Tige stood, leaning against the wall, stiff. He was hidden away by plants, but he was sure he’d just heard Sanja refer to Dakota as he. That simple little word that slipped from her lips as she was talking with someone on the phone burnt his chest from inside out as his brain was trying to come up with plausible explanation. It was hard to even hold a breath. He was aware of every breath he took, the wheezing sound his nose made when air ran in and out.
“Too reckless!” he muttered, curling his fingers up in a tight fists. He thought he’d say it loud if the dull pain behind his eyes was any indicator. He knew he couldn’t stay here, had to move around. Remaining on one spot for too long would be suspicious, wouldn’t it?
Somehow he didn’t care. The sounds had long ago mashed together into one big mess and all he could hear now was the low thudding of the engine that came through the vibration in the wall.
He wasn’t sure what he should do next. Confirm the information, of course. No way could he go to Tyton without confirming it first. He pushed his back off the wall and started walking. He realized he’d just gone through the entire station and stopped in front of the bar. His eyes zoned down on Tyton, who was there, talking with Jocelyn, but he couldn’t see Dakota anywhere.
Good, that gave him time. He flipped his phone open and chose security center. Two minutes later he was already strolling down the street, searching through the bars for a familiar figure. At the same time his head was scanning through possible places to go. He needed a place, where no one would disturb them until he was through with his… investigation. Something private that was far away from peering ears.
But first he needed Dakota.
He’d gone through nearly all the places, when he finally saw her in the small bookstore near the end of the small shops. She was dressed in knee length dress with thicker blue jacket against the chilliness. So, he took in her low key fashion, she wasn’t waiting to meet anyone today. That was good, at least he didn’t need to explain anyone, why she disappeared. He reached out and grabbed hold of her elbow, pulling her shocked eyes up on his face.
“Excuse me, I need to borrow your customer.”
He saw she was about to protest against the harsh hold, but the moment their eyes met, she resigned, put the book back and let herself be taken away without resistance. This didn’t stop her from fighting the moment they were out of the small street. Her entire body fired up as if someone turned on the inner heating. Her hand burnt him. He guessed, she was under stress. For a good reason!
He tug her into a nearby lift and sagged against the wall while it took them to service levels. It was late, past the regular work time, but he gathered he had the best chance here. No one would listen here.
He let her go out first, holding again from her elbow. They were walking in complete silence, even the footsteps disappeared in the dull material covering the floors. There wasn’t much light in the corridors. There hardly were in the middle of the night, but the departments were built so every corner of the large spaces could be lit up in whole.
He stopped in front of a smaller storehouse and punched in his code. According to the center, it was one of the few on this level that was empty. There was a collapsible chair standing next to the door and he took it with when the door swung open. He pushed her in, followed and listened the door shut behind him.
He let her go and she immediately froze on her spot, eagerly looking around when the lights came on one by one. Nothing much to see – steel walls with muting flooring. There was still sand, he heard crunching under his boots, which was strange sound in space.
She didn’t look comfortable at all. Her hands ran up, clutching around herself with obvious discomfort and despite trying to look calm, her body had began trembling. That was good, that made his job easier.
The chair clattered and fell lower when he took his seat on it. Then he unbuckled his gun and set it on his left knee, his finger near the trigger. He snapped the safety off, but the moment her eyes turned to check the door, he quietly nudged it back on. No need for accidents.
“I want you to strip.” He said in a strained, clear voice, eyes on her face. He didn’t even know if he should think of her as female now and the confusion irritated him.
The only thing moving was her chest that kept raising and falling in a shallow breaths. She was scared and for the first time in a long time he thought if she might even lose her voice like that for real.
He scratched his nose and turned his eyes back on her. He waited. He had the whole night. All night, he reminded himself. Nowhere to hurry.
When five minutes pass and she still hadn’t moved, he quietly removed the safety again, pointed it at her – the wall behind her, where he knew the round wouldn’t go through or touch her – and waited, holding it still for over a minute.
The tense stare in her eyes didn’t change. It moved once, glancing down between her clasped hands and the notebook hanging around her neck, calculating how well she’d do if she played dumb for a while more.
Wasn’t happening. And she knew it too. Her chin rose higher, revealing her delicate neck.
“Turn around.” The gun remained where it was. “Take off your clothes.” He wasn’t open for objections. Oral or written. “NOW!” he roared, when she was still staring him a moment longer. It startled her.
She turned slowly.
“That notebook of yours first.” he said, wanting to rid her of that sickening item as fast as her fingers moved. “Hold it out on the side.” he instructed, aimed at the small square and took the shot. It fell from her shaking hands on the ground with large hole in the middle. No way of using that now, you bitch!
“Turn around again. Now continue.” He set the gun back down on his hip, quietly pushing the safety back on.
He wanted to see her eyes. It was the only thing about her that he could rely on. Even now they were asking him to stop and he both loathed and loved the pain it rumbled up inside him. Then again, she liked the pain game too? They were still waiting five minutes later and he wondered if he needed another demonstration. He didn’t care – she only had two choices and either one she took, she was done for.
Ten minutes later and her eyes began to wonder away from his face. She was starting to think he would let her go. The little light that went up in them flickered with hope.
“Your only way out is through me. Even if you get the gun, I don’t mind dying here, so put that little knowledge in your calculations before you shoot my brains out. Then again, I could call you out on your little game and demand a fight, but with your physics – where’s the fun in that, hmh?”
That should be enough of a hint, he thought. She had probably learned by now that they never challenged females, so…
Her fingers rose slowly and opened the jacket button against her collarbone. She gulped visibly behind the fabric and he nearly choked, realizing all the signs had been there all along, he’d simply chosen to ignore them. The way she was always conscious of herself, never allowing closer touch, which he’d never been reluctant to give either. Shouldn’t he have realized it back then, when he first touched her? They never touched the females, yet he got no instinctual blast to keep away from her. Which had sent him reeling each time he was close, because he couldn’t keep his hands away. He had to mentally check himself to keep away.
The second button popped open and soon the third before her hands touched the edge of her jacket and her eyes darted down, as if surprised by how few she had got buttoned up earlier. But now that the piece of fabric was open, she continued shrugging it off. It lumped down by her feet, next to the notebook.
Her fingers moved back up and she released the ribbon tied under the collar. It carried a small medallion and seen how people liked to hide things in those little things, he was tempted to ask to see its content, but refused to give way to the thought, when it landed on top of her jacket in a careless toss. Nothing there then, she wouldn’t be discarding it so carelessly if there were.
She began working on the dress buttons next. One by one, all six of them sloping over her curvy chest. They ended midway down and she yanked the dress higher to pull it over her head. She wore stockings and Tige considered it very good that her face was out of sight, or she would have seen the way he involuntarily straightened in his seat and let out a gasp, when his eyes followed the skirt line and it’s revealing journey. Brown stockings ended, there came a strip of his light skin on her thighs…
And there it was. The not so discrete bump hidden behind men’s underwear, unmistakably male.
He heard the dress hit the ground in what he could only describe as a sob. Sanja hadn’t made a mistake.
“Did you plan it from the start?” he asked, but this time he couldn’t keep the pain out of his voice. God, it hurt to be conned like that!
“Define start.” He murmured, snarling.
His eyes snapped up, staring at his face. He spoke! He sounded strained. Good. He wasn’t the only one hurting.
Now that Dakota had no clothes on, he stood and walked closer, deeply inhaling the air around him. One, he counted, recognizing the strong scent of Kyle wafting over the space. They worked together, he reasoned, probably the male had stronger scent that stuck easily. Tyton, he recognized the second strong scent mixed with Kyle’s as if protective layer floating around him. Then there was another, older and more musky scent which had began to disappear and he guessed it belonged to Grof, for he hadn’t seen him around her for couple of days, which would have been enough for it to weaken. He hated that scent the most. It was violent, cocky and had the underline of dead skin cells and liquids he’d never thought to identify on humans. The only one to carry that in its core.
He reached his trembling body and took a military stance, looking down on him. The fourth smell, mixture of wood, irony metal and warm salty undertone he would compare to some herb they’d been served in the food couple of days back. That scent was the human. The fourth male he sensed on the human, what had driven him crazy with irritated jealousy, when he realized he’d been instinctively been searching the source of it and never finding it, the one that drove him cracy since morning, was the male in front of him.
Rosemary, he saw the image pop up in his mind as he walked slowly around him.
“You’re, um, humming.” Dakota said, stating it as if he was surprised. He froze, realizing it really was coming from him and forced it to stop. At least he tried. It wasn’t easy since it was triggered by their desires rather than doing it on command. “You did it the first time too,” the man continued softly, turning slightly to look up at him, “when you cornered me in that corridor. Remember?”
How could he forget? He slapped him. “Shut up! I don’t want to hear another word!”
His head snapped loud and Tige regretted it immediately. He reached out, pained, trying to touch the hurt spot. His cheek was so red, it really ruined his pretty face.
Now that he got him talking, why did he want him to stop? No, he wanted him not to shut his mouth – say something else, talk some more! He shook his head. No, he couldn’t let it affect him! This wasn’t a female he was dealing with – an impostor! Nothing else, a pretender, who he should send back to Earth.
“It wasn’t your acting, you know.” He tried to distract him from the humming. “You’re very good at it. But you know what gives you away?” Without thinking his palm caressed his cheek, lingered there for a moment and then he pulled his hand away. “That complete silence you always keep! That sickening soundless world you press on us! This is persistence! This is you controlling your every move, your every thought so you wouldn’t be discovered!” He snarled.
“I told you I remembered your laughter, when I first saw you? You know, I thought I was going crazy, ’cause it couldn’t be, when everybody were repeating to me that you can’t even utter a word. Are you listening?” He asked, when the man’s eyes had fallen lower. They darted back up on him and he felt a slight tingle in his abdomen. “On your knees.” he said, calm, walked back to his chair and sat.
Dakota obeyed, kneeling only a foot away from his feet. The gun rested back on his thigh.
“Tell me your name.”
“Dakota Frederic Warren.” He didn’t give in. He sounded relieved, strangely co-operative.
“Your real name.” He warned, thinking it was all a ploy to get his guard down.