Season Notes: This is essentially a heavy nonconsent/dubious consent story set in space that’s as close to erotica as I come. If you are uncomfortable with noncon, explicit sex and/or rape, or fictional slavery, skip this story entirely. Violence.
Efe interrogated the surviving hijackers. Zdenko, to Moira’s relief, was smart enough to understand that torture as an interrogation technique has some significant… drawbacks. So Efe, friendly, shy, Efe with her plates of brownies and cups of tea, got chatty with the hijackers. At first, they hadn’t told her much of anything, insisting they were ‘just’ hired muscle.
Which was true, but as Efe got them relaxed and chatting, she managed to learn a bit more than that. Enough to know that turning them over to the local authorities would be a waste of time. And their employer was from out-system and smart enough to use cutouts. The pallet they’d been after had five different cargo containers on it from three shipments. Two of them had high priority seals: if Zdenko opened them, he’d lose the contract and possibly end up in an admiralty court.
Most likely, the crew agreed, a merchant feud had spilled over onto Meadowsweet. One of the hazards of being a free trader and as soon as they were rid of the shipments, they would be free of the whole mess. By and large, it was a far better outcome than they might have hoped for.
Though Ildar remained mystified and annoyed at how they’d managed to track down and identify Meadowsweet so far from any planet.
Moira stayed out of the way until Efe finished the interrogations and tucked the hijackers away where they couldn’t get into trouble. (Zdenko nearly shot them out of hand, but decided that would be going a bit far given that it was his crew who started the shooting.) Then she tracked down Zdenko.
“Five percent,” she repeated. “Sitting emergency bridge watch and helping hunt down hijackers was not part of the job description.”
Zdenko blinked and tried to glare at her. “It’s not a job, and you do whatever the hell I tell you.”
“It’s not a job? What is it then?”
“It’s… You know what it is!”
She raised her eyebrows, “So? You’re paying me a percentage of profits for services rendered. That’s the definition of a job.”
“Moira,” he growled, “You are not crew, you are…” he trailed off. Not once since she’d boarded the ship had he actually said the word.
“Yes?” She put her hands on her hips, daring him to say it.
He couldn’t. He cursed and spun to punch the wall.
“You don’t like being a villain, captain. And I don’t see you as one. So stop trying.”
Zdenko glared at her. “I can’t let you be crew, Moira. I need you in my bed. I need to know you will never try to tell me no. If you do, one of these days, I’m going to hurt you.”
“You’ve hurt me already, trying to protect me. Have you heard of shunning? I can now tell you from experience that it is an absolutely miserable experience.”
“What? When?” He reached for her, stopped himself.
She laughed, and the bitterness in it took even her by surprise. “Verda parasite is a planet-sized bitch.” His jaw dropped, but she continued before he could say anything. “And I’ve never heard of anyone lasting as long as you without treatment. In the process, you saved me and several other women from the slave trade, so I can’t even complain about how you did it. I have no intention of telling you ‘no.’ Not only do we have a bargain, but I have no intention of being stuck on a flying tin can with a man gone Verda crazed.
“But for God’s sake, stop trying to play pop psychologist. Stockholm is a bloody myth. Keeping me separate from the rest of the crew while you treated me like an object and not a person was far more likely to start ‘brainwashing’ me than letting me be a part of this damn ship.”
Moira started quietly, but by the time she finished, she was screaming right in his face.
When she finished, Zdenko wiped his face clear of her spittle and stepped back a pace. He said, “No need to hold back, woman. Tell me how you really feel.”
Moira glared at him and, for some reason, that made him chuckle. And then he was giggling, and Moira was having trouble holding her glare because she was trying not to laugh, but she couldn’t hold it back any more than he could, and soon they were both laughing so hard they couldn’t breathe.
When they finished, Zdenko let himself flop down to sit on the floor, and Moira was leaning against the wall clutching her sides.
Zdenko looked up and asked, “You really don’t mind?”
“It might surprise you,” she said, gesturing to her body, “but in my prior life, I did not have people beating down my door to give me amazing orgasms. I don’t mind the sex at all. But it would be nice if you could treat me like a friend rather than a fuck.”
His jaw dropped again. “A friend? How could you… after everything… I mean…”
“No, we aren’t friends. But in spite of everything, I’m impressed by you, Zdenko. Maybe if we give it a chance, we could be friends.”
The shock was slowly replaced by a wide grin. Zdenko stood up and held out a hand to her. “Alright, let’s see where it goes. Welcome to the crew, Moira.”
Moira returned his grin and took his hand. “To a beautiful friendship.”
He laughed and used their clasped hands to pull her to him. The kiss started gentle but deepened, leaving them both panting. “Now get out of those damn clothes.”
That’s it for this season of Meadowsweet. Thank you for your patience with me the past few weeks. Moira, Zdenko, and company will be back next year – maybe we’ll finally get a look Ezra’s fish.