They go back into space because…well, there are a lot of reasons. Earth still needs people to crew ships, and their experience makes them invaluable. The celebrity factor of being involved with the confrontation with the Phantoms makes it hard to enjoy much peace and quiet on Earth, even if Commander Kenny does his best to shield them from the worst of the attention. And there's something exciting about going out to explore, for all that Reimi is still pretty sure that she and Edge both mean to settle down someday.
The rest of the reasons all boil down to the same thing: this isn't how it was supposed to go. No amount of posthumous medals can make up for that fact that Crowe isn't there. For the past ten years, they've been imagining a future together — picturing the beautiful new world they would discover, planning for the adventures they would share. Even in those rough spots, right before the exploration mission started, Edge's annoyance with Crowe never seemed to make a dent in the solid bond beneath it. Earth's accelerated restoration, thanks to Eldarian and Morphus help, is wonderful news for everyone, but Crowe isn't there to see it with them. The foundation of the Terran Alliance will do great things for Earth's future as part of the galactic community, but Crowe should be one of its best agents.
Going back into space doesn't fix that, of course. It's easy to miss the sound of his laughter when all they hear is the soft hum of the engines, or to crave the warmth of his hugs on the cool, climate-controlled deck. But it's easier to face that when nobody's watching.
They don't talk about him much. They don't need to. And despite all the knowing looks they got from — well, everyone, when they asked to be assigned together again — despite that, all they really do in their shared cabin is hold each other. Anything else wouldn't feel right, when missing him still hurts so much.
Life on the underdeveloped planet definitely took some getting used to, once Crowe was over the shock of having a life at all. He still can't explain how he made it here — he remembers flying into the heart of the Phantom storm, and then there's a blank space in his memory until he woke up on a beach with his rescuer, Eleyna Farrance, standing over him.
Edge and Reimi must have won the battle. He has faith in them. Hell, if they hadn't, wouldn't the Phantoms have made it this far in the time since then? It's been a year and a half by this planet's reckoning, and he thinks the years here are longer than on Earth. So the good guys must have won the war.
During the first year, Crowe tried to find a way to get back to space to join them. Or, failing that, a way to send up a signal that would get passing space craft to look for him. Neither attempt got him anywhere. There just isn't enough technology on this planet to give him anything to work with.
So he tries to be content. He plays with Meracle, and runs errands into town when they need things, and generally does his best to be a useful member of Eleyna's household. And if she notices that some nights he gets out of bed to go stare up at the stars, she doesn't say anything about it.
"We're practically in the neighborhood," Reimi says, when they leave orbit around Lemuris and it's time to plot their next course. "We should stop by!"
Edge hesitates, looking down from the viewscreen and its stars to the control panel in front of him. "I'm not so sure," he says. "I'd like to — I'd really like to see Meracle again, and Sarah, and —" he laughs — "maybe even Eleyna, I guess. But we had to fight so hard to get people to see why interfering with undeveloped planets was a bad idea. If we broke the law ourselves, after we put so much work into getting it established…." He looks over at Reimi, shrugging helplessly.
Reimi nods seriously. "You're right," she says. "It is important, preventing any other planets from being harmed. We should be responsible." But she looks so much like she wishes she could argue.
"Say what you want to say," Edge says. "Please, Reimi. Your advice matters to me."
"I'm sorry," Reimi says. "I don't have a good answer. I just keep thinking, couldn't we be careful enough? Couldn't we…."
Edge smiles. "You miss Meracle that much? I thought you didn't like her."
Reimi glares at him, but not in the way that means she's really angry. "Well, I didn't like her trying to crawl into your bed all the time. But she was sweet, apart from that. I miss everybody we traveled with."
It shouldn't be so hard to make the choice. The only reasonable thing to do is to move on, not to risk the pact. Being the captain means he's responsible for upholding the Alliance's laws on his ship.
But being the captain also means being responsible for the crew's welfare, right? The new Calnus does have a cloaking system for landings in suboptimal situations. Edge watches the lights on the panel in front of him blink, two steady patterns. What would Crowe do?
"Right," he says. "Set a course for Roak."
It's another beautiful morning, late in the spring. There was rain before dawn, pattering softly on the roof, but it's cleared now, and the sun is bright overhead, the new growth in the fields a vibrant green. For all that Crowe feels restless, cut off from his old home and his friends, living on a thriving, young planet still has its up side, too. He sits outside, at a little table in the garden behind Eleyna's house, and sips his morning tea as he watches the garden come to life.
Meracle comes bounding out the back door and scampers up to him, her tail flicking behind her in excitement. "We have to go!" she says, grabbing his hand. "Come on!"
Crowe lets himself be tugged up out of his chair, laughing. "What's the rush?" he says.
"A picnic!" Meracle says reverently. "Lady Eleyna has been packing things into the basket and everything looks delicious but she wouldn't let me have any because first we have to go out on a picnic, she said! You have to come!"
"Well, that does sound like an emergency," Crowe says. Meracle nods completely seriously and drags him back toward the house.
He has to duck to get through the door; the house was built for Fellpool, most of whom don't stand much higher than his shoulders. "Nice day for a picnic," he says to Eleyna, who's just closing up her basket.
"Especially for you," she says. "Today is the day you get your heart's desire."
"Oh really?" Crowe says. He's never entirely bought into her prophecy act. She's accurate, sure, but he's enough of a skeptic that he's always figured there must be some more ordinary explanation for how she figured things out. Still, it seems impolite to argue when she's done so much to take care of him. "Well, I definitely wouldn't want to miss that."
"Indeed," Eleyna says. One of her long ears flicks once, and her tail curls up beneath the hem of her skirt in amusement. "So you won't mind carrying this for me."
Crowe grins. "I see how it is," he says. He picks up the basket — and it's heavy; how much food did she manage to stuff in this thing? — and Eleyna retrieves a folded blanket from the shelf. "Lead the way, oh wise seer."
The new Calnus is smaller than the previous one, which makes it easier for them to find a place to set down. Still, they make sure to land a decent way out from any settlements, just for safety's sake. They cloak the ship and bring their weapons, and head out across the plains.
Roak is just the way Reimi remembered it, warm and welcoming, full of life. Streams splash through ravines and clumps of trees claim spots of high ground, and the air hums with the flight of insects. The flight of insects, and —
Ahead of her, Edge stops. "Do you hear that?"
"Voices," Reimi says. They're distant, hard to pick out — and then one of them abruptly grows louder, turns into a shout of excitement that sounds very familiar. It seems like too much of a coincidence. "Is that Meracle? Is that possible?"
Edge looks back at her, shrugging. "Weirder things have happened to us," he says.
Reimi nods. "Let's go see," she says.
They hurry, now that they have a goal, following beast trails through the high grass and climbing the next ridge, toward the sound of the voices. Over the ridge and around a pile of boulders, and they find the source of the voices, sitting on a picnic blanket in a patch of sun-dappled shade. Meracle, and Lady Eleyna, and —
"Crowe?" Edge says, his voice cracking. The clothes are different, Roakian in style, but they'd know him anywhere in the galaxy.
When the instant of shock fades, Crowe rises to his feet, crossing the clearing at a run to catch Edge in a hug that almost knocks him down. "You're here!" he says. "I thought I'd never — you're here, you're really here."
"And you're alive," Edge says, his expression stunned and delighted as Crowe lets go of him and pulls Reimi close next, sweeping her off her feet and spinning her around. "How…?"
"Come sit down," Eleyna calls to them. "We brought enough food for everyone, and you'll have a lot of catching up to do."
Crowe can barely stop grinning for long enough to eat. Heart's desire, indeed. They trade stories, even though he feels like his isn't quite up to the standard of theirs; all he has to talk about is that one implausible survival and then the passing seasons on Roak, where it sounds like Edge and Reimi are galactic heroes now. It shows in how Edge carries himself, too, in the way he seems to finally be able to relax. He's not so worried about trying to prove himself anymore.
This is a lot more like the happy ending Crowe was hoping for all along: the three of them together under the warm sun of a welcoming planet, talking and laughing and comfortable. He keeps wanting to touch them to reassure himself that they're real, and it looks like they feel the same way — Edge will take his hand for a minute and squeeze, or Reimi will reach up to tuck his hair behind his ear for him, and even though they have an audience Crowe hand-feeds them a few of the grapes from the picnic basket.
"Well," Eleyna says when the food is just about gone. "I think that should do it for us. Come along, Meracle. We're going home."
"What?" Meracle says, looking betrayed. "But my friends!"
Eleyna shakes her head. "They'll come along later on," she says, looking at the three of them. "But they're special friends with each other, Meracle, and we should let them have some time by themselves."
Crowe glances sideways, and yep, that's making Edge blush. "Thanks, Eleyna," Crowe says. "We'll definitely come see you later."
"We'll see you for dinner," Eleyna says, scruffing Meracle and leading her off.
"I can't believe you're really here," Crowe says as the Fellpool leave. He stretches out across the blanket, resting his head in Edge's lap, and after a second Reimi lies down, too, pillowing her head on Crowe's stomach. "I've probably said that already."
"Three or four times, yeah," Edge says, carding fingers through his hair. "You were the one who was supposed to be dead."
"Yeah," Crowe says. "Sorry about that."
Reimi's hand finds his. "You've said that three or four times, too," she says. "You did what you needed to do. You saved all of us."
That does feel pretty good, thinking about that. He'd like to see Bacchus again, Crowe thinks. See how he's doing. Arumat, too. It'd be good to catch up. And he probably still has some important conversations to have with Myuria.
But that stuff can wait. Right now it's just good, really good, to see Edge and Reimi again, after all that time when he thought he would be trapped here without them forever. The uncomfortable tension with Edge is gone now, and it feels like all of them might finally be on the same page.
Crowe stretches up, curling one hand around the nape of Edge's neck and pulling him down. Edge's eyes go wide but he doesn't resist, and his lips are so soft against Crowe's. Reimi makes a quiet sound of surprise, and that makes Crowe pull back.
"Okay?" he asks. "Or are you guys already, ah…."
Edge glances at Reimi. "What," he says, "without you? Don't be ridiculous."
"Come here," Reimi says, shifting so she can lean down above him. Her ponytail spills over one shoulder, brushing his chest. "Me too." She kisses him warmly, confidently, and it's just right.
Edge stretches out beside them, and for a long few minutes the three of them just pass kisses back and forth. They're gorgeous when they're kissing each other, Crowe thinks, and they both feel so good. The kisses get deeper, needier, and everybody's hands start wandering — Crowe's at a disadvantage there, since his Roakian clothes are easier to get into than Edge's and Reimi's uniforms, but he can't complain about that, really. If he's the first one to get stripped out of his clothes, he's not really losing out too much.
They seem to see the virtue of it, anyway, squirming out of their clothes, too — and god, they look great, the long sleek muscles of Reimi's legs and the well-developed planes of Edge's chest. Whichever way Crowe turns, they both wind up pressed close to him, like they don't want to let him go.
He grins. "I guess you want me in the middle, huh?"
"Wow," Edge says. "That sounds…."
"Great," Reimi finishes, and Edge nods.
Crowe hesitates for a second, thinking about how to make that work. It would be so much easier if they had something slick to — wait. Eleyna left them the picnic basket, and that seems uncharacteristically absent-minded for her. "Hold that thought," Crowe says, and reaches for it.
All the food is gone, but there's a stoppered jar in the bottom of the basket. Crowe opens it, and finds it full of a slick, light cream that stays slippery on his fingers. "Maybe I'll have to admit there's something to her prophecies after all," he says.
Reimi blushes, and Edge says, "I really don't think I want to think about Eleyna knowing what we're doing right now."
"Fair enough," Crowe says, ducking his head. He hands Edge the jar. "You want to get me ready?"
Edge's eyes go wide. "Yes," he says breathlessly.
"Good," Crowe says. He kisses Edge one more time and then rolls onto his side, facing Reimi.
She smiles. "What a selfless offer that was," she says.
"Oh, absolutely. I — oh," Crowe says, a little shiver running up his spine as Edge strokes the crack of his ass with slippery fingers.
"Mmm," Reimi agrees. She kisses him, licking her way into his mouth, her fingers toying with the hair at his nape. He slides a hand up her side, over the curve of her waist, to cup the fullness of one of her breasts. Edge slides careful fingers into him, stretching him open slowly. Crowe hums, rocking between them, savoring the slide of his cock against Reimi's belly and the press of Edge's fingers filling him, the warmth of their skin against his.
Edge kisses a line across the back of Crowe's neck, humming with pleasure. Reimi hooks one leg over his and pulls him closer, making a needy sound into his mouth.
"Yeah?" Crowe says as he pulls back from the kiss. "Far be it from me to turn down a request like that."
Reimi laughs, rolling onto her back and pulling him down on top of her. "You're such a gentleman," she says.
"You know it," Crowe says. He has to move slowly, with Edge still fingering him, but he lowers himself down between Reimi's thighs. She reaches down to take hold of his cock, guiding him into position, and he slides into her warmth easily. "Oh," he says, a sigh of pleasure, and then Edge pushes deeper inside him, stroking a spot that makes him arch his back and shudder. "Oh god."
"Yes," Reimi says, rocking her hips to show him the pace she wants, taking him on her terms. "Mmm, yes."
"God," Edge says, "Crowe…."
Crowe nods. "I'm ready any time," he says.
Edge takes a shaky breath. "Okay," he says. He withdraws just as carefully as he pressed in, and there's a pause for a second — Crowe sees him reaching for the jar of cream again — before he's leaning in close against Crowe's back and the head of his cock presses against Crowe's hole. It's slippery enough that the first time he just slides, instead of pushing in, and his helpless laughter is a soft warm puff against the back of Crowe's neck.
The second time goes better, though, and Edge is the one who says, "Oh god," then, but only because Crowe doesn't think he could form words. Between Reimi surrounding him and Edge filling him, he doesn't dare move — he feels like his brain could short-circuit any minute now from trying to handle so much pleasure at once.
"Move," Reimi says, her voice high and breathless. "Please, more."
Crowe nods, bracing his weight on his elbows, trying to find enough leverage. Then Edge takes the initiative, pulling back slowly and thrusting in again, thick and deep. His momentum pushes Crowe forward, and Reimi croons. "Like that," Crowe says, "god, that's just right."
Edge hums against the back of his neck, and Crowe thinks he sounds pleased. This wouldn't have — couldn't have — gone so well before they left Earth, back when things were so tense between Edge and Crowe. But now it feels like Edge doesn't have anything to prove anymore, like he just wants to enjoy being close to them both. One of his hands braces beside Crowe's arm on the blanket, and the other slips between Crowe and Reimi to tease Reimi's nipples.
She throws her head back, arching up into the touch. "Yes," she says. "Yes, yes."
There's an ache of need already building at the base of Crowe's cock, and he knows he can't possibly stand this for long. He shifts his weight enough to free one hand, reaching down to spread his palm flat across Reimi's lower belly and press his thumb against her clit. She moans, shivering at the touch; he barely moves, just keeping the pressure there while their combined rhythm provides the friction.
"Reimi," Crowe says hoarsely. He can feel the little flutter of her muscles tightening, the shivers of her thighs, the tension building — and then she comes, bucking up hard underneath him and whimpering, rippling tight around his cock.
"Oh god," Edge says. "Oh god, I wish I could feel that."
Crowe finds enough breath to laugh. "Soon," he says. "I won't be much longer, I — don't stop, please, just a little more."
"Yeah," Edge says, "yeah, I'm — I'm so —"
Crowe nods. "Me too." He closes his eyes, lets the slickness and heat just overwhelm him, and Edge is thrusting harder now but that's fine, more than fine, it's what Crowe needs, too — Reimi's hands slide up his stomach, his chest, her nails finding his nipples — and he shudders at the sharp spike of of sensation when she does that, tipping him over the edge in a cascade of pleasure along his nerves.
Edge curses fervently behind him, taking a few more quick, needy strokes and then shuddering still, his cock pulsing in Crowe's ass. It's not a moment too soon, either — Crowe's pretty sure it would be terrible manners to collapse on Reimi right now, but the way he's shaking means he won't be able to hold himself up too much longer.
"Wow," Edge says. He kisses Crowe's back between his shoulder blades.
"Yeah," Crowe says, "that sounds about right to me." He swallows a little awkward noise as Edge pulls out — Edge has been really careful not to hurt him, but it feels a little weird no matter what.
"We talked once or twice about how much we wished you'd come out of that battle all right," Reimi says. She breathes a sigh of relief when Crowe pulls out and she can stretch, then roll over out of the impressive wet spot on the blanket. "I don't think we ever imagined it would go quite like this, though."
Edge grins. "Same old Crowe," he says. "Always showing off. Above and beyond the call of duty, that's you."
"I do hope you're not complaining," Crowe says.
"Not really," Edge says. He drapes an arm over Crowe's waist, and Reimi does the same from the other side. "Not anymore."
Crowe closes his eyes and just basks for a little while, enjoying their warmth and the bone-deep contentment he feels right now: Edge and Reimi did save the galaxy, and now they're here with him and everything is comfortable between them at last.
After a few minutes it occurs to him that he hasn't actually asked yet. "So you'll take me with you when you go, right?"
"Of course!" Reimi says. "We will, won't we?"
"There's no way we'd leave you behind," Edge says. "You should know that already."
Crowe smiles. "Yeah, I guess I should," he says. He stretches, sitting up. "We should probably get dressed and start heading back to Eleyna's," he says. "The sun's getting low, and we'll be in for some really terrible sunburn once we lose our shade."
"Ouch," Reimi says. "Speaking from experience?"
"Maybe," Crowe says.
Edge snorts. "I bet Eleyna will tell us, if you won't," he says. He reaches for his uniform and starts to tug his pants back on.
Crowe smiles. "We'll see about that," he says. He pictures them all around the dinner table at Eleyna's house, laughing, trading more stories, doing their best to tackle the mountains of food that Eleyna prepares whenever she has a good enough excuse.
He can't wait.blog comments powered by Disqus