{3} Dog

Dog and Dragon exchange a look and a grin. Together they turn their collective smile at Fray. She seems slightly unnerved.

“What exactly did you think we were?” Dog laughs, leaning intimately close to this stranger-celebrity who just offered them a place at her side and who smells, well, delicious. Dog is stalling for time, buying them enough time to assess this offer, decide if it’s for the best, and converse about it with nothing but their eyes and tiny quirks of their mouths.

Dog and Dragon have been married a good long five years now. Dog is sure they could write a dictionary of their non-verbal communication.

Despite learning her intended innocent targets are a bit less than, Fray recovers her composure smoothly. Possibly, Dog thinks, it was an act in the first place. The pirate queen is not to be underestimated. “Ah, I supposed you were hired guns, or something of the sort,” Fray says. “Brigands yourselves, eh?”

“Only when we have to be,” Dragon says with a shrug. “Which isn’t often. But we get the job done. Whatever it takes.” Pitch away, darling, you’re better at it than me, Dog thinks.

That sort of pirate.” Fray makes a noise. Dog watches the corners of Fray’s mouth and tries to hide their amusement as they realize: she’s trying very hard not to give away a crucial piece of information.

She’s got the hots for Dragon.

Well, now, isn’t that interesting.

Finding Fray here was a stroke of brilliant luck. For the last several weeks, the pair had been stalking the length of this planet, hoping someone important or rich would show up needing a couple of hired guns. Coming to the Spyglass was their final act of desperation, a last-ditch effort to find a wealthy patron or a merchant on the fringes of acceptability who’d choose Dog and Dragon over a more experienced crew in the heat of the alcohol-soaked moment. If they’d failed at that, it was off to the next backwater world, to lay low and start the search all over again.

And to have the pirate queen already infatuated with miss Dragon… Well, now, that’s just genius.

Dog rubs under their chin with the back of their hand until Dragon drops her hand by her side and twists her pointer and middle fingers together. Atta girl, Dog thinks. They’re so proud of their wife, picking up their microexpression training and spy knowledge almost without them needing to outright explain how it worked. And now Dragon’s got her eye on Fray too.

Dog looks forward to seeing their wife’s face in the moment when she realizes she’s getting hit on. Dragon’s just so godsdamn adorable when she’s flustered.

When neither of them answers her accusation about them being that sort of pirate, Fray switches which leg is over the other and clears her throat. “So. Pirates. Dog, Dragon. What are your specialties?”

“Flirting,” Dog says, unable to resist. Dragon whacks them lightly on the chest with the back of her hand.

Dog. Sorry, ma’am. They’re an assassin, I’m a sharpshooter.” Normally, Dragon wouldn’t be so forthcoming with tactical information, but the two of them had identified Fray as a potential employer the moment they’d spotted her. Coming over to the bar was supposed to get them a job. Dog thinks they’ve got this locked down, because for whatever reason, Fray seems desperate for hired hands.

At the moment, the Damn Shames Regent seems quite pleased. “Both premium skillsets,” she says with a vigorous nod. “Good. And premium specimens, too.” This, with an exaggerated glance at Dragon’s ass that Dragon would have to be blind to miss.

There it is. Dragon’s whole chest and neck redden and she purses her lips. Dog has to tuck their face in their sleeve to keep from laughing out loud.

“Now, I wouldn’t normally do this without a much more significant screening process,” Fray says, not seeing (or pretending not to see) their reactions, “but I’ve come to rely on my instincts in my old age—” Fray can’t be older than 35, Dog thinks. “—and my gut is telling me you two have no reason to make my life more difficult. Since I am in need of an able-bodied crew, and you both seem… more than, would you like to jump aboard for a while?” Fray waves her now-empty whiskey glass at the bartender, who’s been keeping an eye on the trio ever since Dog and Dragon interrupted his conversation with the pirate queen, and he comes over with a bottle to tip in a bit more golden liquid. “Commensurate pay, of course. We need to find a job to fund a few repairs, haul ass off this planet and back to somewhere civilized, offload some fuel for a spot of cash, then it’s off to the far reaches again for a bit. You in?”

Ahh, but they’ve already made this decision, thirty minutes ago. Finding a wealthy patron had been the plan. Joining one of the galaxy’s most notorious pirate gangs? Even better.

Dog and Dragon will get their home back. If it takes being a Damn Shame to do it, so be it.

Dog plays it carefully, nonetheless. “We’ve got two small craft. An LN and a Gladius. We’ll need fuel, consistent fuel, and a long leash.”

“Long leash?” Fray’s shapely eyebrows shoot up. “What exactly does that mean?”

Dragon steps in smoothly, literally inserting herself between them, which puts her very close to Fray. Dog can smell them both now. It’s intoxicating. “It means we’ve got lots of promises to keep around the galaxy, and we plan on keeping them when we’re in the area,” Dragon says. “That means sometimes, we disappear for a few hours.”

Fray tries to keep her cool, but the proximity to Dragon is clearly vexing her. “Not without my say-so. Being a Shame means you’re ready to die for your family. And your family becomes the Shames when you’re a Shame.”

“I get that,” Dog says, leaning past Dragon to give Fray a serene look, “but we wouldn’t be Shames. We’d be hired guns.”

Fray opens her mouth to say something to the contrary, then snaps it shut. She nods. “Fine. Fair enough. Fuel and a long leash.” She drifts a look around the cavern, clearly not finding what she’s looking for. “Like I said…I wouldn’t normally do this.”

Dragon reaches back and shoves at Dog’s chest. “What?” they laugh, then yelp as they slide off the stool and have to catch themselves on the counter.

“Move over. Sit.” Dragon waves her hand at the next stool over, then perches on the one she’s made Dog vacate. “So, ma’am, would you have recruited us if you weren’t desperate?”

Dog has to catch themselves to avoid spit-taking onto the beautiful counter. That’s their Dragon, blunt as you please. But Fray looks grim, not angry.

“Honestly? Probably. Regardless, this is a very bad time. We—” She hesitates, catches the bartender’s eye. The big dark man looms over them like a shadow and sets something on the counter, which Dog recognizes as a portable bubble of silence to keep unwanted listeners from tuning in. “Thanks, Breth,” Fray says with startling gentleness to the bartender, who rests his big hand over hers before stepping outside of the bubble himself.

When she’s sure they’re unheard, Fray continues, “We ran into a spot of trouble near Kallis IV. Thought it was a simple enough matter, retreat the way they were letting us go, but turns out it was too simple.”

“Ambush,” Dog says, nodding. “Funny. Sounds like our guy, Drag.” They nudge Dragon’s side gently.

Dragon’s throat bobs and she looks hard at the counter. “We’ve got a score to settle with someone who sets traps,” she says in a dangerously low voice.

The last six months have been hard on Dragon. Dog, too, but they haven’t borne the brunt of it like their wife has. They wrap their arm around her waist and draw her close. She leans gratefully into their warmth. “Teaming up with the Shames is our best bet,” Dog explains to Fray, “to get what we want.”

“And what might that be?” Fray swigs her whiskey.

“Our home,” Dog says flatly, in a tone that welcomes no follow-up. There’s a lot of story there, a lot more than a stranger deserves. Dog doesn’t distrust Fray, but they definitely don’t trust her with the tale of Dragon and Dog, not yet. Dragon’s arms are folded against the counter, her gaze boring into the marble.

Fray waits, brows raised expectantly, but when no further explanation comes she shrugs and sets her glass down. “Well. As much as I would love to sit here and sip overpriced drinks all evening, I have to put you two to work right away.”

Dragon raises her head, the prospect of being helpful reviving her mood. Dog chuckles and kisses their wife’s cheek. “We’ve been antsy for something to do for a while now. It’ll be a welcome change.”

“Don’t thank me yet,” Fray cautions as the bartender takes his bubble shield back. “I need you to find us some work.”

Dragon groans. “We’ve been trying to do that for three weeks. This planet’s drier than a—”

“Remember where we are, my love,” Dog says before Dragon can fly off with one of her colorful sexual metaphors. Dragon brightens and gives them a thankful nudge on the arm with her nose.

“Yes, well,” Fray says dryly, dropping down off her stool and leaving a sizeable handful of currency on the counter beside her empty glass, “you weren’t offering a Starfarer’s services before, were you?”


Thanks to Brett Sayer for the source image. Aurora LN, Gladius, Kallis IV, and all elements of Star Citizen belong to Chris Roberts and Cloud Imperium.

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