Like a virgin touched for the thirty-first time

Alexander came careening out of the room with so much speed that he nearly knocked Robin down. For a moment, their eyes met and Robin saw the tears standing there. He sighed and then looked over at the captain.

“What happened?” Kit said, shaking his head. He looked shocked, as well as worried.

Robin’s hands clenched into fists. “Al’s an Innocent,” he said. “Who knows what set him off.”

“Find out?” Kit suggested.

“I intended to,” Robin growled, as he strode towards the room out of which Alexander had run.

“I meant…” Kit started, as the doors slid open and Robin stepped in. They snapped shut, but the sound of angry shouts came through. “From him?”

The only thing he could make out in Robin’s angry tirade was “Who do you think you are?” If that was how Robin meant to talk to a delegation from another world… Kit definitely needed to defuse the situation.

Kit sighed and looked Ophelia. “Talk to Al,” he said. “I’ll keep Robin from committing homicide.” He didn’t wait for her answer. He merely strode into the room with an airy smile.

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Are you going to starve an old friend?

“How long do we have to wait?” Alexander said, his brows furrowing together at the center of his forehead. His stomach made a sound of protest and he sighed.

“Moaning and sighing will not change things,” Kit said, rolling his eyes. He looked at his watch and shook his head. He chewed his lip for a moment. “We’ll give them another ten minutes to get here and then we’ll start without them.”

No sooner had he said the words, when the doors slid open and Robin and Schuyler came into the room. “Sorry,” Robin said, immediately. He shrugged. “My fault entirely.”

“He was making things difficult for the doctor,” Schuyler said, as he took his seat.

Alexander grabbed onto Robin’s arm and smiled. “I’m so glad you’re here,” he said. “Now, we can eat!”

the world will never return

Julian stared out at the planet he and the others had lived on for the last year. It seemed so small and harmless now. It seemed so hard to believe that such a place had taken so much from them.

“Any idea what you’ll do now?” Robin asked, leaning against the wall beside the porthole. “I mean, you planning on going on to the settlement with your little girl or are you going to head back to where you came from?”

“Without Allysum,” Julian murmured, “the idea of starting a new life somewhere – away from the family – seems… empty.” He shook his head and closed his eyes. “At the same time, I don’t feel like I can just go back to them. It’d be like… going backwards, when I need to go forward.”

“So,” Robin said, “you can’t go back and you can’t go forward. What does that leave?”

“Sideways,” Julian said. He opened his eyes and a faint smile touched his lips. “I’ll ask the captain about joining the crew. I mean… I’m an architect by training, but… I know the same sorts of things the engineers know here. It wouldn’t be hard to learn whatever I don’t know, right?”

Robin smiled and nodded. “Welcome aboard, then,” he said. “Maybe we’ll… see more of each other.” Then he pushed away from the wall and walked away.

everything is as it was

Alexander chewed his lip as he made his way to the cabin where he’d be living for the next four years. He hated change. Robin could adapt to new things so much more easily than he could. Tears welled in his eyes briefly, but he shook them away. He wasn’t going to cry! He refused!

“Hey,” a soft, familiar voice said.

Looking up, Alexander found Robin approaching him. He tightened his grip on the bag that was slung over one shoulder. “I wanna go home!” he breathed.

Robin sighed and set a hand on one shoulder. “Deep breaths, Al,” he murmured. “I’m right here and my cabin is adjoined to yours. This… Lord, Al, we’ll be safer here than we could ever hope to be anywhere else! The Underground can’t reach us here!”

Alexander exhaled and nodded. Robin couldn’t understand why Alexander didn’t want this. He saw it as an escape from their troubles. He was right, but that didn’t change how Alexander felt. It was change and change was bad!

Robin took his hand and tugged him along, until they reached the cabin. As the doors slid opened, Alexander looked up. He stared in shock. He’d seen the captain’s cabin and the ship’s councilor’s cabin. Both of them were the same – dark and cold and… just not the sort of place where he could ever be comfortable. This room, however…

“It’s like my room at home,” he breathed.

Chuckling softly, Robin drew him inside. “I have gotta hand it to that lady,” he said, his voice soft. “Weston certainly knows how to make someone comfortable in their new surroundings. She said, as an innocent, change is… emotionally difficult for you. The only way to make the transition easy for you would be to replicate our apartment here.”

Alexander nodded and stepped deeper into the room. It wasn’t perfect. The door slid open and shut and the windows showed a view of unfamiliar stars, rather than the cityscape he was used to. However, the rest was just as it should be. Everything was as it was at home.

“I’ll have to thank her later,” Alexander murmured.

more vital than sane

Vital, here, means “important”.

**

Alexander shifted nervously from one foot to the other. His brows were furrowed. He chewed his lip. He watched the crew moving around the ship. Some people were loading things. Others were just milling around, talking. His frown deepened.

“You gonna stand there and stare or are you gonna help?”

He looked up at the speaker. He was a tall man, broadly built. Alexander tensed and then looked around, searching the crowd for a familiar face. “Robin?” he called.

Like magic, Robin appeared. “Right here,” he said, striding forward. He took Alexander’s hand, keeping him from ducking out of sight. “Relax, Al. I’m sure they’re fed well enough, they don’t bite.”

“He all right?” the man asked.

Another of the men, one who’d been directing the others more than actually working, spoke up. “Alexander Pemberton, right?” he said.

“Yes,” Robin said, giving him an easy smile. “I’m Robin Nolan. I’m… sort of his caretaker.” He looked at Alexander and shrugged. “Sort of,” he repeated.

Alexander nodded. “Sort of,” he murmured.

“He’s an innocent,” he said, as if that explained everything. He gave Alexander a gentle smile. “I’m Kit Locksley,” he said. “I’m captain of the ship. You’re going to be our chief of the comm?”

“Mm-hm,” Alexander said, nodding.

Kit smiled at the other man. “Innocents are a bit… different, but there’s no one better for the comm than someone like him,” he said. Nodding at Alexander, he said, “You’ll do just fine.”

Unwelcome Changes

Alexander sighed softly as he stepped into the office of the vice squad. He’d asked for the transfer out of organized crime when Henry was arrested. Robin had suggested it might be safer to put some distance between himself and the others. However, now that he was there, one thing became evident: none of them trusted him.

Biting his lip, he smoothed his jacket and moved towards the open door that led into the squad leader’s office. He rapped lightly on the wood and peered inside. “Alexander Pemberton, reporting for duty, sir,” he said, his voice faint.

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Welcome to the Shadows

Alexander shivered. What kind of choice was that? He could live as a virtual slave or die peacefully? “I don’ wanna die,” he rasped. Looking up at Robin, he nodded. “I’ll accept the binding.”

Robin sighed in relief. He pulled a long sash out of his bag. “Put your hands together, Al,” he said. As Alexander complied, he began widing the sash around his wrists. “Alexander Pemberton, I bind you to my will. You will do as I command and not do what I do not command.”

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A Choice to Make

Alexander could hear Cyril chuckling as he walked back up to the docks. He shivered and strained against the ropes. Then, he saw them. Leech vines were gliding through the water towards him, attracted by the smell of his blood in the water.

His heart began pounding and his breathing became ragged as fear set in. He kicked out when one drew near. It’s mental cry echoed in his mind and he whimpered in pain. He couldn’t give up, however. The moment he stopped fighting, they would latch on and drain him of his blood. “Help,” he screamed, kicking another back.

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