect that her nipples might slip out at any moment. As distractions went, there were few better.

Of course, it wasn’t as though anyone who got tired of her breasts would lack other things to look at. She was all softness and curves, from the bow of her plump lips to the thighs that he’d literally seen kill a man. She’d chosen seduction as her art of infiltration well before Scorpion had known her, such that their meeting had consisted of him saving her from the hangman’s noose for the crime of murdering six wealthy, horrible men in their beds. They were, she told him later, merely the six that the court had known about. She was very, very good at her job.

“Recluse wants to say that she’s sorry,” Widow said, giving a little smirk. In one hand, she was carrying a bottle of whiskey; in another, two glasses. “But of course she doesn’t want to say she’s sorry, so she sent me with a peace offering.” 

Considering that was the best he was going to get, Scorpion figured he might as well accept it. “I apologize for yelling,” he said as he gestured to indicate she should join him on the couch. The quarters on his own ship were far more spacious, but he was a guest here on Blue’s ship, and Blue had little room for guests. “I was … frustrated.”

“Of course. And she was out of line.” Widow poured for each of them. “We simply worry about you, Master.”

She was the only one who called him that, and she was the only one he’d allow it from. At first it had been a term of respect; now, after nearly a decade together, it had become more of a term of affectionate disrespect, an overblown title of submission just to show how close they were. If Scorpion had insisted on the title, Widow would have died before she’d let it slip her pretty lips. Because he didn’t, she could say it freely.

“You don’t need to worry,” Scorpion promised her as he took a sip. As peace offerings went, he’d had far worse. “I’m fine.” He hoped she wasn’t looking at the swelling red mark that had formed on his pale cheek.

Widow tapped the lip of her glass against her lips, leaving the faintest red smear there. He knew she had lipsticks that could survive a bomb blast. Sometimes things were made to leave a mark. “Master, we care about you very much. You should know that.”

Scorpion sighed as he leaned back against the couch, letting his head fall back until it came to rest against the cold metal wall. “I appreciate your concern. I’m fine.”

“Are you?” Widow crossed her legs beneath her. “Warmed any good beds recently?”

Scorpion wished so much that he could have been more offended by that question, such that he could have used that offense as a deflection to keep from having to engage the question as a valid one. “Don’t you start,” he settled on as a good non-answer. He didn’t want to turn the accusation back on her; that was what had gotten him punched in the first place, after all. From Recluse’s lips, “whore” was a barb so playful as to be a love note. Not so much from anyone else. Scorpion of all people should have known better.

The worst part was, he did know better. What did he have against whores? He’d been one himself, more or less, and having gone from indentured sex work to self-imposed celibacy almost overnight didn’t make it untrue. Sighing, Scorpion slumped even further back against the couch cushions and drank the whiskey. It was good — an extremely acceptable peace offering. Scorpion wondered which poor dumb bastard she’d liberated it from. Well, it’d be a good lesson for him about trusting ostentatiously pretty women. They always wanted something.

Widow leaned a little closer to him, folding her hands around her glass. The red tint of her fingernails matched both her lipstick and the tight-fitting dress she wore. She kicked off her shoes and tucked her stockinged feet up under her. “She was right about one thing, though,” Widow said.

Scorpion didn’t want to ask. “What’s that?”

“That horny, lonely men make the easiest marks,” Widow said.

Rolling his eyes, Scorpion took another drink of whiskey. Of course they did. That was basic. Horny could be one thing, and lonely another, but the combination was almost always a devastating weakness. “I’m not a mark.”

Widow shrugged. “But you are lonely. And don’t tell me you’re not horny.”

Was he? Scorpion liked to think that he wasn’t. He liked very much to think he had that entirely under control, and not only aspirationally. Blue wasn’t a man who wanted other men, which meant that there was a good chance he’d never want another man, no matter the circumstances. Scorpion had accepted that and prepared himself for the eventuality that Blue might never desire him sexually. That was fine. He’d accepted that possibility.

He’d had offers, of course — women who couldn’t read his tastes and men who could, some with ulterior motives, but others with nothing but the heartfelt, honest desire to get their hands on him. He could have taken any number of them to bed and been satisfied. He could even have done so with near-certainty that Blue would never have known about it.

But Blue would have known. Somehow, Blue would have known. Maybe he could even smell it on Scorpion. And Scorpion couldn’t chance that look of disdain that would surely follow. He’d had enough disappointment in his life.

“Master,” Widow said, “hand me your glass.”

Unsure of why she’d told him to do so, Scorpion did — and as he did, he realized how close he’d been to dropping it outright. His hand wasn’t working quite right. His muscles went vaguely in the direction he told them to, but only vaguely. Everything felt difficult and distant, as though someone had replaced all the air in the room with water, leaving him to struggle against its resistance.

She’d fucking drugged him.

Her boss, her superior, the man who’d saved her from execution and given her a new life, and she’d fucking drugged him. Scorpion wanted to be furious about it, but he couldn’t summon enough ire to be more than slightly miffed. In fact, he was smiling. He was giggling. She’d drugged him, and he thought it was funny.

Widow put both glasses down on the table and sidled closer. She hiked up the tight skirt of her dress to the top of the thigh slit, just above the lacy tops of her black stockings, then knelt across his lap. It put her breasts directly in front of his face. He was incapable of suppressing the urge to lean forward and bury his face right between them. They were just as soft and warm as he’d always imagined they’d be. Widow made a pleased little sound and stroked back his hair. “How long has it been since someone touched you?” she asked with a note of pity.

He wanted to say it didn’t matter how long it had been, because he didn’t care about stupid things like touch. But he couldn’t pull his face out of her breasts long enough to do it. “I’m going to throw you back into the ocean,” he said, or tried to say. The words were muffled.

“No, you’re not.” Widow bent down and kissed the top of his head. “You’re going to let us help you.”

Before Scorpion could even wonder who us was in this scenario, the door opened. He couldn’t look, but he didn’t have to. He knew the sound of Recluse’s footsteps by now. Some part of his brain might be horrified to be found like this, but that part was quiet now. It had been replaced by the part that knew in the abstract that it wasn’t good to be caught with someone else’s girlfriend on his lap, but didn’t actually care enough to do anything about it. Even if it could have done anything about it. His limbs were jelly, and his face felt very good right where it was.

She wasn’t the first woman he’d touched sexually. In the brothel, there had been plenty of clients who’d called for him and one of the girls together, and of course he’d been in no position to refuse. He’d never been particularly aroused by the contact, but he’d never been repulsed by it either. It had just been nice. It had been nice sometimes to touch the softness of breasts, to stroke a curvy hip, to let himself be held by soft and delicate hands.

Therefore, it was nearly nostalgic to feel Widow’s fingers skim down his sides, the lightest bite of her nails giving tender pressure. She pulled up the hem of his turtleneck, exposing his belly. “Will you let us help you, Master?” she asked, her lips pressed into his hair.

Sober, Scorpion might have been able to list a hundred reasons why he shouldn’t allow this to continue. Drugged, he couldn’t think of a single reason to refuse. He nodded. Maybe it was a bad idea, but it felt good.

Widow took his black turtleneck and pulled it up over his head, making him lift his arms high as she did. Before they could flop down to his sides, though, he felt another, stronger pair of hands catch his wrists. Oh, right. Recluse was there. Recluse was there, and there was nothing she couldn’t do with a rope. He felt the taut, firm surface of the cord wrap around him. He was caught. They were hunters, and he was their prey. Before he’d even known the hunt was on, the trap had closed.

As Recluse stood beside the couch and held his arms above his head, Widow slipped a hand ever so gently between his legs. She seemed neither surprised nor disappointed to find that his cock was still soft. Scorpion felt the urge to apologize, which was ridiculous, considering how, technically, they were the ones violating him at the moment. But as with so many violations, everything was relative. He shouldn’t have felt as safe as he did, considering how much violence the two women holding him captive were capable of visiting on a body, especially a man’s body, especially a man’s body tied up as his was at the moment. It was all right, though. He knew they weren’t going to hurt him without good reason. If he died today, he would die knowing he’d deserved it.

Instead, he felt himself lifted to his feet from the couch, into as much of a standing position as he could manage, given his condition. He pitched forward for half a second, then began floating. No, not floating — Recluse had him and was holding him up in her arms like a princess, provided the princess in question was topless and had their hands bound. His head spun with the sudden movement, so he closed his eyes. Maybe she was going to throw him overboard. Maybe they were all going to jump together into the sea.

It wasn’t the sea that met him as he fell, but his bed. His status afforded him the luxury of a slightly larger stateroom and a slightly-larger-than-slightly-larger bed. Until this moment, he’d never found much use for the latter.

Widow was on top of him soon after, the neckline of her dress now pulled low enough that he could see the very edges of her brown nipples, like the last light of sun over the far horizon. He tried to reach for them, but his hands clattered back to the bed above his head. Right, the rope. More importantly, Recluse’s hands around the rope, holding him down. Widow got to touch him; he didn’t get to touch her. At least, not until Recluse said so.

That situation seemed to suit Widow just fine, as she straddled him and grinned down at him. Her long black hair spilled over her shoulders and down toward him, tickling his chest and shoulders. She wriggled her hips a little atop his, then bent down to kiss him.

They’d kissed before, of course — the time on the boat had been only the most recent shared moment in the field, hardly the first and surely not the last — but this was the first time they’d ever kissed. Those other kisses had belonged to Jayes Tal and Julianna, or to whatever other masks they’d been wearing at the time. This was not for show or for subterfuge, but because she wanted to. He could feel the way her lipstick smeared across his lips as she thrust her tongue into his mouth. Meant to leave a mark indeed.

Scorpion had never found a woman’s body particularly arousing before, and he couldn’t precisely say he was finding one arousing right now. But he was aroused, if by nothing other than the overwhelming sensation of the situation. He could feel his cock rise inside of his trousers, right up against where Widow’s hips sat down on him. She grinned as she felt it, bouncing slightly in a way that made him stiffen further. “Oh, I think he may be big enough for you,” Widow said with a teasing purr.

Who was she talking to? It must have been Recluse, because Recluse was the only other person in the room with them, but it also couldn’t have been Recluse. Recluse was a lesbian, a point she’d made repeatedly while stabbing at least a dozen men since Scorpion had met her, with his full permission. She liked women and he liked men, which had been the basis for their solidarity when he’d found her, a malnourished scrap of a thing chained to a workbench, fixing engines for the gang that had owned her. She’d been certain he’d never rape her, and that had been sufficient for starting a working relationship. For all the years together, the one constant between them had been how neither of them had any interest in what was in the other’s pants.

Now, though, Scorpion could feel Recluse’s hands grip at his wrists, holding around the knots she’d tied. He couldn’t turn his head to see her face, but he could hear hear the rough puffs of her breath. Widow laughed and scooted back, until she was sitting on his thighs instead of his hips. “There’s only one way to find out, though, isn’t there?” She reached down and unbuttoned the button of his pants, then slowly dragged down the zipper tab of his fly. She reached into the gap in the material and pulled out his cock, half-hard already. With the way her dress pooled at her legs, obscuring much of what lay beneath, it almost looked like it belonged to her instead of to him. It might as well have, for how much it was responding to unfamiliar stimuli. “She likes getting fucked. That’s her secret.”

“Shut up,” Recluse growled. Her fingers tightened into something approximating a fist.

“Hates men but loves cock. The bigger, the better.” Widow grinned as she circled her fingers around Scorpion’s shaft and slowly stroked him up and down, coaxing as much size from him as he could give. “That’s our secret. You can keep it, can’t you?”

Scorpion nodded dreamily. Even if he’d had someone to tell, he wouldn’t have. But he didn’t, and he wouldn’t. Not for anything in the world.

“Will you let her ride you, Master?” Widow ran the pad of her thumb over the slit in the head of Scorpion’s cock, smearing it with slick precome. “She feels so good instead, all slick and warm. And she looks so pretty when she’s nice and full. She wants you to see.”

“Shut up.” However little bite there’d been the last time Recluse had said it, there was even less this time. Scorpion found he couldn’t help the little giggle that slipped his lips. It was funny, to him, that she wanted it — not in a mocking way, never in a mocking way, he valued his life too much even to suggest that. But it was funny, the contrast between her impenetrable persona and her wanting to be penetrated. And besides, Widow was smiling. That meant it was okay at least to smile.

“What do you think, you frigid bitch?” Widow said, looking up at Recluse now, using the insults that were their love language. Everyone else who met them thought they were mortal enemies. Scorpion might literally have been the only other person who knew they were together. “Ready to try a real one? I can’t say they feel any different, but they do make better noises.”

One of those noises was slipping from Scorpion’s lips every time Widow squeezed his cock just so. He watched almost absently as she pulled his pants off the rest of the way, baring him completely. He was now naked and … well, all right, for absolute accuracy’s sake, he wasn’t tied to the bed. He was tied to himself, and that self was on the bed, which amounted to largely the same thing. And he was drugged, not to forget that part. Not much, he could tell now, but just a little. Just enough to make all the edges soft, to make everything a little bit funny.

And this was definitely funny. A gay man, a gay man who’d gone from constant daily clients to having nothing but his own masturbatory fantasies as his outlet for over a decade, stripped naked and bound atop a bed, while two mean lesbians talked about riding his dick. It was perhaps the funniest thing that had ever happened to him.

Recluse didn’t seem amused, but she never seemed amused, so that was hard to say. Meanwhile Widow was grinning as bright as reflected sunlight, looking beyond pleased with herself as she took Recluse’s hands and brought her close. “I even kissed his lips all pretty for you,” Widow promised, nuzzling Recluse’s jaw without making contact with her lips. “Does he look enough like a girl for you now?”

Oh, that was why she– Scorpion darted his tongue out against his lips. He could taste the slightest oily sheen. He could only imagine the mess she’d made of him. He’d be surprised if he didn’t look like an outright clown.

The way Recluse looked at him, though, made him reconsider that assessment. Grim, serious Recluse didn’t laugh at anything, barely smiled even when she was honestly happy. There was something different in her expression now, though, something Scorpion had never seen. She looked … interested seemed to mild of a word for the look on her face. Predatory? Closer. But not like she wanted to rip him apart. No, more like she wanted to catch him between her teeth and just hold him there, endangered and safe at once. 

Widow went for Recluse’s pants the same way she had Scorpion’s, slipping her hand down inside them in a way that made Recluse’s knees visibly buckle. She grabbed Widow’s arm, steadying herself as Widow gleefully worked her fingers at the unseen juncture of Recluse’s legs. “You’re so wet,” Widow purred, just loud enough that Scorpion could hear her.

Recluse was breathing heavier now, her eyes half-closed. She barely made any sound, which meant all the sounds she did make were dead giveaways about how much this was affecting her. At Widow’s touch, she was undone. All her stoic armor could not protect her against the bright, soft, dangerous phenomenon that was Widow.

Widow took both her hands now and pushed Recluse’s pants down and off her body, just as she had with Scorpion’s. The difference here was that Recluse kept on her black undershirt, keeping her chest covered to her waist. Widow teased Recluse’s nipples hard through the fabric, but made no move to strip her further.

Maybe he looked something like a girl at this moment, but Recluse looked equally something like a boy, more so than he’d ever imagined from a woman. Scorpion found his gaze falling hungrily to her muscular legs, her broad shoulders. These were appealing points he’d never considered before. It was hard not to consider them now.

Widow was the only one of them left properly dressed now, and even that only technically. The deep red fabric clung to her like a second skin, moving as she did. Recluse tugged down her neckline even further, letting her breasts spill out over the top. Recluse bent down to latch her mouth to one, making Widow groan happily and card her fingers through Recluse’s shaggy hair. She said something Scorpion couldn’t make out, something that made Recluse snort and grip with her teeth instead of her lips. Widow just laughed at the rougher treatment.

Somewhat to his surprised, Scorpion didn’t feel abandoned by being ignored like this by the two of them. Instead, he felt curiously included — no one else got to see this. He barely got to see it; just because they were less cautious about displaying their affection for one another in front of him didn’t mean he’d ever seen them as they were when they were alone. The intimacy of it was … it was overwhelming, was the word he was looking for, overwhelming, and if he hadn’t been drugged and stripped naked and tied up quite securely, he probably would have run away long before this point. He didn’t know intimacy. He didn’t do intimacy. He did professionalism and espionage. Those were different monsters entirely, ones that practically demanded he keep everything at arm’s length.

Even his relationship with Blue — and oh, it was strange to think of Blue like this, to think of what Blue would think to see him like this — was not intimacy. It was a closeness, a functional closeness, but there was nothing intimate to it. It was a relationship at the point of a sword, at all times the slightest misstep away from drawing blood. There was trust, but only as far as one would trust a real venomous creature, in that one could trust it to obey its nature and no further. There was in it no other security to be found.

He felt a trickle of a tear pool at the corner of his eye before breaking free and rolling down the side of his face. He was glad they weren’t paying attention.

Scorpion watched Recluse slip Widow out of her dress, slide it all to the floor around her, until Widow was left in nothing but her undergarments: a soft, lacy black corset and garter belt holding up sheer black stockings. No underwear, Scorpion noted with slightly abstract interest, not from the moment she’d entered his room. He wondered what that meant.

Holding Widow’s hand for balance, Recluse climbed on the bed, straddling Scorpion’s hips. “You look so good,” Widow murmured in her ear, just loud enough for Scorpion to overhear. She reached down and grabbed Scorpion’s cock, which was now fully erect and interested in the proceedings. Aiming it straight upward, Widow coaxed Recluse to lower her hips. “Right there. Just there. Do you feel it?”

There was no doubt Recluse felt it, not from the way her mouth opened in a wide o of a gasp as Scorpion’s cock slid inside her. Recluse gripped Widow’s shoulder now, hard enough that Scorpion could see the pressure dent the soft planes of Widow’s skin. Widow didn’t so much as protest. She continued to ease Recluse down, inch by inch.

Scorpion had been called upon to perform with women before, but never to the point of ending up inside them; that had always been the client’s prerogative. He was finding out now just how good it was, warm and tight in a way that almost could be abstracted fully from petty matters such as bodies and identities and genders. It was simply good.

Recluse at last came to rest, her body pressed to his, taking inside of her as much of him as he had to give. Scorpion didn’t know quite what he expected next from her, but it wasn’t what happened: She remained still. He’d expected her to move, to take some sort of initiative toward pressure and friction and all the other things he had associated with sexual pleasure. Instead, she sat there, catching her breath. She bent slightly forward, bracing her hands against his chest. Her shoulders moved slightly with each deep inhale and exhale. Her eyes were still closed.

“How do you feel?” Widow asked, brushing back Recluse’s hair. “Does it feel good?”

To Scorpion’s near-shock, Recluse nodded. He hadn’t expected such a stony facade to have enough of a crack in it to let Recluse admit anything. A sheen of sweat had begun to form on her skin, making her body glisten beneath the room’s fluorescent lights. Her nipples were two hard little peaks that jutted out from beneath the dark fabric of her undershirt. Scorpion wondered what they must feel like to touch.

Widow smiled as she stroked Recluse’s hair back from her face. She then trailed her hand down Recluse’s body, down her chest to the thatch of dark hair just above where Scorpion’s cock disappeared inside of her. Smirking, Widow slipped two of her fingers in, catching Recluse’s clit between them. “Fuck,” Recluse gasped, pitching forward slightly as Widow worked her sensitive skin.

“Beautiful,” Widow said as she kissed Recluse’s forehead, leaving the slightest red smudge there. “Now don’t let him off too easy. Make him work for it.”

Scorpion was vaguely surprised to hear himself mentioned. He’d almost thought he’d been forgotten, reduced to the useful parts of his body and otherwise left a spectator. Not that he minded, particularly, but it was also nice to be included. It was, in fact, very nice to be included.

He felt another tear roll down his face, this time from the corner of his other eye. Damn it. He was going to blame the drugs for that. They were making everything weird and distant. It wasn’t his fault at all.

After a moment, Widow let go of Recluse and walked over to the other end of the bed, the one where Scorpion’s face and bound arms still were. She looked down at him, looking a hundred feet tall as she loomed over his prone frame. He imagined she could step on him and squash him like his namesake. That thought made him even harder for reasons he wasn’t really in a position to interrogate. “Hello, Master.”

Scorpion cleared his throat. “Hi,” he said, before being pitched into another little cloud of giggles. Yes, that was the correct way to address someone in this situation. He’d nailed it.

Widow just beamed as she traced a small, sharp circle around one of his nipples with her brightly painted fingernails. “You’ve done so much for us, Master. We owe our lives to you, not just once, but many times over. We’re the ones in debt to you. By that metric, you owe us nothing. And yet, what would you do for us?”

Anything. He’d do anything for them. What a lie it was to say he owed them nothing. He could have listed situations for an hour and still not given a full accounting of them number of times one or both of them had plucked him from the fire. It didn’t matter what was owed, or by whom. There was no ledger for the three of them. Any debts once incurred had long since been paid back, and earned again, and paid back again. Without hesitation, he’d do anything for them.

With a sudden tweak of her fingers, Widow pinched that same nipple hard, making Scorpion yelp. He shifted his hips slightly, only to be reminded in the motion of exactly why they weren’t moving far. “And what would he do for you?”

“Nothing,” Scorpion whispered, horrified to hear himself say it. He’d known it was true, of course, but as with most horrible truths, he wasn’t supposed to say it. He was supposed to act as though Blue’s transactional benevolence were the height of generosity, because maybe if he did, one day it wouldn’t be transactional. Maybe, one day, if he were good enough, it would be freely given, out of something that might even, when squinted at, resemble love.

“So shut up and listen,” said Widow, even though Scorpion wasn’t talking. She brought her hand up to grip at his throat, applying nothing but the slightest beat of pressure there. “You can nurse your doomed little crush all you want. That’s your right. But we, in turn, are instituting a punishment system. Whenever you let your dick lead you into making a stupid decision, you lose privileges for an evening. Tonight, it’s ours.”

“We know how to use it better than you do,” Recluse added, her husky voice even rougher with breathiness.

Widow laughed. “That’s right. Show him.”

Before Scorpion could formulate any type of response to this, Recluse lifted her hips and slid his cock almost completely out of her, then pushed it all right back instead again. The moan of pleasure she made as she did was raw and honest. She sat there for a moment more, then did it again, an excruciating tease — just soft and slow enough in her movements that Scorpion wanted to beg her for more. He needed more, it wasn’t enough, he couldn’t get off like this.

But of course that wasn’t her goal, at least not for the time being. He wasn’t any good to them soft, after all. 

The pinch of Widow’s fingernails against Scorpion’s nipple made him cry out again. “You’re beautiful too, Master. I want to put you in one of my dresses, paint your lips properly. Line your eyes and curl your lashes. Make you wear my stockings. I think it’d look so pretty, your cock peeking out from under a garter belt. I might even suck it for you like that. Hell, she might even join me.”

Recluse snorted at that, but she didn’t stop moving. “Fat chance.”

“And why not?” Widow ran her fingers up the curve of Scorpion’s cheek. “A man’s cock, sure. You wouldn’t let one of those anywhere near you. But a rare beauty’s? That’s something different.”

Scorpion wanted to protest that despite his soft features and slight build, one would be hard-pressed to mistake him for a woman. But then again, Widow wasn’t talking about making him into a woman. She was talking about making him beautiful, which wouldn’t be so bad. In fact, it might even be nice. He’d never worn lace before, much less in the form of lingerie. He might wear it well.

Blue would hate it, of course. Scorpion would never hear the end of it if Blue caught him like that, painted and posed in the unmanliest of ways. But maybe Blue’s opinion didn’t so much matter.

“Do you suck cock, Master?” Widow asked.

The question seemed to come from nowhere, so much so that Scorpion almost didn’t have an answer. He recovered enough after a second to nod. Yes, he did. She had to know he did, even if he hadn’t in a long time. The soldiers who called him a cocksucker were incorrect about his recent activities, but correct about his overall nature.

Widow’s red lips curled up in a wicked grin. Creatures in the wild used bright colors both to attract and to warn of danger. Here was a prime example. “Then you’ll pick this up fast.”

She knelt on one side of Scorpion’s head, then swung her other knee over to the other side. Scorpion barely had long enough to register the feel of her nylons against the sides of his face before her cunt was right up against his mouth. Scorpion sputtered with surprise, and as he did, his lips and tongue moved against her soft, slick folds. Widow made a happy little sigh at that. Okay, so he had the basics down.

Sticking his tongue out farther, Scorpion found the hardened nub of her clit. He flicked the tip of his tongue across it, feeling the way she shivered as he hit the right spot. Facing away from him, she leaned forward, spreading her thighs a big more to allow him more access to her sensitive parts. Scorpion closed his eyes, letting sensation and response guide him here. There was nothing to see that couldn’t be felt a thousand times better.

To be fair, when he’d declared quietly that he’d do anything for them, he hadn’t quite imagined that anything might include cunnilingus. He supposed that was on him for not clarifying expectations.

“How’s he doing?” he heard Recluse ask, a faint scoff audible in the question. She was moving faster up and down his cock now, a fact her voice reminded him of. Maybe most men couldn’t forget when someone was riding their dick, but in Scorpion’s defense, he had a lot going on.

Widow made a pretty little sound. “He’s getting the hang of it. Not as good as you were your first time out, though.”

Recluse snorted. “I told you. No one eats pussy like a dyke.”

“Then we’re just going to have to teach him to eat pussy like a dyke, aren’t we?” Widow laughed. “What do you think? Are you willing to give him some lessons? Get in there and critique his technique?”

“Maybe,” said Recluse, in a way Scorpion knew well enough to know she meant yes.

With his hands bound, all Scorpion could do was move his mouth against her skin as far as he could reach. He had no particular technique or objective at work, so he just went for as much friction and contact as he could manage. He was surprised — and oh, he would never say this aloud, especially not in front of Widow — that the experience was abstractly pleasant. It wasn’t arousing in quite the same way as was getting a cock between his lips, but it had its appeals nonetheless. It was nice, to be able to feel her so intimately, how wet and warm she was. The wetter she got, the better of a job he was doing, after all.

Widow spread her knees wide, opening her legs and giving him full access to her pussy. “Right there,” she told him as his tongue pressed up against her clit. “Right there, you don’t have to be gentle. You don’t have to be gentle at all, not with me. Give me all you’ve got. You can even use your teeth a little.”

That wasn’t something he’d expected to hear anyone say with his mouth so close to their genitals. He was going to take her at her word, though, so he ran his front teeth just over the bud of her clit. She shivered in a way that felt like encouragement, so he did it again.

Maybe it was the drugs, or maybe it was just the meditative, helpless nature of his condition, but he lost himself in the sensation of being at the mercy of their bodies. He had little control over the situation, which was maybe for the best. This was his punishment, after all. The lesbians were showing him exactly how much better they were than he was at knowing how to use his cock. Maybe they should have full-time control. Maybe it’d be better for everyone concerned if they just kept him on one leash and his dick on another, parading him around to show everyone else just who was in charge here.

No, that was silly. He didn’t actually want that. But it was fun to think about, and for once in his life, that was enough. His altered, softened state meant he could no longer stop thoughts from coming and going through his mind. They flowed through him like water, until he could no longer push them away. So instead he licked and sucked at Widow’s cunt, and he let Recluse bounce on his dick, because that was all he could manage.

He couldn’t have seen anything from that position even if he had opened his eyes, but he could feel and hear them as they moved and touched one another, saying quiet things meant only for each other’s ears. On the one hand, he could have been anyone. On the other, no, he couldn’t. They never would have trusted anyone else to get this close. He was here because he would do anything for them, including shut the hell up and let them use him for their own pleasure. As it turned out, he would do that particular thing quite gladly.

At last, it was all too much. He could feel the soft cotton of the drugs wearing off, and the sweet harshness of the friction and sensation that followed pushed him ever closer to orgasm. “I’m,” Scorpion gasped, his lips still pressed up against Widow’s lower ones. “I can’t, I’m — I’m going to come–“

Widow was off his mouth in a flash, sliding forward until she was sitting astride his chest rather than his face. Her shapely ass and back filled almost Scorpion’s entire field of view. “Come on his dick, baby,” Widow said. Scorpion could feel her hand as it rubbed against Recluse’s clit again, bumping occasionally against his own shaft. “I want to hear you, beautiful, I want to hear you come when you’re all full of his cock. Yes, good, I’ve got you, I love you. I’m right here. Come on, baby, come for me.”

Recluse bounced harder, fucking herself deep on Scorpion’s cock. Every time he bottomed out inside her, she made a whimpering noise, somewhere on the edge of pain and pleasure. When she came, it was with a high-pitched cry Scorpion hadn’t known she was capable of making — almost gentle in its neediness. There were no words to it, just a soft whimper that broke like a wave into a shuddering gasp. Scorpion could feel the muscles of her cunt squeeze around his cock, shivering with the intensity of her orgasm.

That was it for Scorpion. Naked and bound, pinned to the bed by two beautiful bodies, he came explosively. He thrust his hips on instinct, trying to find as much warm sensation as he could while his cock shot off for a truly breathtaking release. “Yes!” Widow called out in encouragement. “Fill her up, Master, fill her with your come. I want to get between her thighs and taste you. Make her feel you inside of her for days.”

As though Scorpion could have said no. The thought of coming inside someone else had never held a particular appeal to him before — but this wasn’t just someone else. It was Recluse. It was someone he would die for, someone he had killed for, many times over, someone who felt the same way about him. That made it okay. That made it better than okay.

He fell back to the bed, panting and shivering. Everything was cold and bright. He felt empty, chilled to the bone. He hated the cold.

A second later, Recluse collapsed against the bed right next to him, as much of her bare skin as was exposed pressed up against his. She was breathing heavily, as though she’d finished running a sprint.

Widow followed a moment later, taking a moment to unfasten Scorpion’s wrists before easing his arms back down toward his body. She lay down against his other side, pulling the sheets over them. Her body was like a soft furnace, pure heat; Recluse wasn’t nearly as warm, but was certainly warmer than the air, putting him in a cozy place indeed. “You’re lucky,” Recluse said softly against his ear, the faintest edge of a smile coloring her words. “Usually she won’t give up being the middle of the sandwich.”

Widow exhaled in the longest-suffering sigh imaginable. “And I’m the only one of us who didn’t get off. You better not be one-and-done. If I don’t walk out of here with somebody’s come dripping down my inner thighs, I’m going to be upset.”

Scorpion was surely capable of more than one erection in an evening. He’d be working on his second, he was fairly sure, just as soon as he stopped crying.

No, wait. Why was he crying? He shouldn’t be crying. He’d just had sex for the first time since his body could remember, and he’d been so good at it that the lesbians who’d all but commandeered his dick were now demanding round two. He should be thrilled. He shouldn’t have tears streaming down the sides of his face like traitorous little rivers. “Sorry, sorry, I–” He tried to wipe his slightly numb hands across his cheeks, but mostly wound up slapping himself. He felt keenly the bruise Recluse had left there, which just started him off harder.

Because she had been right. She was right. They were both right. That was the shitty, stupid part of it, that they were both right, and he’d been lying to himself so hard for so long that he’d lost the ability to tell the contours of his own deception. Scorpion hadn’t been Blue’s mark. He’d been his own mark. The best job he’d ever done was fooling himself.

Recluse’s arm wrapped around his waist and nudged him on his side, facing away from her. Widow was there to meet him, to gather him against her breasts. They were very nice breasts, and he meant that as a gay man, which had to mean a lot. Except maybe he wasn’t a gay man? No, he was pretty certain he was. He was just a gay man who, under the right circumstances, made a very amenable stunt cock for two particular mean lesbians. He could live with that.

Widow kissed his hair. “We can rest for a minute. How does that sound?”

It sounded great, actually. Scorpion nodded. 

As they lay together like that, their bodies twined together, Scorpion thought back to their most recent shuttle rescue, how Recluse had made herself Widow’s anchor, holding her back even in sleep from disappearing into the waves. He’d smiled to see it, feeling the pleasure he supposed anyone felt when they saw two people they liked liking one another in turn. He’d always approved of their being together. They were good for one another, and more than that, they kept one another out of trouble.

Remembering that moment, though, Scorpion could also remember the slightest pain the scene had brought him. He’d chalked it up to worry for their general well-being, to the fading adrenaline of the mission, any number of possible causes. He hadn’t suspected it might be plain, simple envy.

Well, he hadn’t suspected a great number of things about himself before tonight. Nevertheless, here they were.

“You know,” said Recluse, her lips pressed to the back of Scorpion’s neck, “we make a good team.”

Now that was a silly thing to say. Of course they made a good team. That was why they got so much done, why all three of them were still alive: They were a good team. Scorpion took a deep breath, feeling somewhere more centered now. He’d even stopped crying, though through no particular achievement of his own. Good for him. “You told me you didn’t care if I rotted on his cock,” Scorpion reminded her.

Recluse snorted. He could almost hear her roll her eyes. “Fine. Maybe I care.”

Widow’s fingers brushed across Scorpion’s cheeks, drying away the remnants of his tears. “We do, though. And we’d make a good team anywhere.”

It took Scorpion a moment to realize what she was saying. He felt his heart catch in his throat. “You think we should leave?” he said, the word barely a whisper.

“Leave,” Recluse echoed, pressing her palm flat against his chest, “or take over.”

Now that was treason either way. One would have them running their whole lives, constantly looking over their shoulders to make sure Blue’s men weren’t on their heels, ready to hammer down three very troublesome nails. The other would … no, Scorpion didn’t know if he was quite ready to have that thought yet. Not that he hadn’t had shades of it before, the moments of frustration where he couldn’t stop Blue from making a terrible, arrogant decision, when he’d imagined how much easier it would be if all those resources and networks had answered to him instead. How many lives could be saved. How much more efficiently the forces arrayed against them could be stopped. How much sooner they could live the quiet, peaceful lives Blue always talked about in the abstract but never quite seemed interested in actually having.

They could do it, too, that was the real edge of that knife. This wasn’t a fever dream far out of their reach, like shooting down the sun or drinking the whole ocean. Scorpion knew how to depose tyrants by eating at their hearts until they fell. He’d been trained to do exactly that. It was, in fact, his primary skill.

“I don’t…” Scorpion pressed his lips together. “I don’t know if I…” Not yet, was the part of the sentence he couldn’t say. Not no, but not yet.

Widow kissed him lightly, taking the words from his mouth with hers. “It’s okay, Master. We’re with you no matter what.”

From behind him, Recluse cleared her throat audibly. “May I point out that the evening is not yet over, and he still hasn’t earned dick privileges back yet.”

“That’s right!” With a gleeful little wriggle, Widow pressed closer. She reached down and cupped his cock, which was surprisingly more erect than he’d imagined it might be, given the circumstances. What had been in that whiskey, anyway? Scorpion decided he was better off not knowing. “We’re with you no matter what, except when we’re against you, which we are right now.”

Scorpion swallowed hard, even as he couldn’t keep a smile from turning up his lips. “Do I get a say in this?”

Recluse tightened her arm around his waist. “Absolutely not. This is still punishment.”

“We’re still helping him,” Widow countered. “Helping. This is help.”

Recluse snorted. “Same thing.”

Whose definition of help this pincer attack fit under was a moot point. “Are you going to tie my hands again?” Scorpion asked.

Both women went still for a moment, looking over him at one another. “Do you want us to?” asked Recluse.

Scorpion drew in a long breath and pressed his lips together, then nodded as he exhaled. “Yeah. I do.”

He heard a giggle that sounded like it came from Recluse, which was ridiculous, because Recluse didn’t giggle. Widow did, though, and she did gleefully as she grinned a wicked grin at him. She reached for his wrists and guided them behind his back, where Recluse caught them in her trustworthy grip. “She does such lovely things with rope,” Widow promised as she stroked his arms. “You’re going to look so pretty. I bet your cock tastes like her now. Can I taste her on you?”

All Scorpion had to do was give the slightest nod of approval, and Widow was off, leaving bright red smears along his body as she kissed her way down toward his belly. He sank back into Recluse’s embrace the same way Widow had jumped into the ocean, trusting that she would catch them both. Despite the danger they were plunging headlong into both in bed and out of it, Scorpion felt steadier than he had in a long time, like at the breaking end of a long-burning fever. Recovery was at hand.


Share this with your friends!

7 thoughts on “Antivenin

  1. Oh, I really do like the way this piece explores the difference between actual sexual attraction (Scorpion is VERY clearly as gay as the day is long) and things like the magic of friction in the right places or feeling actually safe and understood. Would that there were more mean lesbians in the world willing to do their lovesick bosses/rescuers a solid. I also enjoy how the organization’s goals are kept intentionally murky; allows the reader to decide whether they’re secret agents working for “noble” parties or dyed-in-the-wool villains. Delightful as always!

  2. 1) I love “dickblind” as a compound word just *so* much. 2) God I wish you could fuck people out of getting into ill-advised relationships. 3) This is the most amazingly… transgressive (or at least ‘not expected outcomes’) thing?? Sexy lesbian spy duo who use such intense insults as pet names that virtually no one knows they’re a couple. Guy who enjoys an F/F/M threesome but still comes out the other side 100% gay (and obviously also Recluse having a similar experience). Even “spymaster gets drugged by a trusted friend” is just the loveliest kind of twisted around here. And “maybe we should take over” is such a delightful possibility to end on. You love to see queer folks taking care of each other. <3

  3. This is so hot, and also so, SO intimate. Like, definitely not romantic, but also not really especially platonic. Like, sometimes one of the people you care the most about in the world is making a bad decision so you’re just going to fuck him about it. Sure! Why not!

  4. Queer love has so many delicious facets. This was such a super fun dive into how a cis man can get fucked by two cis women and everyone involved is still true to their identifies.

    Absolutely gorgeous. Super hot. Brilliant as always, thank you for this!

  5. Oh man, that moment where Scorpion says out loud that he knows Blue wouldn’t do anything for him…it’s painfully obvious, but it’s also clear that he hasn’t let himself fully understand and accept that. And honestly, it seems like even if Blue did eventually want to fuck him, it probably wouldn’t be a great experience but he’d be tying himself in knots trying to convince himself it was. Good for him that he can be lovingly bullied/drugged/fucked into seeing the whole situation for what it is a little more clearly.

  6. Wow! It was so poignant how Scorpion had tied himself up in this lie for so long, and then a caring drugging brought it all out.

    “petty matters such as bodies and identities and genders” really hit me somewhere too.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *