Time Alone


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Scene Title Time Alone
Synopsis After the trip to Mer Tranquille, Destiny and Spades catch up about the present and discuss the future.
Date July 7, 2021

New Chicago

It’s been a long day on an even longer journey, but it was a productive one after all was said and done. After successfully negotiating at least the prospects of trade with the Archipelago, Captain Destiny celebrated at the bar so graciously left open. Consequently, her face is rosy and her gait a bit languid when she wanders her way out of the building and back generally in the direction of the city gate in search of her first mate.

At the Pelago, the little captain had a name and a reputation, she was known. In New Chicago, she’s just a little woman in a sweeping coat and a big hat, even if she walks with confidence. Head up and eyes alert, the city at twilight is a beautiful curiosity to her.

Spades had spent the beginnings of the evening standing watch over the tanker, flat on his back, eyes to the sky while he waited and listened. When that was done and Destiny had insisted on a room which was paid for in return for a summons, he stayed behind when others went to have a drink and be social with those in charge of the city.

He regretted this stance slightly when it was just him and a city he was trying to not spend too much or get into trouble in, but he was patient.

He's even found cigarettes in this place, and enjoys one of his first in many years, made with questionably produced tobacco from somewhere nearby and hopefully not as poisoned-looking as Lake Michigan looked. Spades leans against the outside of the hotel they've taken up residence in for the evening, head tilted up to blow away the smoke. Destiny's return is noted when he looks down again.

"Captain," he greets her cordially and then wonders, "Did they have any food at this fine shendig you went to?"

“There you are!” Destiny beams cheerfully. He was closer-by than she thought he would be, honestly. For whatever reason, she expected to find him at the markets or maybe playing cards somewhere? But this isn’t the Pelago. Would their favored pastimes even have the same satisfaction?

She shakes her head. “No.” Frowning thoughtfully, she reasons, “Buuuuut we could probably find some!” She comes to stand in front of him, then takes one extra half step closer, pivoting on the ball of her foot until she’s oriented the same as him, falling back against the wall shoulders-first. No bumping her head.

“You know I’ve never had a cigarette before?” The captain’s brows lift, her eyes big and slanting from a brief study of the sky — whose stars are harder to see in this place — to Spades. One brow raises a little higher, like it means to be that upper curve of a question mark.

Spades arches an eyebrow in return, glancing down at the brown-wrapped stub sticking out from between his knuckles. "That's probably for the best," he admits on the edge of a laugh. "The withdrawal after I'm done with this pack isn't going to be pretty. I should probably ration them to be safe."

He almost offers her the choice to make a decision for herself before he notices more clearly the cheer about her despite the events back in Ohio, the small and slight scent that gets carried with her more free actions. The sheet metal wall behind them warbles when her shoulders hit it.

Spades curls his hand back and peers at her curiously. "Food first," he advises carefully, not wanting to give orders but trying to steer her in a more sensible direction nonetheless. "Then we can share one when we get back?" Maybe she'd have sobered enough by then to realize she probably wants nothing to do with it.

"Yeah," she sighs, "okay." It isn't so much that she doesn't want to, or that she's annoyed by that subtle denial and redirection, it's just been a long day. Week. Month.

Destiny leans her shoulder just slightly into Spades'. "I haven't had this much to drink in a while." She's self-aware enough to know her state is obvious to him. "But it was a really good negotiation," all things considered, "and I wanted to celebrate."

She's stuck on her brand of stubborn cheer, the one who tries to stay positive in the wake of all else, if not for her own sake, then for others. The same that Spades assured her she doesn't have to keep up around him just a couple nights ago.

Still, he knows enough about his captain to know she's resilient in the face of trauma. (Although a therapist might call it something else.) She's had plenty to be sad about, but has kept her chin up anyway. It's kept her moving forward, instead of sinking to the bottom of the sea like a wreck.

He's charitable enough to wonder with curiosity in his tone, "A good negotiation? What happened - what did we win out?" His shoulder leans into hers, head crooning down closer to hers so he can listen. The celebration is hers to make as private or public as she wants, after all. Spades tilts his head to further telegraph his curiosity to her, an act which continues only long enough so he can finish smoking the last of his wretched cigarette he probably should have put out already.

Filterless was certainly a choice, but it wasn't like the world offered any other options.

"Well…" Destiny's mouth scrunches to one side, "I guess we technically didn't get anything. But hopefully trade with the Pelago is secured by this." Once again, she's apparently been able to enchant people far more shrewd than she is. Something about her guileless way might put people at ease? She seems good at convincing people she really has no ulterior motives, beyond the greater benefit to all involved.

She pushes off from the wall with a surge of energy and spins a circle with her arms out, crowing (albeit in a subdued manner) with her triumph. It's not as big as she's making it out to be, and she'll be the first to admit she didn't do it alone, but she's gotten people to the table after a very rocky start.

Spades subdues a smile the best he can, hiding it against the last toke he takes before grinding out the butt of the cigarette underfoot and leaving it there for the wind, rain, or whatever to take. The air is gloamy enough for something to feel like it's on the horizon, anyway. He leans away from the wall as well and goes to follow after Destiny in her energy as much as steer her.

"Let's find out if this is a city that never sleeps," he proposes with a charming smile and offers her his arm.

"Opening trade with the Pelago would be a win, now, wouldn't it," he notes. It's an interest of hers, besides, he knows– having gone on one such trip with her and Silas to the other end of the earth to enable it. "What did it cost to earn that goodwill?"

"I think we had to upset Nathalie a little bit," Des admits with a frown, but it's still not enough to dampen her spirits (or the spirits). "The Administrator is a little intense — they have a dæmon," she whispers in a low hush. "But! They're willing to come to the table, and that's what matters. I'm hoping Queen Lowe will— I know she'll have it and make something good out of it for the Pelago."

Linking arms with Spades, she walks with a bounce in her step as they make their way toward the remaining lights of the market. "I'm glad you came with me." This is possibly the most openly affectionate she's been with him where others can see. Slowly but surely, she's beginning to let go of the holdout, the pretense that they're just shipmates, friends. Close ones, but nothing more than that.

There's recreation to be had after dark in Gideon d'Sarthe's city, which means people still up and about, which means opportunity and profit to be had. Cutting through the stink of industry is something good.

Spades arches an eyebrow while they walk. A demon, she says. What the fuck does that mean? But he goes along since she's practically skipping, rather than speaking in hushed tones with wide eyes about it.

Perhaps it's just something you have to see to get.

"Lowe certainly is intense enough to meet whatever force comes her way," he acknowledges. "Little doubt she can manage that situation." He looks off toward the strings of lights up, angling themself over a block first to ensure they start more or less at the beginning of the walk rather than emerging into the thick of it, potentially missing some of the sights.

Her thanks sees him turn his head back down toward her, a short breath leaving his nose. He crosses his other hand over his chest to lay it on her elbow linked with his, but it's brief. "I'm glad I was there to take out the asshole with a shotgun before he blew the rig or killed Lowe. That we stopped them before they reached your part of the convoy." He looks ahead again, his arm going back down by his side. "But encountering bullshit like that… it really makes me wonder if this trip is worth it."

"We got lucky when we made the trip by sea, even though we nearly sank before we got started," he observes, saying more than he usually does about anything. "I didn't realize how much until we started losing convoy members."

The good cheer fades as Spades speaks his mind, an occurrence that is more rare than she realized until this moment. She never really noticed how willing he was to let her call the shots, to let her be captain and accept everything that comes with that. Slowly, Destiny is coming to understand, they’re becoming equals. Whether or not she considered him such (and she did, as a person), he’s clearly more willing to stand on that equal footing with her.

“You…” She sighs out, afraid to ask the question and more afraid of what the answer will be.

She doesn't need to.

"I never wanted to come out here in the first place," Spades voices, seeming to find it a reminder rather than the potentially novel information it is, from her perspective. "I only ever came out here for you– because you wanted to make the trip together. Because you…"

He trails off and looks down at her. Their linked arms shift, not to separate, but so his hand can take hold of hers and hold onto it tightly, fingers slipping between hers in the plain light of dusk.

"Well," he asserts with dry humor as he looks forward again, the momentary softness in his expression papering over quickly. "Because you're my Captain."

They're passing through an alley between buildings just before the shops. A moment of darkness, a moment of privacy before they emerge into the light again.

She pauses there in the dark, even as he tugs from having not stopped with her. “You didn’t have to come with,” she reminds him the way he reminds her. “I never wanted to force you. I never…” Des lets out a heavy breath. “Tell me…” She tugs him back toward her. “I’m afraid you’re going to hate me for this. That you won’t want me around anymore. That you’ll just leave.

The drink is making her more readily melancholy. Everything she feels, she feels intensely. She grasps the front of his coat and pulls him toward her and then to the side, his back connecting with the alley wall. The light from the end of the passage shines in her eyes. “This is dangerous. It’s going to continue to be dangerous. I need to carry on, but you…”

It feels like she’s dying inside. “You don’t have to.

Spades blinks when she grabs him by the coat and turns him into the wall, letting it happen, not fighting her. Not her, even if he's confused by her sudden turn.

Quizzical, he wonders, "What did I just say?" He furrows his brow at her, and lifts a hand to rest it at her hip. "Did it just go in one ear and out the other? Because if you're too inebriated to listen to me properly when I spill my heart, I'm not going to hope that a second time will suddenly fix what didn't take on the first try." He tilts his head at her, catlike. "It's not kind to either of us, for you not to listen and for me to stop telling you as a result."

“I am listening.” Destiny curls her fingers tighter into the fabric of his coat. “You said you weren’t sure if this trip is worth it.” Her brow pinches and she briefly scans partway down his form, hardly lower than his shoulders, before coming back up to meet his eyes. “I don’t want you to be here because I’m your captain.

She says this and knows that isn’t all it is. But maybe it’s become that? No, she knows that isn’t the case either. She shakes her head, lips thinned out in an expression that’s one part determination and three parts worry. “I… I didn’t realize how dangerous this was going to be,” she stammers, ashamed to admit how foolish she was. (Is.) “I thought because we’d made it around the world… I thought because Eddie and Else had traveled… I thought because Gracie had done it alone…”

Des sighs and tips forward to rest her forehead against Spades’ chest, not melting into him just yet. “I didn’t know it would be this kind of dangerous. I thought our numbers would make it easier. I didn’t think people would be so…”


Don was supposed to be an aberration. Corrupted by the voice in the radio waves, not the way people just are. She’ll never realize how much of the world James Woods protected her from, but she’s starting to wonder how much the man in front of her has.

Not as much as she suspects, but…

Spades brings his arms up around Destiny's slighter form slowly, settling them around her shoulders. His head tucks in, chin to the crown of her hair. He lets her lean into him like that for a good while, glancing up and down the alley without moving his head. He gives her a moment to compose herself. "Not everyone can be as bright-eyed as you, Des," he murmurs down to her. "But that doesn't make the role you fill by being that person any less important."

"I'm sorry you had to see this. That there's no right and no wrong. Just who's left standing." His arms do indeed tighten around her, like he might be able to guard her from that harsh reality. "I'd like to say it'll be better when we get where we're going. But it's a long road there, and even if someone doesn't jump out of the woods and we survive an attempt at being stabbed to death, the convoy could break down. We could be stuck out in the thousand-some miles between us and Anchorage and just…"

But that's not so pleasant a thought either, is it? He only frowns, pressing his lips down against the side of her head before he looks down at her, earnest if solemn. "Honestly, Des?" he says to her softly. "This might be the last patch of friendly land we see for months. We might be better off if we just…"

But she's been determined on this trip, and he won't say the words to deter her now.

She knows. When her head lifts and she looks him in the eyes, all of it is written on her face. “I can’t abandon Eddie.” To forestall his arguments — and there’s no universe in which he does not have a compelling argument against her further involvement — she presses on. “I can’t abandon this expedition. Mission. It’s important.”

There are words caught in the back of her throat. Other words take their place. “I know that there’s a million things that could go wrong between here and there, but…”

The core of all of it finally shakes off the rust around it from neglect and lack of attention. The conflict no longer exists strictly between herself and Spades, but largely inside of herself. Not a war between head and heart but rationality and reason.

I want to,” Des finally admits. “I want to just stop here and work out a trade deal and go back to the Pelago and… And make a life with you.” It’s terrifying, admitting that out loud to him, to herself, to the constant cruelty of the cosmos. “Have you ever felt like you might be the most important person in the whole universe?”

"Only when you tell me things like that," Spades confesses in a murmur, and while they stand here in the dark, he feels his tanned cheeks warm from the admission. But he shakes his head in a more serious answer. "Apart from that, no. The universe doesn't give a single, flying fuck about any one of us, Des. That's the real rub. That's the frightening truth."

"Any one of us could have been written out this world's story by now, if only there were anyone still at the helm of it." He sounds solemn, full of belief. "Now there's just us and what we do to each other. There's only what we make for ourselves, or what others try to force on us, and all the risks that come with either side of that."

One hand lifts to stroke her hair, thumb brushing stray strands away from her face and back behind her ear as he goes. "I'd turn back with you, even if it were just us two. I'd stay here, even, if you decided you liked living somewhere with electricity and booze and nightlife." Spades leans his head down to hers. "Just as long as I get to live it with you, and only so long as you want to still live it with me." He leans away from where she pinned him to kiss her, softly and openly.

Only when you tell me things like that. He’s the one who seems astonished — if only briefly — but she’s the one who’s left speechless in the wake of that response. Anything she might want to say about her opinions on the universe and its creative director are infinitesimal in comparison.

And he kisses her openly. Destiny closes her eyes and leans into it, trembling faintly. Sure, they’re still in a darkened corridor between the lights of what New Chicago has to offer, but they aren’t hidden away behind closed doors or stolen moments of time. If someone saw, maybe neither of them would try to explain it away.

When they part, she holds herself fast to him, her breath still passing warm over his lips. “I do,” she whispers. Her blue eyes open and she looks up that bare distance between them, awestruck, nervous, disbelieving, and hopeful all at once. “I will,” she vows on behalf of her future self.

"Careful," he murmurs to her, lips finding hers once more in a brief graze. The taste of her and what she drank before is sweet. "Vows like those are powerful things."

Spades closes his eyes, hand slipping from her cheek to the curve of her neck, going around her shoulder. The other slips around her waist to better hold her and keep her in this moment, this bit of intimacy– to anchor themselves to this moment as much to each other. For the first time in a long time he can intensely feel that bond; he can feel it deepening, and he can feel zero desire to shy from it.

He holds onto it for as long as he can, this moment where things are uncomplicated. Where they're both safe, and the future is everything and nothing at the same time. That moment before the next breath, where he's almost positive they won't be on the same page anymore. He'll still follow her regardless, but…

Nose brushing alongside hers, he asks, uncaring of the leading nature of it, "We're staying, then?" There's a bit of hope he fails to hide in his voice.

There’s so much promise in this moment where it feels like everything stands still. (Maybe it has?) The garden maze is stretched out before her, infinite paths leading to infinite futures, and once she chooses a fork to go down, the way back is closed.

Yes, she tells him in one life.

Yes? he laughs in return, disbelieving of his luck.

They hold each other tighter, they kiss, then hand in hand they follow that path to a new life.

I can’t, she tells him in another.

Can’t? Don’t lie to either of us, Destiny. You won’t, he scoffs in return.

She slips away from him, head bowed low in shame, turning to walk down her path alone.

“I promised you Hawaii,” she tells him in this life. Her blue eyes are filled with uncertainty as she watches his face for the signs of his thoughts. So often he’s so inscrutable. She wishes she could feel his emotions and take cues from them.

But he’s been plenty open with her. Plenty honest.

“This one last thing.” Destiny bites on her lip briefly to keep it from quivering from her nerves, but it does nothing to keep the rest of her from shaking. Her fingers curl tighter around his jacket. “We do this, and then… Then I’m yours.”

That is a powerful vow. Powerful and dangerous.

Destiny shakes her head, smiling with all her hope drenched in anxiety. “No more putting everyone else before myself.” There’s a quiet bubble of laughter. “Except you. You and me, the island, the warm weather…” If she just adds enough of her sweetness, he’ll find the pot enticing. “We can be part of something there, and… No more hiding.”

His eyes don't break from her as she watches him in return. He's a well-trained actor, and uninterested in this moment to telegraph his thoughts. Doesn't want to let her down. Doesn't want to ask for more when she's already given him a gift. Doesn't want to jeopardize that chance at a future of their own. Because yes, she had promised already, hadn't she?

Spades lifts his hand from her shoulder to place it to the back of her head again, cradling it tenderly. "I'll look forward to it every day," he promises her. "You have to–" His eyes flutter as he wants to take the words back, sets his jaw and his head in an attempt to reset. "Just… promise me you will too. That you'll think of that future and not act in the moment, the next time trouble finds us."

He doesn't apologize for the selfish ask, brows tugging together in concern. "I…" There's more, there but…

The words don't come, but his arm firms around her waist, then begins to let go, hand coming to rest at her hip. "I'm going to make you promise me all this again when you're sober, too, you know," Spades teases her instead, a faint smile hooking back his mouth by its edge. "Just to be sure you really mean it."

Destiny releases Spades’ coat so she can quickly wrap her arms around him, indulging in the illusion that if she just holds him tightly enough, he won’t (can’t) leave, but also telegraphing her desire to remain attached to him. She presses her cheek to his chest, breathing him in.

“I’m sorry,” she murmurs against him, anguish making her cringe, inebriation making it worse. “I promise… I promise.” The crush of her eases, but not the proximity. “I want this. I want you. I want… us.

What Destiny wants to do is walk away now, but what if it means they don’t succeed at Anchor? What if it means catastrophe for the world with no hope of recovery this time? Does it matter if they’re together if they have no time?

She lifts her head to offer her further assurance. “This will be over soon.”

But he sees her doubt.

"It won't be," he answers her on the edge of a laugh, the corner of his mouth tugging back again. It's blunt, but it's not unkind. Spades ruffles his hand up and down her side, from waist to hip as he tilts his chin down at her to meet her eyes as cleanly as he can with her pressed to him like this. "We have our entire lives to look forward to."

For him, the future is endless as the horizon, unknowing the danger the rising sun carries with it. With the partnership she's promised him, sunrises are worth looking forward to.

They just have to make it there.

He leans down to press a kiss to her forehead. "But enough of that. Food?" he asks, with a tilt of his head back out into the light again. He waits for her signal, her agreement.

The corner of Des’ mouth tugs up faintly. That wave brings with it something much closer to her brand of bright-eyed hope. “Our entire lives, huh?” Her promise has been met with one of his own to her mind, signaling once again his intention, his desire to stay with her.

But she stops just short of saying the words that would express the way she feels so strongly in her heart. There’s too much uncertainty ahead. Too much fear that once she says it, that seals the end of their time together.

Instead, she telegraphs it by taking his hand from her waist so she can turn it over to kiss his palm. Then she guides it to settle on her chest, over her heart. “Yours,” she says softly.

Her suspicions about being too forward maybe spooking him off prove true as Spades grin grows awkward. He feels the flutter of her heart under his hand, and gently pushes her back so they can begin moving again. "Come on, bright eyes," he tells her fondly but with a clearly teasing tone. "If you ever have interest in the last of these cigarettes, we've got food to find first." The insistence is pleasant, but no less persistent. His arm moves to snake around her shoulders, to steer them both forward out of the alley and somewhere they can both continue to be distracted from what comes tomorrow without being weighted down too greatly in the moment.

"Might even be able to take it back to the room," he notes thoughtfully. God, being a VIP would have its perks in privacy, even if it was just the illusion of it.

Her own smile grows awkward in turn — she read him wrong, read too much into it. She let hope determine meaning, rather than reason. Ducking down a little as she shifts back toward the thoroughfare with him, she shakes her head. She's changed her mind about the cigarettes.

“Food is good,” she chimes with more cheer than she really feels. The little captain’s shoulders come up in a shrug. “Then maybe dessert?”

Though they may have the future to look forward to (or alternatively dread), their time here is coming to a close soon. They ought to make the most of it. After all, privacy is a commodity neither of them has had an abundance of since she sold off the Featherweight.

"I'd be shocked and not all at the same time if this place had worthwhile anything for dessert," Spades confides in a conspiratorial mutter as they leave the shadow behind and step into the dimming light once more. Even if the weather is much cooler than he'd like, the days are still as long as they should be this time of year. The atmokinetics couldn't take that from them. "What kind of bets do you want to make on it?" he wonders idly, pulling the thread of conversation further from the heavier topics prior.

“That isn’t what I meant,” Des responds in a demure hush, quiet enough as to be mostly to herself. Her eyes adjust to the change in light again and sweep up to regard Spades. “I mean,” she says at a more conversational volume, although that conversation is being kept to just the pair of them, “I think your odds are pretty good, honestly.” She offers a little smile and a nudge of her hip that could just as easily be a result of walking out of step with him in this proximity.

Then she shrugs again, careful not to discourage the loop of his arm around her shoulders. “We’ll see where the winds take us, huh?” She grins up at her first mate.

The soft rebuttal is caught by the phaser at her side, his eyes casting down even if he doesn't turn his head with it, attempting to be subtle. But there she is, looking right up at him, following it with a bump of her hip to his. Oh. When the hair on the back of his neck rises, he wonders as always if it's as noticeable to others as it feels to him– knows any raised skin is invisible under his coat and there's nothing to worry about. He smiles sheepishly in return anyway and looks away, thoughtful.

Bowls of half-eaten stew lie on the nightstand side by side, the steam from them faded now. Spades sits on the edge of the bed in its middle, one arm stretched behind and beside him, fingertips smoothing their way up and down Destiny's spine. He draws his hand along an everchanging circuit, the press of fingers a relatively even gentleness across her skin while he looks off, eyes unfocused, thoughtful.

The persistent cool in the air leaves the hair on his arms raised, a sensation that proves uncomfortable enough he ends up lying down next to her once more, arm shifting to drape over her side instead as he draws her close. At this distance, he's more or less forced to come back to the present, light in his eyes shifting as they focus on her.

He wants to say he hopes tomorrow never comes– but is aware enough to know how poor a choice that'd be. His shift of mouthshape instead precedes a kiss, leaning in to graze Destiny's lips with his own. He acknowledges while hardly breaking that kiss, "The sooner we sleep, the sooner tomorrow comes. A tragicomedy in the making, for how tired I am."

For her own part, Destiny has been distracted by her own thoughts. His shift to lay with her again, drawing aside the covers of the bed to welcome him back as he does, brings her back. She smiles as he kisses her, even if what looms ahead is very little to smile about. “I know,” she acknowledges quietly. She, too, is tired, and would be grateful for the sleep if not for the fact that it means an end to this quiet private they’ve been enjoying.

Her hand comes up to lay gently against his cheek. Her heart constricts. Let’s stay here, it encourages her to say. She’s not so foolish enough to believe they should become traders and travel back and forth across land — that was a disaster she’s not keen to repeat, even if the two of them together might actually be safer than a whole convoy of targets — but perhaps they could liaise between New Chicago and the Pelago, should they send a representative back as she hopes.

Let’s go back, competes for a chance at life next. Destiny isn’t sure she’d want that either. The people she’s most loyal to are all here. Going back without them feels too painful, even if she would be with…

Destiny nudges one socked foot against Spades’ shin before she slides her leg between his calves to keep them twined together. “One day closer to Hawaii.” She isn’t even sure if she’s lying to him or to herself or if she really means it or expects it all to actually work out that way. The way that they hope. Does he even dare to hope?

A kiss is pressed to the corner of his mouth as her thumb brushes over his cheek. “When did you decide I was more than just a captain to sail under?” she asks in a hush, wonder in her.

The knowledge that they'd be one day sooner to the end of the journey at least prompts a thoughtful hm from the former pirate, encouraging him to cinch his arm a little more firmly around Destiny's side. Spades looks at her through half-lidded eyes, content as could be.

He turns his cheek into her touch. "Since the beginning, in some ways," he admits very quietly, voice hardly a whisper lest anyone but her overhear. "Staying in the Pelago was a given. Serving under anyone but Sawyer was…" The corner of his mouth pulls back as his shoulders roll in a shrug. "I needed the right incentive."

"We did a lot in the name of keeping that old ship going," Spades recalls. "To keep those there looked after. I didn't care very much for any of them, it was just… the cause was good. Captain Sawyer sold it well, and gave us leeway to do what was needed to bring the stability she hoped for."

"With you, it…" His eyes narrow slightly, and he shakes his head before his gaze refocuses on her. "… I've said it all before," he recounts tiredly, almost warily. "But I don't know if there was a particular moment it changed. It just…"

There are things he can't put to words. The way she smiled when something delighted her, the way she looks in a sunset, the way she determinedly makes decisions when she's put up to them, the way she still is soft and fragile in a world that breaks. The way she reached for him first, and how she continues to. He can't bring words to them, only smiles ever so slightly in apology and shakes his head.

“I wasn't used to anyone looking at me as anything other than a kid,” Des murmurs softly. “I mean, I grew up there. I was a kid, but even after I was grown…” After the world had properly forced her to with tragedy after tragedy. “I don't know. People respect me as a captain, as inheriting Jimmy's role… But I was still just the little girl in the too-big coat.”

She smiles, somewhat at her own expense, but also with genuine amusement. “You at least see a little woman in a too-big coat,” she chuckles. It fades quickly, overcome again by her seriousness. “I wanted someone to look at me like— as—”

Trailing off, she shakes her blonde head. “I thought you would just pat me on the head and tell me to go to sleep. I was afraid you would, but—” Destiny’s cheeks flush pink at the memory of where her eventual boldness got her.

"They've known you longer, and in different contexts than I have," Spades interjects idly. "It's easier to make a first impression. And… people judge based on appearances. The world ended and it still didn't grow out of that." It's something that sounds like it should be funny, but it isn't. "You can't help what your power's granted you." His head cocks at an angle before he confesses, "I am slightly jealous of that, by the way."

"It's very… I don't know, elfin?" He seems to regret, or at least be embarrassed by the suggestion as soon as it's made, expression twisting. "It's remarkable, if nothing else."

He's embarrassed, but her face lights up. “That's what I like to think.” Des smiles bright for him, cinching her arm tightly around his side. “That I age like an elf.”

Then she's sheepish, glancing away. “But I don't usually say it out loud, because it doesn't help with people thinking I'm too childlike.” She grimaces. “There's nothing to be jealous of, really.” Blue eyes roll. “Nothing’s great about being a teenager until you're nearly forty.”

Wisdom and experience may be hard-won and earned, but they have an uphill battle with a brain that hasn't fully developed impulse control yet.

There's a rueful chuckle. “You wouldn't have looked twice at me either, if you'd met me before your time with Sawyer.” Spades would think she's just a kid, too.

“It's kind of funny,” Des remarks without humor, “I used to try very hard to lean into that look and that… persona, right?” Her eyes find his and find it a comfortable place to linger. “It worked when I still had people who wanted me to hide behind them.”

The traces of her smile fade. Spades would keep her hidden behind him too, wouldn't he? The difference — and the realization of it brings a new, slowly building light to her eyes — is that she doesn't think Spades would ever make her hide, but he would likely allow her to if she asked.

As that washes over her, she finds herself feeling bashful again, but grateful. “I'm lucky to have you in my crew.” There's an unspoken other way in which she feels lucky that he can nearly make out the shape of in that light dancing in her eyes as her focus shifts between his.

But how he reacted when she'd shown too plainly her feelings earlier replays in her mind and she tempers again. This, she reasons, is part of being an adult and accepted as one finally. Emotional distance is something the world has been trying to teach her, but a lesson she's only just starting to understand she needs to take to heart. For his sake, if not her own.

So she once again begins to tuck her joy away to hide, slowly drawing grasping limbs back toward herself with the intent to roll over on her side away from him once that's complete.

She is right about one thing in this exchange being adult– being able to speak around topics, be it metaphor or double entendre, certainly is key. Reading between the lines is critical. The light in Spades' eyes shift when she expresses her gratefulness for him, and he stills, soul warming.

Allowing her to roll away is a thing permitted, but not to go far. He cinches his arm around her side again, this time to draw her in tightly to him, to weave his hand under her arm and leave it lying on her heart, almost possessively. A kiss finds its way to her shoulder, then.

"It's good we met when we did," he agrees, soft since he's right next to her ear like this, head nestling against hers before he winds an ankle around hers. "We would have both been different people any earlier. You might not have liked who I was then, either."

But that's an unpleasant thought. A more pressing one intrudes next.

"… We forgot to finish dinner."

“I don’t care.” Who he was before or that they’ve forgotten to finish dinner. Even if it may be the best meal they’ll have in a very, very long time. Her eyes close heavily, not trying to escape the trap he makes of his arms around her small figure. She begins to reconsider.

He deserves to know, doesn’t he?

If she tells him and he no longer wants to follow at her side, then he should go, shouldn’t he?

Destiny simply takes a few moments to breathe quietly, to try to memorize the way his body feels curled around hers, in case it’s the last time she ever shares this level of intimacy with him. Or maybe anyone…

Screw emotional distance!

“I love you,” she says finally.

And if that’s enough to make him leave, then she deserves freedom as much as he does.

She doesn't care they've abandoned the stew, and so he won't either. Suffering a cold meal isn't the most egregious thing they've done on this trip. So Spades relaxes, lets his eyes close, allows himself to feel her against him and in that comfort begin to drift closer to sleep.

Then she speaks again. His arms begin to draw around her a little more firmly, a little more possessively. He presses a kiss to the back of her neck.

There's no words that come, just the pulling of her closer, holding fast to her like she's a precious thing that otherwise might vanish. There's no words until there are, only being, "Then it's me, the lucky one."

He draws her closer, he kisses her like that, and Destiny feels as though she could sing, but she holds for him to give the expected response. Only he doesn’t say anything. Then he does, but he doesn’t say even a variation of the words she expected him to say. She sags against the mattress, against him.

The wax wings melted, her heart plummets toward the sea…

And pulls up at the last second.

That’s it?” she asks with a sharpness and annoyance that shocks even her. “I finally say it and you’re the lucky one?” She’s not so naïve to think he hadn’t reasoned it out even before this evening, but the best she’d ever gotten out of him was fond, and if he isn’t more than fond, then why is he even here?

Spades freezes, the soft comfort of the cage of his arms a tenser thing as they remain. He doesn't want to let go, but he has to refrain from holding onto her more tightly like it will rewind time. Like it'll make her understand. His eyes stay closed, face flaring with embarrassed warmth anew.

How does he say it? How does she not know?

He breathes in, murmurs more calmly than the thunder of his heart should ordain, "'Love is not love Which alters when it alteration finds, Or bends with the remover to remove'." He falls back on older habits to try and find his explanation for when his own words fail him, because he's struggling to make any happen adequately. He continues, "'It is an ever-fixed mark That looks on tempests and is never shaken'."

"… I'm not someone who relies on that single phrase to show it," Spades tries to explain for himself, and looses his arm from around her, resting his hand at her side instead. "And I thought you already knew besides. I didn't tell you I'd follow you to the ends of the earth, and you didn't tell me there was an after just for the two of us because you think of me only as crew," he murmurs without offense. "It was a more powerful declaration than just those three words… that you'd leave everyone and everything else behind. For me."

"Fuck yes, I'm the luckiest of the two of us, in this situation," Spades balks on the edge of a broken laugh. "You have so much more you're tied to, and you still chose me."

He thinks, anyway. He hopes she still does. But he's not fool enough to lock her in now to prevent her from going if she's incensed enough to do it. He's learned at least that much maturity in his life.

Rather than attempt to extract herself, she takes advantage of the loosening of his embrace to roll over so he can receive the full effect of the turmoil on her face. “You don't understand,” she tells him, as though that wasn't plain to them both already.

“When I tell someone I love them, they leave.” Her blue eyes are wide, brow furrowed deeply and the corners of her mouth are turned down, making the effort to keep them from trembling (mostly unsuccessfully) and hold back tears born of small frustration, but an even larger dose of fear.

“I have been terrified!” Destiny places a small hand on Spades’ shoulder, gripping it not so tightly, but like she might give him a good shake if the both of them were standing. “This was huge for me!”

How could he not see that? How could he not notice the way she struggled? How could he not recognize the way she would toe right up to that line and then back away from it at the last possible moment?

She sniffs sharply just once. “I love the way you look at me when nobody else is looking. I love the way you brush my hair behind my ear. I love the way that you're kind and gentle and sensitive, but you don't coddle me. I love all that poetry you recite with all the big words I sometimes don't understand.” Destiny’s hand lifts from his shoulder so she can wipe a tear away from her cheek with the back of one knuckle before she fits it to the side of his face instead.

His jaw cradled gently in her palm, she reiterates with reverence, “I love you, and that scares me. What if the universe hears it now and takes you away from me? Just— Just like everyone else?” She doesn't break contact to banish more tears from the plain of her face, even though the path they're pulled along by gravity makes her want to scrub at the ridge of her nose.

She can see plainly the look on his face, one that– maybe in a different way– shares those same concerns. Spades hesitates, and with an aborted attempt at speaking, breathes out and curls his hand around her side with more intent.

“If you can't just say it back…” She’s been kind here she thinks, too, for all her demanding. She hasn't told him that his sweet words sometimes sound like all the things she's overheard other men say to other women when they want to keep them on a string for whatever reason they have. Money, status, access, sex. There's a host of reasons she can't even fathom why someone would pretend to love someone, but she knows they exist. She wants to believe that isn't him. Does believe it. And still…

Des closes her eyes tightly, more tears squeezed out. “No one's ever said it to me before,” she admits softly. Not in this context, anyway, which shouldn't come as any kind of surprise to him. “Don't… Don't I deserve to hear it? Just once?

The misery feels overwhelming. She's spoken her mind, and now she wishes she could take every word of it back, but she won't. She won't give a sighed or grumbled never mind, as if somehow none of this had been important to her. And she won't spare herself from the brunt of his reaction to all of that, so she opens her eyes again.

“I'm sorry,” she whispers. “I'm…” How to say it? There's hopelessness in her eyes as she searches for the right word, deciding finally on “Simple.” Apology changes the slant of her brow. “I'm not grand-y-us like you are.” Grandiose, she means. “I need it dumbed down for me.” There. She could have boiled all her feelings down into one sentence — her cheeks burn — instead of embarrassing herself with this overemotional babble.

"You've told me 'I love you' in so many ways before this, Des," Spades counters softly. "I didn't run then. I told you I loved you too in how I didn't leave you behind– didn't let you go alone abroad, or to come back without me. In a dozen other ways. And it… it might not have been what it is now, not at first, but it's…"

"It's love," he admits in a small voice, just barely above a whisper. She deserves for him to not hide the words entirely, even if he's still afraid of the universe hearing it and enacting both their fears out.

"If it wasn't, I'd not have come on this thrice-damned roadtrip. I wouldn't have cared if you'd lived or died in Toledo. I wouldn't have been terrified you were hurt. I wouldn't be here, listening to you question me." Spades has to stop himself, poorly, from grimacing – in reproach at himself rather than anything else. "But I'm still terrified– that if I tell you–"

His eyes close, his voice needing to steel. "That any or all of our worst fears could come true," he manages to eke out, and he draws his arm around her more firmly now to keep her close, like he could protect her from whatever comes, even if it meant throwing himself in front of it first. "And it's still so dangerous now."

"You're braver than I am to bite your thumb at fate like that, Des," Spades says with a pained smile. He shifts his other arm to cup her face in return. "I'm sorry."

She has sympathy in, well, spades, but also confusion and concern. She also holds guilt, feeling admonished, but it won’t completely overpower her conviction. If she could overcome her fear to say it so plain, could it possibly be unreasonable for her to want the same from him in return?

She leans in close to him, her nose brushing against his, eyes fluttering shut as her lips press softly to his. It isn’t a show of her passion, but of her tenderness. “Why,” she asks when they’ve parted, “would you be afraid of saying it?” It should have occurred to her by now that maybe life has been just as cruel to him as it has to her, but that it could leave them with the same types of scars is a hard concept for her to grasp.

“You’re brave for following someone so foolish to the ends of the earth,” she counters with a small smile that only just reaches her eyes.

"Nothing good ever lasts," Spades whispers, barely more than a movement of lips rather than an admission made by sound. "And speaking about them, saying the words out loud, it…" He falters. It's as far as he can safely make it.

"I just want this to last," he prays with a little more voice to it. Someone needs to hear it, and it's not the two of them. "I want us to make it there and gone again. I want to–"

Spades swallows hard, a tension in his throat. He hesitates, lingers there, not trusting his voice at all. His eyes are unfocused, not on hers even if he holds her and everything about her close and treasured. More grimly than with humor, he finally relays, "Doesn't take bravery to want to keep you safe. Just selfishness. If you die, the last good thing I'd fight for in this world goes with it. And it…" His eyes close hard, a struggle taking place within, felt in the tension in his breath, the stiffness of his hunching shoulders.

"I'm a different person than when I met you. I can't go back to who I was before. And I don't care to know the person who comes after. You…


"I just want you." He sounds so tired somehow, like he doesn't know how to handle that. In all likelihood, he doesn't. But his voice softens and his eyes open somewhat again so he can find hers and tell her with every ounce of sincerity, finally finding the right timing and framing, "I love you." A pained breath leaves him after that; a symbol of paranoia that now that those three words have been said, that something will happen.

But a beat passes, and it hasn't happened yet. No longer does he feel comfortable lying here twined, though, nervous energy abound. "You should eat," Spades suggests suddenly, and shifts up onto an elbow first, then sits up entirely, twisting to retrieve one of the bowls from the nightstand beside the bed. "We both should. We should take advantage of it while we have it."

Destiny watches him struggle and suddenly feels stupid and selfish for ever thinking she would be the only one who ever felt this way. It takes so much not to interject, not to try and infuse him with her own assurances. He needs to lay out his thoughts.

She needs to hear them. She'll never understand if she doesn't listen. What she would give to know the intricacies of this man’s heart.

He sits up and she feels a brief sense of panic. He said it and she should feel like flying, but instead she's afraid it's he who is about to fly. Solo, away from her. Destiny scrambles to disentangle herself from the sheets and right herself as well.

No!” she protests as her stockinged feet hit the floor and she rockets up to stand. If she were more agitated and careless, she might knock the bowl out of his hands. “I don't want to eat,” she insists. “I want— want—” Not to be terrified of this.

“I want to shout it to the sky. I choose him!” The blonde sweeps her arm toward him. “This one! This man who is just as scared as I am, but he loves me back anyway!” That tremblng hand scrubs over her face. “I want to look God right in the eye and tell Her, not this one.

Nostrils flare with determination, both to protect him fiercely and get past this moment without crying any harder than she already is. “She can't have you. Because I need you, and I—” This is about to be a bold assertion. “I think you need me too.”

Des shakes her head firmly. “I don't care anymore who knows. I— I want to get through this, with you, so that I can stand on a warm beach with sand between my toes and flowers in my hair, holding your hands in front of all the friends we're going to make, and tell them all that I choose you. That I'm yours, if you'll have me.”

Her blue eyes dance between his and the other features of his face. “For all of time.” Her lips press together tightly, holding back more words until finally she can't anymore and just spits them out.

Fuck—” The exclamation is so unlike her. This may be only the second time he's ever heard her say it in his presence. “— I'd do it out in the vehicle yard,” Destiny flings her arm toward the window and New Chicago beyond, “with mud between my toes and dried up leaves in my hair. I just want you.

The declaration leaves her trembling, fearful it won't be enough somehow.

Spades starts when Destiny protests as loudly as she does, nearly dropping the bowl. He sets it down while still holding onto it, afraid he might knock it over anyway as he looks back to her. He prepares to be berated for somehow still have done everything wrong, because that just figures but what comes after is decidedly different than that.

A short, bewildered snort leaves him when she proclaims God as a woman, but it's irrelevant to the moment and he keeps it only to that. He looks up at her equally bewildered as she makes her demands of the universe, but that's a look that eases as she goes on. Spades lets go of the bowl, swivels his feet to the ground, blanket still drawn over his lap and nowhere else.

"Hey," he submits to her softly, reaching out with his free hands. "Hey." This one a little more intent, trying to guide her back to him.

"You have me," Spades promises. "Even without grandiose moments. You have me."

Destiny is left catching her breath in the wake of her aggressive declaration, seemingly also left bewildered by her own surge of energy and vehemence. She didn't know she had that in her.

She takes his hands and laughs helplessly, sniffling back the remaining trickle of emotions now that the dam holding them back has been repaired. “Is that how you say that?” she asks, shaking her head. “I wish…”

There aren't words in her vocabulary to explain all the things she wishes for. Instead of trying, she draws Spades to her as she steps to him where he sits, cradling his head against her chest and stroking his hair.

“I wish I knew poetry.” That idea is a simple enough one. “You always have such pretty words,” Des sighs. “I'd say something about needing only to sup on your love or… I don't even know if that's how you use that in a sentence and—”

Laughter bubbles up again and she cringes against another break, folding herself over and around him as best as she's able, like she can fasten herself to him and him to her.

For a lack of knowing what else to do, Spades reaches up for her in return, allows his hair to be pet, and lets himself relax there. He shakes his head about the matter of pretty words and with a faint chuckle does lift his head to look up at her right before she leans over him. "That is a terribly romantic thing to say, I'll have you know." His arms curl up around her as she leans down into him, hands rubbing up and down her back. "Poetry or no."

He sighs into her shoulder and murmurs, "We should get some rest. If I can't sell you on food, we should at least… rest." A kiss is pressed her shoulder before he follows it up with, "It's a long road ahead. We've made the most of this time alone together, at least."

Far more than he imagined they would, certainly.

“I can sleep on the truck,” Des half-whines, half-insists, holding Spades a little tighter for a moment before she relents and disengages. She drifts to one side, a hand on his shoulder for her anchor point as she shifts her weight to the heel of one foot, pivoting and dropping back onto the mattress to sit next to him.

Slender fingers lace together between her knees, she frowns and tries to organize her thoughts before she opens her mouth to speak. “I don’t want to know who I’ll be if I lose someone else I love either,” she admits quietly. “If… If I lose you—” Her voice cuts off and she takes a breath to steady herself before finishing her thought. “I think I could become a very ugly person.”

Tipping slowly to one side, she gently comes to rest against his shoulder. She wants to get all of this out now, before the stress of the road shakes this bottle up and makes it an awful mess. “But… you wouldn’t want that for me.” Her head lifts, though the contact of her arm against his remains as she angles a look to him. “And I don’t want it for you either. So…”

There’s uncertainty in her eyes as she unclasps her own hands and reaches for one of his instead. “Make a deal with me?”

He can see where this is going. He doesn't shrug off her hand, but he turns to look at her, his green-grey eyes resolute. "No," he answers softly but sternly. "I'm not planning for or making contingencies for any other future than the one we want."

Des lets out a breath of anxious laughter. “I love that about you.” She’s helpless in the face of him, it seems. “Fine,” she concedes, rather than negotiate in that way she’s known for. “Different deal,” she proposes. “We’re what matters most.” It doesn’t sound like much of a thing requiring give or take, but he knows how unlike her it is. “I know you’ll already… move mountains to protect me.”

Her lips twitch in a brief smile, something a bit like gratitude, a bit like her nerves, but it fades. She’s serious, this is serious. “But I’ll fight tooth and nail to protect you. To protect myself for your sake. To protect… us.” Destiny is as much a pacifist as anyone on this journey can be. She bears the marks of violence in all the invisible ways, so this is no small promise for her to be making.

“So we can have the future we want.”

With that offers, Spades reconsiders. He reaches for her hand in return now, a pinky extended. His look is perfectly serious.

"For the future we deserve," he vows solemnly.

In spite of herself, a charmed smile creeps slowly across her face. She links her pinky with his. “Deal.” It will have to be enough for now. Maybe she can convince him of the rest later. Maybe she won’t have to.

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