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1. When They First Meet

She can not have heard what she thinks she just heard. No one's offered her that since-- well, she's only ever gotten that offer once, and look what's happened. Her hands shake just a little when she shifts her grip on her gun and wipes her damp palm down her thigh. It's a pointless, messy gesture, and it only smears slightly tacky old blood onto her palm and then onto her other hand when she brings it back up to steady her grip. But then, there's sort of blood everywhere at this point, so she shouldn't be too bothered by it. The guy is staring at her expectantly. He's waiting for a response.

"Say it again," she orders.

The guy looks confused. His confusion isn't really boding well for his continued survival; her irritation increases and the gun grows heavy in her hand while her estimation of him continues to plummet. Just what exactly had he planned on doing with the ship, if he's too simple to understand three words?

"I'm sorry?" he finally stutters out.

"What did you just say? Say it one more time," she clarifies, and his confusion clears like clouds breaking, and he smiles. It's a bright, happy, yes, sunny, smile, an expression so free of subterfuge that she's not sure she's ever worn anything like it.

"I said: We don't have to stay here. We can fly away and never look back." He grins even wider and motions around with his hand--still held up by his shoulder, but indicating the space they're standing in. "We have a spaceship!" he says the last like it's a secret, like it's brand new and exciting.

Three days ago, she uttered the same words the same way when her fiance showed her the ship. But he's not here now, and it's just her.

"I have a spaceship," she corrects, and watches him wince at the presumption.

"Yes, yes, you have a ship." He pauses, and she waits for his next gambit. "But how much do you know about maintaining her? The electrical and the mechanical? That stuff can cost a fortune--" he cuts himself off even as he's eyeing her wedding dress. It's not even from this part of the J, but the fabric is rich and the detail exquisite, things that are evident even from where he stands. Money, he's guessing correctly, isn't something she's used to concerning herself with.

"Why are you so eager to get out of here?" she asks, interrupting his train of thought. But it does seem like a decent question.

"Me?" He asks, a little surprised. "No, no. I'm fine here. I just...if you wanted--" he cuts himself off, takes a breath, and then continues. "I don't have a particular inclination to leave or stay. I'd like to work on this gorgeous ship, though, and if you felt like leaving, I would still want to work on her. Fly her. Thought maybe leaving would appeal if this is the place that made...that," he motions to her, the blood that's still all over her and the ship. "Happen," he finishes. "Can I put my hands down now?"

She glares at him, hard, and he swallows on nothing. Pinned in place by her gaze, he doesn't move while she approaches, doesn't breathe while she pats him down. It's quick and efficient, professional in a way that's a stark contrast to the wild messed up hair and running makeup, the red-rimmed eyes and hands that tremble ever so slightly. She doesn't miss either knife or the gun, but doesn't make a big production out of it, either. When she's finished, she retreats back to the other side of the hold.

"Sit," she orders, motioning with his gun to the seats along the side of the cargo bay. They don't look overly comfortable, but he's sat in worse, and she has yet to shoot him.

Her stare doesn't get any less hostile, but when he sits, she leans herself against a stack of crates and gives him a critical once over. He could use a bit of feeding, but he otherwise looks healthy and alert, and except for breaking into an occupied ship, he's actually handled the situation pretty well. She hasn't shot him yet, and that's probably thanks to his incessant talking. Not exactly her MO, but she can appreciate that it works for him. And he did bring up a good point--she knows enough to keep the ship in the air when she's in decent repair, but for major software glitches and damage to the body, she'd have to hire it done. Hiring it done means people she doesn't know crawling all over her ship. She's got the beginnings of a plan forming in her mind, and he's slotting into it all quite easily.

His hands are starting to fidget with the loose thread on his knee by the time she decides to speak.

"What do you know about Killjoys?" she asks carefully.

 

2. Near The End Of Their First Year As Killjoys

"Dutch." John sounds drugged. Or, well, like he had been drugged, and now he's coming out of it. Incidentally, that's exactly what's happened.

They're sitting back to back in the dirt, tied together by their waists and elbows, inside some wooden...lean-to is giving it too much credit, disparaging lean-to's Quad-wide, but then, Dutch can't really think of a better description. Although she can't imagine what this place is usually used for, so 'cell' might be a more apt description. It certainly fits their current predicament to a T.

"Dutch, are you awake?" He sounds a little more worried now, like he's maybe opened his eyes and tried to move his arms and realized the view is dismal and his range of motion is shot. John rocks back against her, jostling her head from where it was resting against the base of his neck and shoulder. It had been surprisingly comfortable, considering their surroundings. "Dutch!" he hisses out the last, he can tell she's awake by the way she caught herself from being shoved over.

"Yes, John, I'm here. Awake and everything," she replies calmly.

"Why didn't you answer me the first time?" irritation is edging out panic, and it makes Dutch smile.

"Just waiting for you to wake up, you didn't sound altogether ready for conversation," she answers, letting him hear how she's still smiling.

His sigh is impressively heavy. "What the hells happened?" he asks after a moment of silence.

"Can you taste that sort of citrus-y tang just on the back of your tongue?" she asks.

"Thought it was a side-effect of getting my brain sloshed around," he replies. "I wouldn't mind an orange, now." He pauses. "That's kind of irritating."

It makes Dutch laugh a little. Trust John to be irritated by random food cravings brought about by being poisoned, not by actually being poisoned. "That's the chemical they used to knock us out--comes from the seeds of those tiny little tomato-looking oranges that grow on Leith. Quick and short-acting, but lethal in large enough doses."

"Well, we're not dead due to overdose...we're probably still on Leith, at least," John replies, irritation and panic packed away in lieu of figuring out what the hell's happened to them. He groans a little. "I don't know how long we were out, but if it's as short-acting as you say, I'm guessing we're in for a conversation with someone very lacking in people skills."

Dutch hums her agreement. She'd already reached these particular conclusions, but it seems to help Johnny to talk things out. It's actually become a bit soothing--he rambles on, doesn't require her input much, and she lets her brain work through the problem.

"It was a level 2 warrant, Dutch!" John bursts out after a moment.

"Yes, well, it seems as though our escort services aren't particularly welcome," she replies. "You ready to stand?" It's as much a question as it is an order. They're getting up and out of this joint.

It gets a laugh out of John, though. "Yeah, my ass is going numb, I've been sitting on a damn pointy rock for who knows how long." Dutch doesn't reply, but he can tell she's waiting for more information. "Also, I think I might've hit my head on something; this may not be pretty."

"Please," Dutch argues. "We're always pretty." Her own head is pounding, so she foregoes any more sarcasm. "Ready anyway?" she asks. John nods silently, but she feels the tension growing in his arms and takes it for the confirmation it is. "On my mark. Three, two, one."

It's awkward and slow at first, before they both realize Dutch can handle his weight and John can handle her speed, and after only a moment or two, they're standing upright. Still tied together facing opposite directions, but Dutch decides the facing opposite ways thing is an advantage--no one's going to sneak up on them, and there isn't anyone she'd trust at her back like Johnny. Being tied together like this is only a temporary thing.

"Well, that was...bracing," John finally says. He doesn't need to see her to know Dutch is rolling her eyes. She stops abruptly, though, when he continues talking. "I say we get the hell out of here. We really don't need to stay; flying away and never looking back is sounding like quite the plan."

Dutch laughs at that. "I say we act on the first part immediately," she says. "If we were gonna stay on Leith, there are much nicer accommodations to be had."

Before John can think to say anything in response, two men enter through the door opening, and Dutch is spinning and bending, he's rolling over her back in a way that makes a swift kick to the first guy's jaw both possible and effective. He doesn't waste the momentum, just twists and bends to give Dutch the needed leverage to mimic the move with a hell of a lot more grace and style, though the results are the same and now both men are lying face down, unconscious in the dirt. John's gotta say, even stealing a knife to cut themselves apart feels a little anti-climactic.

They're halfway out the door when Dutch gives the place one last sweep, glancing over her shoulder, and stops abruptly in her tracks. Nudging him with her boot, she rolls the first guy over to get a better look at his face. "Does he look familiar to you?" she asks, squinting to focus in the dim light.

John crouches down to look, then starts to laugh. "Desperately needs a shave, but yes he does." He grins up at Dutch. "We've just laid hands on one Dunkaan Cayne. Care to read the warrant?"

Dutch sighs. "You can do the honors; you were the ones to lay hands. Well, boot." She shakes her head a little as John reels off the RAC mandated spiel. "Let's get out of here," she grins, hauling him to his feet as she stood.

 

3. Warrant #409

"I hate the Badlands. Have I said lately that I hate the Badlands?" Johnny was watching Lucy's screens with a pained expression.

Dutch turned from the table their weapons were laid out on. "Only seven or eight times in the last three hours. In fact, only two hours ago you were regaling not just me, but also Pree and anyone within earshot with that exact sentiment." She paused. "You weren't even drunk, Johnny. I'm surprised Pree didn't toss us earlier."

John spun around in the pilot's chair. "He didn't toss us out because *we're* the bouncers, Dutch. We do the tossing."

She leveled him a look. "Only sometimes. We're not there often enough to consider it our actual job." She raised an eyebrow at him. "Though if you'd like to give it up altogether, I'm sure Pree wouldn't mind charging you for your drinks."

John held up his hands in surrender. "No, no, I like playing security. Talk down the idiots, knock down the morons, drink on the house...it's an excellent set up."

"Damn right it is. Just don't call me a bouncer again." She narrowed her eyes.

John gave her a half-assed salute and spun his chair around, grinning. He was slow enough to catch the way Dutch's mouth had started to turn up.

"Say it again?"

They were facing away from one another, so it took Johnny a moment to realize Dutch had spoken at all, and another to realize she was speaking to him.

"What?" he asked.

"Do you remember what you told me when we met? Say it one more time."

Her voice was louder, she'd turned back to face him. So John turned around also, and took a good look at his partner. She looked...tired, now that he was looking for it. Dutch didn't do exhaustion like other people did, she hid it away--even from herself sometimes.

"Is this about the drinking, or about the Badlands?" he asked, hesitating.

"We were drinking because of the Badlands, Johnny," she reminded him, but didn't actually answer the question. "There is just so much sand out there," she said quietly.

"Yeah, but in this plan, I'm the one who gets beat up," he pointed out. Her face said that didn't make things better. He stood up and walked over to her. "You didn't come up with it on your own, you know," John pointed out, smiling a little. He wasn't gonna let her feel bad about him being the sacrificial lamb this time around. Again. "Besides," he continued. "We don't have to stay here. We can fly away and never look back," he said.

He liked his job for the most part, but he really would have dropped it all right then if she'd said the word. The way her eyes smiled just before he mouth followed suit, and the way her entire frame seemed to loosen at his words made it all worth it. "Then again," he grinned at her. "I was really looking forward to seeing this guy's face when he realized we broke his very expensive security system."

Dutch laughed at that, and nodded. "I'm more looking forward to his face when he realizes he was bargaining with the wrong man," she grinned back.

Johnny nodded. "That, too." He reached out and squeezed her shoulder. "Go get dressed for the desert, I'll put us on the ground."

 

4. On The Eve Of Dutch and Johnny's Five Year Anniversary As A Killjoy Team

"Sugar Point?" Dutch looked over the desk at Bellus in disbelief. "Tell me this is a joke."

Johnny's stunned expression wasn't doing much to back her up here, but she couldn't really blame him because: Sugar Point.

"It's not like I decide where the warrants send you two kids," Bellus started.

"Bullshit," Dutch interrupted. "You get us warrants, that's your job," she argued.

Bellus sat up, a sure sign she wasn't going to listen to much more backtalk. "Now listen, I do get you the warrants, that's true, but I have no control over where the object is that you're supposed to retrieve, now do I?" She stared at Dutch until the broker sighed. "You are right, though, that you do seem to get more than your share of the dicer jobs." She held up a hand to forestall anything Dutch might say. "But that's because you two have the highest success ratio out there, particularly among the...more challenging requests from our clients." Bellus huffed and looked over at John. "Hell, they don't even bother sending the warrants to more than a few of us now, for the delicate work."

John's brow drew together. "Which other Killjoys?" he asked.

"Fancy Lee, Big Joe, a couple of others," Bellus shrugged.

Dutch sighed. "Fancy's an asshole."

"Still gets the job done," Bellus countered.

"Bells, they don't recognize the RAC out there," John tired, circling back around to their current assignment with a last ditch effort.

Bellus grinned and opened a side drawer in her desk. She pulled out two worn boxes and pushed them across to the Killjoys. "True," she said. "But they do recognize things that go 'boom!'."

Dutch rolled her eyes, but smiled a little when she picked up the ammo Bellus was handing over. She looked closer, and her smile grew. They were the modified charge packs--twice the lasting power of regular charges for rifles and pistols. "Thanks. We'll be in touch. C'mon, Johnny." She slapped one of the boxes into his stomach and pushed him out of the office.

He glanced down, then grinned widely up at Bellus as he stumbled to turn around and follow Dutch.

His eyes cut over to Dutch once they were back in the main stretch of the Bazaar. "You ever get the feeling we might be a little cheap?"

"Johnny Jaqobis, I know you aren't referring to me when you say 'we,'" Dutch glared at him. "Besides," she continued. "Mods to all these charges are in no way 'cheap,'" she pointed out.

John laughed. "Alright, alright." He looked down, suddenly much more interested in what he was carrying. "Wait. They're all modded?"

Dutch grinned at him. "Well, my box is. Should give us enough leverage, as long as we're quick about it."

At the reminder of their destination, John's shoulder's sagged. He remained quiet for the rest of their quick walk back to Lucy.

Once onboard, it didn't take Johnny long to set the course for Sugar Point, then leave the cockpit to let Lucy do the flying. If they were headed into that hole of a wasteland, they were gonna need some decent shut-eye.

Restless, he paced the hall down to Dutch's room and leaned against the door frame.

Dutch looked up, smiled when she saw him, and slid over to make room on the bed. "No need to be nervous, Johnny, this is just like any other job." Her tone was half-teasing, half-reassuring as she stuffed the pillow under her head and laid down. "We rest up and we'll be in tip-top shape when we land, ready to blast or barter our way though till we find that file."

"Uh-huh," Johnny sounded unconvinced. "Who leaves files in Sugar Point and expects them to still be there later?" he asked. This warrant was going on his list. He steadied his breathing for a moment and listened as Dutch did the same. Despite his apprehension over the warrant, he was actually relaxing. "Hey, you remember what I said to you when we first met?"

Dutch over at him and grinned, gleeful and wicked. "'No, please, I have plans to use my dick again! Anywhere but there!'?" She made her voice sound thin and panicked, much too high to actually be an impression of John.

"Ha-ha. I did not beg." He rolled his eyes. "But no." He paused to see if she'd say it to him, but she just watched him silently. Well, she wasn't really one to talk about feelings, he didn't really mind. "I said we didn't have to stay here--"

"We could fly away and never look back," she finished for him, voice quiet. "Yeah, I remember."

John turned his head to look at her, found she was still looking at him. "I still mean it, you know. Any time. You say the word, and we fly away. We don't ever have to come back here." He turned his head to stare at the ceiling; the eye contact was a little intense. "Sometimes I worry you think you don't have any other options, and I want you to know you've always got an out with me."

Dutch found his hand with hers and squeezed. "I don't--When I was younger, in the harem, Khlyen used to tell me I had to earn my chance to leave. It's hard to remember it's not that way anymore."

"Yeah, well, Khlyen's a jackass," John replied. Dutch laughed, and he grinned at her briefly before looking back up. "My dad always told me the closest I'd get to a spaceship was sweeping the docks back home, told me I was too stupid to ever amount to anything, and I sure as hell wasn't ever going anywhere." He swallowed. "That's when I started telling myself that as soon as I could, I was gonna fly away and never come back." He paused for a moment, lost in memories.

Dutch just stared at him, eyes wide. She hadn't had childhood dreams, not really. But John had offered his up to share before they'd even known one another a whole day. She swallowed against the tightness in her throat.

"Then one day this beautiful old boat lands at the docks and I couldn't stand not seeing the inside anymore. I answered the call for crew, but didn't qualify for any of the open positions. After a little haggling, the Captain agreed to take me on as long as I swept the decks. Took that as the sign it was; didn't come a minute too soon, either." He glanced over at Dutch with a small smile she returned reflexively before they both looked again up at the ceiling.

"We weren't supposed to fight the other girls in the harem," Dutch said after a moment. "If something got started, you had to finish it permanently, or risk getting tossed out. Or worse. They always just said we'd be "done." It wasn't until I'd been there a couple years that I realized they didn't mean done there, but done everywhere."

"Creepy," John said.

"Well, it was a harem," Dutch replied wryly.

"You do realize you've ruined a perfectly good fantasy, right?" John asked.

Dutch laughed. "I'm sure there are perfectly nice harems, with girls there of their own volition, and even of age," she replied. "Dream of those, Jaqobis," she laughed over John's groans of protest.

Lucy dimmed the lights without being asked, and Dutch rolled onto her side, settling in for the night. She felt John shift behind her, but he was much closer than she'd realized when he spoke.

"The offer stands, Dutch," he said as he smoothed her hair away from his face.

She twisted around so she could face him. "For you, too, you know. If you wanna run, I call shotgun."

"Like I'd let anyone else sit there," he grinned back. She reached over, and before she even made contact, John was pulling her into a hug. "That's your seat, you know that," he muttered into her hair. Her breath hitched, because she was laughing or crying he couldn't tell, and he hugged her harder.

When she pulled back, she shook her head. "She's my ship, shotgun's your seat," she corrected.

"Alright, okay," John breathed out. "Just as long as you're sitting next to me."

He let his hand find hers in the dark and smiled when he felt her tangle their fingers together.