The slight whirr of wheels in plush rug gave Shanna just enough time to jack out of her deck and stuff the precious electronics under one of the overly plush and oversized pillows scattered across the king sized bed. She snatched up some incomprehensible, old fashioned print book, only to casually put it back down as the door opened, letting in a serene elf enthroned in a wheelchair. There was no wondering why Quinn Ruathal held the company record for Beautiful Person of the Year; between aquiline facial features, sky blue eyes, and curly long hair often compared to long gone newly minted pennies, her classic beauty held only two flaws. The thick scar running down her left cheek to her jaw- depending on the fashions of the year, it ranged from "roguish" to "distinctive" to "disturbingly shocking"- came from the same famous assassination attempt that left her unable to walk, but those flaws had secured her place in the publicity department for the company, as well as creating heroic trid stories about just how far a mother would go to protect her babies.

Shanna and her older brother Adrian had often discussed just how close to reality those trid tales came, but they had yet to come to any agreement, let alone any decent conclusion.

Shanna shot him a look as he slipped in the door behind the wheelchair. Both of Quinnís very elvish children had inherited her sharp features and corkscrew curls, but they were darker shadows to her light. Their hair deepened from her copper to a rich bronze flame, naturally brilliant redheads that usually came only from a bottle. Instead of light blue eyes, theirs were stormy sea blue, although Shanna had long ago replaced hers with top class cyber the same shade. While Adrian was over a year older, they were still often mistaken as twins.

"Whatís up?" she asked, voice a pleasant alto, that, had she been able to carry a tune in a bucket, would probably have made for quality singing.

"Just came to check up on you," Quinn replied with a smile. "Youíre still going to the Wellington reception tonight?"

A faint, anticipatory grin tugged at the corners of Shannaís mouth. "Of course. Itíd be quite rude to stand up the Simon Templar."

A flash of emotion, quickly and professionally squelched, flittered across her motherís face. "Of course." She moved the chair and leaned over to give Shanna a peck on the cheek. "Go for the Versace, and please- knock them dead, will you?"

"Donít I always?" she called as Quinn left the room. Faintly chuckling to herself, Shanna stood and went to the walk-in closet, moving with all the grace years of deportment classes and tutors could impart. She poked through the selection of evening gowns, frowning as each failed to reach mental limits of acceptability. After a few moments and about half of her choices, she finally tossed an idle "Whatíre you waiting for?" to the still present Adrian.

She could hear him shrug, the faint scuffle of expensive cloth bunching around rising and then falling broad shoulders. "Just.... Templar? Youíre still seeing him?"

"Mmhmm," she replied absently, pulling a deep violet possibility of the rack and tossing it on the bed. "Heís fun to be around, we certainly enjoy each othersí company, and while Iím not quite rich enough, itís close enough social standing."

"But his father works for Fuchi. Senior VP? Hello?"

In the process of examining how a rich blood red sheath looked in the mirror, she paused to turn and give her brother a Look. "Oh now really. Youíre honestly worried about that?"

"You two have been dating for over three months. Of course Iím worried. It sounds pretty damn serious to me!"

"Please. Get real." She snorted and turned back to the mirror, finally putting the dress back. Too easy to give some old codger a heart attack. "Itís purely sexual."

"For three months?"

A smug grin crawled onto her face and a pleasant, remembered shock ran up her spine. "For three months." She pulled a black gown out and added it to the violet one on the bed. "I have to admit, it probably wonít go on much longer, so chill, brother mine. Heís starting to get a little boring, and you know I donít share."

Adrian laughed and lounged on the bed. "Odd, I seem to recall you sharing dear old Nathan."

"Mmm. Nathan." She finally pulled a jade wrap out and added it to the small pile. She paused and gave Adrian a deep look. "And you know by that I meant I donít share with any woman." She leaned over and gave him a gentle kiss on the cheek. "Sadly enough, while Simonís quite fun all around, heís strictly a ladiesí man."

Adrian pouted. "Well thatís no fun."

"Thatís what I told him," she commented, turning around and starting to strip. "But heís got this ridiculous macho thing going. Did you know he fancies himself a shadowrunner?"

He laughed, taking her clothes as she discarded them and carefully folding the garments. "Somehow that doesnít surprise me. Itís sad, but it doesnít surprise me."

"Frankly, Iím just glad he doesnít do any silly bed stuff about it. I mean, sure, thereís some.... amusing possibilities," she admitted, her smirk widening as she finally struggled into the green dress, "but theyíve all been done so much."

"By you, or just in general."

"Hush," she growled. "You should know, youíre the tart in the family. Dammit, why canít they make zippers you can actually get at yourself?!"

"Oh, here." He stood and quickly did the catch. "Though I should leave you to suffer, after that comment."

She twisted partially around, giving him a coy look beneath the hair sheíd lifted to give him easier access. "How about I try to get Simon desperately drunk and bring him home very late? Would that make up for it?"

He laughed and hugged her, landing a very unbrotherly kiss on her neck. "I knew there was a reason I kept you around."

Shanna turned and posed. "And because thereís enough room in my bed for you, me, and someone? Or the little fact that I donít mind sharing my toys with you?"

"Those too. Looks good except for the hair."

"Oh God! My hair!"


Shanna had to admit, if nothing else, she and Simon Templar made a fantastic looking pair. His lean but well muscled frame filled out a silver gray Armani suit without any alterations to hide anything. It highlighted his short blonde hair and brought out the ice in his light blue eyes. Rather Aryan, but it contrasted well with her more earthy tones.

He was also asbo-fragging-lutely amazing in bed, if on the calm side for her tastes.

He finished his own head to toe scan of her, apparently approving of the high necked but short skirted emerald dress, accompanied by a simple gold and diamond anklet that matched her earrings, which were nearly lost in the artfully tousled curls of flame hair. "Nice," he commented, strolling over to pull her into a tight embrace. "The dress looks splendid on you."

She pressed even closer, tilting her head to breathe her reply into his ear. "Good," she practically purred, feeling the involuntary shiver through his frame. She pulled away, adding an extra sway to her walk to the door. She paused, glancing over her shoulder with a smug, utterly cocky grin. "Considering thatís all Iím wearing."

Simonís eyes widened a fraction, gaining a predatory gleam that matched her own. "Really," he drawled, closing the distance between them and again pulling her close. This time, his hands continued roving, traveling to discover if she spoke the truth.

"Ahem." The pair glanced to the hallway leading to Adrianís room. Said male smirked at them, leaning against the wall with hands in pockets. "I hate to interrupt a good groping, I really do, but if you two donít scat, youíll be unfashionably late."

Simon heaved a sigh, reluctantly moving away from Shanna. "Iím afraid you have a point." He held out a hand to her. "Shall we?"

"Ooh, letís."


The reception went exactly like Shanna expected, exactly like a thousand others gatherings of stuffy suits and corporate bigwigs that everyone had to invite. She hung off Simonís arm like an extra bracelet, graciously accepting inane compliments and making idle and hopefully droll comments about biz as usual.

Boring, boring, boring! She oh so casually checked the time, and mentally swore. Early morning. Should it be "finally!" or "already?!"? She mentally shrugged the question off and cuddled up to Simonís side, letting her fingers dance a random pattern on his arm.

"Letís head on out, Shanna," he finally declared. "This partyís about to start winding down."

Thank GOD! "Good idea. We can go off somewhere andÖ have some fun."

Simon just looked at her and smiled a smile that was half-predatory, half-anticipatory. This promised to be fun indeed.

It took far too long for them to escape. Between the notables who had to say their goodbyes and some sort of delay in the parking garage that kept the valet overlong, she hardly waited for Simon to get the door for her.

"So," he asked, starting the engine. "My place or yours?"

She smirked and poked through the GPS, entering coordinates for one of her favorite sites. Adrian would just have to wait. She had first dibs, after all. "How about here."

Simon raised a brow, studying but apparently not recognizing the coordinates. "All right," he finally declared, shifting into gear. "Weíll play your game."

The car arrowed through the night, finally purring to a rest at a scenic overlook like a contented dragon settling in on its hoard. Simon looked over the location with an approving eye before turning his attention back to Shanna. "So this is where you wanted to go."

"Mmhmm," she purred. "I figured we could have some fun. Fog up the windows...." They shared a smile more full of promised sex than cheer, and she started to lean closer to him, just waiting for the lip lock that would start a very fun chain reaction.

She was interrupted as a hand, holding what looked to be a very large gun, appeared over the seat to point at Simon. "Much as I hate to ruin your fairytale evening, business comes before pleasure," a manís deep voice growled. "And my esteemed employer is NOT pleased, Mr. Templar, so there is some business he has with you." He shifted, face still hidden in the darkness of the backseat as the gun muzzle was pressed into the back of Simonís neck. "Drive to Tacoma. Iíll give you more directions when we get into the city."

Shitfuck! Shanna mentally snarled, eyes frantically flicking between the men and the gun. She had to do something. If nothing else, sheíd be damned before letting some asswipe ruin her evening any further. "Oh God," she half squealed, half gasped, prepping for a manufactured case of good old fashioned hysterics. "Oh God. Donít kill me. Please donít kill me!"

"Shut up, slitch," the man snarled, almost casually reaching over to land a shockingly painful punch on her cheek. In that instant of distraction, Simon grabbed the manís gun arm, pushed it to the roof of the car, and punched his elbow. A faint snick signaled the appearance of cyberspurs arcing out of his hand, locking into place as they ripped though his glove, then flesh, bone, and into the roof of the car, pinning the gun there for a second before the tendons in their attackerís arm were too damaged to hold it. The gun fell to the floor, landing with a thud and the manís snarled curses.

Simon moved next, pulling his Ďspurs from the manís hand. The fool instantly reached with the other hand into his jacket, pulling out a smaller gun. It joined the first on the floor as spurs smashed into the attackerís wrist, then his face. While the dazed man tried to regain his focus, Simon popped the door open, rolling out to get behind the car. He punched both hands through the backseat window, grabbing the man by his shoulders to drag him out through the window, clothes shredding on broken glass.

The would-be attacker leaned on the car for support, but a second later a spin-kick landed on his solar plexus and he collapsed to the ground, moaning. Simon stood over him, looking down at his face. "Not only did you ruin my evening, you ruined my car. Darwin would not be proud of you," he snarled.

"Someone should take that fragger out of the gene pool," Shanna added in a growl, getting out of her side of the car to slam the door and stalk over. They glared down at the still groaning attacker for a moment, then the elf delicately raised her foot and snap kicked him in the head.

Simon turned an appreciative yet questioning look at her. Shanna grinned faintly and shrugged. "Iím NOT about to let him ruin our date. I believe we left off somewhere around here?" She reached out and grabbed his jacket lapels, jerking him close for a long, tongue-tangling, breath-stealing kiss. He responded eagerly, adrenaline mingling with a rush of hormones, and Shanna quickly found herself pressed against the hood of the car. She scooted up and back, tugging the more than willing Simon along with her.

The car hood was still warm, sleek metal a perfect resting spot as they quickly shoved clothes out of the way, Simon finding to his pleasant surprise sheíd spoken truthfully about wearing only the dress. The sex seemed to keep time with the quietly ticking engine as it cooled to ambient temperatures, rough and quick as only pure, basic fucking could be.

Shanna was more than enjoying things when a sudden sharp pinch got her in the shoulder. She was about to make a comment about that to Simon, but suddenly realized his hands were nowhere near her neck. The world took that cue and turned hazy; swirling in and out of focus, then descending into black and the vague feeling of floating off at sea, encased in a bubble of serenity.

Her last, muzzy thought was simply "damn".


The world seemed to spin and dance, moving just beyond her grasp. She snarled again, wordlessly, far too weakly, and dragged her eyes open once more. The room finally obeyed the laws of physics, staying in place even if it was fuzzier than it should ever be. Four beige walls surrounded her, making a tiny room big enough for the large mattress she lay upon with enough floor space at the edge for the closed door to safely swing in- although considering the hinges werenít visible, that might have been more chance than design.

The elf tried to shove herself up, grunting as gravity made the task about twice as difficult as it should be. Too stubborn to give in, Shanna just barely made it upright, arms trembling from effort until she leaned back against the wall. Finally able to give the room another look but too exhausted to try, she sighed and closed her eyes. Her muscles won their battle and relaxed, letting her drift again.

A soft rattle from the door dragged her eyes open. She stared around in confusion, clouded thoughts finally telling her sheíd probably fallen unconscious again. The door opened, letting a troll come quietly into the room. He carefully approached her, a frown crossing his face as deep green eyes flicked over her, examining, checking, searching for only god knew what. He was tall, but leaner than the usual overly-muscled look sheíd come to expect from most trolls. As he leaned close to place a large hand on her forehead, his ponytail of bushy blonde hair slipped over a broad shoulder to swing back and forth before her eyes, tickling her nose on each round past. When she grimaced and tried to bat it away like the proverbial weak kitten, he grinned faintly around the tusks protruding from his lower jaw and brushed it into place on his back.

The grin disappeared quickly, however. "You got allergies?" he asked, the deep baritone seeming to rumble through her bones.

She nodded, finally recognizing where the weakness came from. "Too many."

He snarled what were probably curses in some guttural language she didnít recognize, rising and turning with frighteningly smooth ease and bolting for the door. She could hear more grumbled epithets, accompanied by banging and loud rustlings. Finally, those stopped and the troll silently returned with a syringe. He gently took her arm, expertly finding a vein and injecting her with the needleís contents. Giving her limp arm a small pat, he stood again. "Get some rest, and thisíll be over sooner. Youíre safe here."

"Sez who?" she muttered, even as she gave in to the orders.


Toby let his breath out in a long sigh as he closed the door. One of these days, heíd love to actually have a run that went as planned, with no snags, no changes, and especially no surprises.

Aícourse, hellíll have ta freeze over, flying pigs will run thí corps, aní Iíll marry a corper first. He sighed again and shook the rambling thoughts off. Right now, the only corper he should be worrying about was unconscious in the other room. Speakiní of.... He double checked the thermostat, finally inching it up a notch. The last thing they needed was for her to die from shock after an allergic reaction. Flushing her system of the tranquilizer drugs would be rough enough.

That settled, Toby wandered back to the couch heíd been occupying the past hour, and glanced at the muted trid. Some stupid late night talk show was ranting on, two of the guests looking ready to go for each otherís throats. Same old, same old. Bored, restless, and worried about the corper slitch, he poked a button on his small, portable comm unit.

"Wuzzup?" Draga drawled, the deckerís icon of a bronze cartoon dragon with impossible anime breasts appearing onscreen.

"Howzit goiní?"

The dragon grimaced. "Weíve had worse, but they involved lots of pain and body bags. Briís pissed Ďcause Johnsonís being a bastard, which is freakiní Lenore out, I mean, you know how she gets worried Ďbout anything goiní off even just a bit. And with you watchiní the slitch...." Draga sighed, which did some very strange things to her icon. "Tobe," she declared, unusually solemn, "Just between you aní me, Iíve got a helluva bad feeliní bout this. Iím startiní to think this runís been hosed already, and we just donít know it yet."

Anxiety twisted his gut, as if worry were braiding his intestines. Things never went exactly right except on the trid, but if things were going wrong enough to make the carefree Draga concerned.... "What díyou mean, Johnsonís being a bastard?"

"Well.... Heís delaying the meet. Somethiní about bad times, too early in the morning, too many biz meetings to make it for some scummy Ďrunners, doesnít wanna attract attention... that sorta drek."

"Whatís Brian say bout that?"

She shrugged again. "Figures itís legit, for now at least. Heís giving Johnson until noon to make a decision. After that, contractís over."

"Thatís a lotta time, especially if heís up to messiní with us."

Once more Draga gave him a solemn look. "Thatís why Iím ready to bug out three different ways at the first ping of trouble. You should do the same, chummer. Just keep in mind that pretty little slitch yer guarding is worth a lotta money and trouble to people."

"I know," he said. "I know." He forced a small grin. "Iíd better go. Stay frosty, kay?"

"You too, chummer. And remember what I said." With that, the connection cut off.

Toby sighed quietly and sat back, staring at the now blank trid while his mind wandered somewhere between thought and emotion, turning towards simply being. It was over an hour before he shook himself from his funk, almost tiredly standing and moving to check on the corper. He unlocked the door carefully, pulling it partially open quickly to catch anyone off guard. Then he froze, jaw dropping as eyes went wide.

"What?" the now quite naked elf asked, voice dripping with false innocence. She rolled on her side, resting head on hand and arcing an eyebrow at him.

The trollís brain finally kicked in, belatedly taking control from instincts. He snapped his mouth shut, reminding himself that this was not the time to look like anything but the experienced, professional shadowrunner he was. "Whatíre you doing?" he asked, trying to sound reasonable and not nearly as stunned as he was.

She gave him a smug catís grin and shrugged. While similar to Dragaís earlier show, it was ten time more interesting and most certainly not as disturbing. "Getting comfortable. It just got too hot in here. So...." She shrugged again, her smirk widening slightly as he visibly didnít react. Then she slowly shifted again, drawing a leg up to rest a foot upon her knee, dragging his gaze where he was struggling very hard not to look. "Although.... You know, Iíve found itís actually pretty damn fun to get all... hot... with the right person." Her free hand began to wander along her side. "Maybe youíd care to find that one out?"

He couldnít step back and slam the door shut fast enough.

Ho-ly-DREK! What just happened? he wondered rather frantically, staring at the closed door, trying to get rid of the image of the elf behind it, an image that seemed to have been branded on his brain.

The sudden beep of the comm didnít help his nerves, but it gave him something to do that didnít require thought. "What?!" he snapped as soon as he opened up the line.

Brian blinked and gave him a curious look. "Whatís wrong with you?" the black orc asked bluntly.

Toby shook his head sharply. "Youíll never believe me."

"Try me," Brian drawled, running a hand over his head, scritching at the dark, close shaved stubble he tried to pass off as hair. "After the last six hours of my life, Iíd love to hear something outrageous."

Not a good sign. "How badís our situation?"

Brian crossed his arms, jutting out his lower jaw even further than normal so the small tusks poked out almost to the tip of his nose. "You havenít made my day more interesting yet. Spill!"

Sitting back with a sound half chuckle, half sigh, Toby gave in. "Just before you called, went to check on the slitch."

"Not amused yet."

"She was naked and then made a pass at me." He thought about it for a second, trying not to blush. "Did all but try to knock out mífeet aní beat me to the ground."

The orc blinked at him for a few moments, then it was his turn to shake his head, chuckling helplessly. "Ya know, I shouldíve known sheíd be trouble when we snagged her fucking."

Toby found himself grinning almost against his will. "Doesnít it bother you at all she just tried to seduce me?"

"Aside from bad mental images, not really. Thereís a reason I left you watching her. Besides, at this point, having her scream rape after we get rid of her is the least of my problems."

Very not good. "How come?"

"Draga tell you how Johnsonís pussy-footing around?"

"A bit, yeah."

Brian shook his head. "This whole thing is starting to scream set up. Iíve got the feeling he wants the kid dead, not ransomed."

Toby groaned. "Iíll be extra careful. But.... Just ta add fuel, the slitch had a helluva allergy attack to the tranqs we gave her."

The orcís face became frighteningly blank. "Drek," he snarled almost emotionlessly, the hint of heat and fury giving his words an edge. "When I met him, he insisted we use that. He wants her dead, and us with the blame."

"Whatís the plan, boss man?"

Brian grinned, an evil expression closer to baring of his sharp teeth than joy. "We get him before he gets us, and find out the whys and hows. You keep the girl until we figure out how things are landing. You donít hear from any of the team in twelve hours, bug out and ditch her."

"You got it. Luck."

"You too, Toby. You too."

He shut off the comm with a sigh, gaze flicking absently around the room without really noticing anything. When he finally focused back on reality instead of his mindís issues, he was gazing at the tridís clock. Damn, he mentally sighed. Been four hours. Flushiní her systemís gotta use lotta energy.... He groaned softly. Guess I gotta feed her. Dammit!

Even dawdling over things, putting together a sandwich and hunting down a small bottle of water didnít take much time. He spent several minutes standing before the closed door, wishing he didnít have to face what was behind it. Professional interests and morals versus hormones and insane elf slitch. It wasnít turning into a pretty match. All out war, maybe.

Taking a deep breath and squaring his shoulders, Toby unlocked and opened the door. The elf was still reclined on the mattress, hands behind her head and one foot drifting off the edge so she doodled patterns on the floor with a toe. At his entrance, she sat up, leaning back with what had to be pretended casualness.

"Here," he growled, trying to maintain his composure. "Brought you some food. Figured youíd be hungry."

The girlís disturbingly steady sapphire gaze focused on his groin with a decidedly predatory grin. "For a lot of things."

"Cut that out!"

"Aww, is I making the big bad shadowrunner uncomfortable?" she crooned. "Gee, I canít do that." Her tone switched to acidic sarcasm. "After all heís done for me, what with the kidnapping thing and all."

He tried not to flush at her point. "Look, Iím just trying to be nice."

"Why? I like it rough."

"Jesus! Why thí hell ya keep doiní that?"

She finally seemed to turn serious. "Itís all Iíve got, all I can do thatís entirely me. Everything else is all the corpís."

"I donít follow."

"Not surprising. Street rat, right? You do a good job covering up the accent, but you slip every now and again."

"Oh gee, thanks, Iím flattered," he drawled, but the elf ignored it.

"Means you donít really know the corps, not like I do. Live in one of the enclaves, shop at all the affiliated stores.... They donít control everything, they are everything. They provide all. What you wear, what you see, what youíll work at, what you eat, sleep, breathe, dream, shit. And every time they hand you something, thereís at least one string attached, usually a hell of a lot more. String after string, every instant you live in their shadow, all sucking away at what passes for your soul, turning you into yet another good little corporate clone puppet."

"So why the sex?"

"Itís all Iíve got, my only pretense at control. Corp mayíve produced me, but I control that part of my body. Who, what, when, where, and how, thatís all me, my control, my decision."

Were he watching the trid, Toby wouldíve expected the woman to curl up, to try to protect that suddenly important, vital area. Instead, the elf gave him an almost defiant look, arcing her back and crossing her legs. "And Iíve decided I want you."

He snorted in disbelief. "Yeah right. All you want is out. You really think Iím gonna buy that sob story? Fír all I know, you got oneía those nasty cyber protection doodads."

She threw back her head and laughed. "Do you have any idea how fragging uncomfortable those things are? Designed by men, not a doubt about it. Like swim suits, bras, and lingerie. Not to mention those Ďprotectioní devicesíre pretty damn dangerous for the chick too. You think itís a really great idea to have a booby trap shoved up your ass? Besides, what if you want a little fun on the side?"

Toby shook his head. "Lady, Iím not buying it. I donít need some... electric shock, poisoned needle, what thí frag ever is in style nowadays get rammed into my ass. And even if youíre telling the truth, Iím síposed ta be protecting you. Not fuckiní you." He shook his head again. "Ainít buying it," he repeated.

"Iím not asking you to buy it, Iím giving it. Well, I would, but someoneís being cranky."

"Do you ever stop?"

"On rare occasions, yes."

"Then why? Said that was partía the deal with you and control. Why?"

"Why not?"

Crossing his arms, he gave her a Look. "Why? Why me, hell, why tell me any of this?"

After a faint pause, she grinned faintly and shrugged. "Seemed like a good idea at the time. Nothing else was working. You seem odd enough that the truth just might interest you. And I am interested. I got interrupted before Simon and I could finish, Iím bored, and unless youíve got damn quiet and really incurious chummers, itís not like Iíve got any other options." The grin morphed to a smirk. "Not that Iím complaining. I always like to see if what they say about trolls holds true."

This time he actually struggled to fight off a blush. "Give it a rest, slitch," he said gruffly. "Not interested."

She finally stood, moving close to him in a cross between a glide and a sway. "That," she declared in a soft, husky voice, reaching up to place a hand on his chest, "I refuse to believe. We both know itís false."

Now it was a shiver he was trying to fight off. "You donít wanna do this," he said softly. "Just another rebellion."

"The only rebellion," she returned, moving closer, so close she seemed to be trying to meld right past his clothes. "Yes I do. And you canít honestly say you donít." She twisted her hips just slightly, finally releasing the shiver with a sudden moan that had been hiding within.

"This isnít right," Toby managed to say.

"You, me, bed, hormones, working sex drives. What could be wrong with it?"

"Corper, shadowrunner, prisoner, captor, anyía this ringiní bells?"

Those deep blue eyes gazed up at him, inscrutable as a catís, then the elf reached up to gently pull his head down. And suddenly, it seemed that only one thing mattered.

Pleasure.


Coherent thought was a slow, begrudging beast, reluctant to return home after a wild night on the town. The first sensation to make it through Tobyís happy haze was warmth, a lean length of heat going halfway along the left side of his body. For awhile he drifted, trying absently to figure out why that part was so warm.

Realization had all the subtlety of the bastardized lovechild of a panther assault cannon and a platoon of drunk marines. His eyes popped open and he sat up, staring incredulously down at the still naked elf. They hadnít- But it couldnít- No one was that flexible, let alone him!

A satisfied, sighing moan from the elf seemed to indicate otherwise as she nestled a bit closer. God. When did I fall down thí rabbit hole, aní how come no one told me? he thought dazedly, running a hand through his hair. When he finally looked down, the elf was awake and smirking back at him.

"That was good," she purred, sitting up to run fingers along his chest. "Not rock the world outstanding, but Iím sure with a little practice...." Her grin widened as her hands drifted south.

"Ah, no," he said, grabbing her hands before she could grab him.

"You canít be turning shy now," she mock scolded.

"No, but I gotta do a few things."

The elf pouted for a moment, then nodded. "Alright. I could do with a shower."

He grinned bemusedly at her. "And what makes you think youíll get one?"

"You prefer me hot and sweaty?"

"In what setting?" Toby leered slightly.

Surprise made her pause a moment. "Ooo," she cooed, snuggling closer. "Maybe less practice than I thought. Besides...." She leaned over, tongue roaming lightly across his chest before going to play with his nipple ring. When sheíd finished sucking him into a moaning puddle of hormones, she pulled back with a satisfied grin. "Think of it as another opportunity for practice."

"You," he managed to gasp, "are evil."

"Mmmhmm. And you, apparently, can take a lickiní and keep on tickiní. So. Whereís the shower? Just point me in the direction, and join on in when you finish your biz."

Toby stared at her for a bit, wondering just what was hiding behind those placid, far too innocent blue eyes. "You do remember the whole prisoner thing, right?"

"Iíve spent my entire life a prisoner. This is just a more interesting bit with better scenery and recreation. Shower?"

It should have bothered him he only had to ponder his options for a second. "Hang a left, and keep goiní."

"Great." She stood, not really gracefully, but making a sensual production of the maneuver. Walking to the doorway proved it to be merely the premier, ending with a coy glance over the shoulder. "And like I said. Feel free to join me when youíre done. And ready."

Toby spent a few precious minutes just staring past the doorway, wondering again when reality had so suddenly flip-flopped. This was just too surreal, too out there to be possible. But... it was.

Shaking off the disturbing train of though, the troll stood and gathered his clothes, pulling on boxers and jeans. He ignored the shirt, after all, itíd be coming off soon enough, and the team had seen each other in all sorts of states before. Naked would not be a new one. Maybe rude, but not new. He could already hear the shower going as he strolled out into the living room, and he grinned. Life was weird. Johnson had set them up to kill the kid, and now, the team was likely to pull out some whoopass on him while Toby and the slitch had some fun.

Irony. Innit great? he thought, punching the comm on to see if he had any messages. The troll blinked upon seeing the time, swearing softly in amazement that theyíd spent that much time- he paused and thought, then blushed. Ok, so maybe it had been that long.

An hour old recorded message from Draga finally loaded up and began to play. But instead of the Ďtoon dragon, a badly beaten dwarvish woman had her face squashed against the screen of a telecom. The bang of a gunshot sounded, and the womanís head exploded, spattering the screen with blood, brains, and cybernetic bits. Then someone wiped off the plastic, a gloved hand finally pulling back to reveal a young norm with short, corp styled blonde hair and icy blue eyes. "Now itís your turn," he promised in cold, cruel tones, before giving Toby a predatorís smile. Then he raised a gun and fired, shattering the message into static.

....drek. What thí hell just happened? Not that he really didnít know, but denial was looking like a good option right about now. Draga was dead. The only question was had it been because of Johnson, or some other factor?

The front door suddenly slamming open made pondering something for another time. Toby dove for the floor in front of the couch, popping out the cyberspurs in his hands and cursing under his breath the fact that heíd left his gun back in the kitchen. He held his breath, the shower still going in the background while deliberate footsteps clomped through the apartment.

"Well?" a male voice called out, the steps halting. "Come on, show yourself like a man. Stop cowering like a kicked puppy!" The steps restarted, now quieter as the person stalked towards the bathroom.

Dammit! He couldnít let the slitch get hurt. Toby pulled himself into a faint crouch, waiting until the man stepped just beyond its edge. He had just enough time to recognize the intruder as the same man who sent the message before tackling him, raking spurs down the humanís back.

Toby could feel the metal grate against body armor as the man turned with the charge, sending him to the floor. He grabbed coat as he fell, pulling the man along with him. They tumbled across the ground, slashing at each other with spurs and reverting to assorted punches and gouges. They finally broke, scrambling to their feet to glare at each other. "I was wondering if youíd grow a spine. I actually didnít think so, after what you did."

"Did what? Ainít never seen ya bífore in mílife!"

The manís eyes slit, and he charged, swinging and punching so quickly Toby was hard put to block half of them. "Kidnapping my date. Knocking me out. Leaving me naked at the archology gates." They held each other at bay, inches apart, and the human gave him a smug, disturbing smile. "Iíve seen you." They broke again, clearing a few paces to stand off once more.

Toby wasnít sure how long they would have held their positions, gauging each other, if the bathroom door hadnít opened. The elf stepped out, decorated in water droplets and fog, to give the males a nonplussed stare. For a moment she held their attention, then they moved. Toby lunged, desperate to get himself between the girl and the intruder, who was reaching inside his coat, probably for a shoulder holster.

The trollís first thoughts were to protect the elf. Captive or no, she was his responsibility. He would not let her be harmed.

The snap of a firing gun exploded in the room.

Tobyís last thoughts were incoherent with pain.


Shanna bit back a scream as the troll collapsed, dropping at her feet with blood spattering from the gunshot wound that now cratered his chest. He seemed to be staring into her, after her soul, deep green eyes wide to search for what was probably by now an insignificant thing. Then he raised a hand, reaching for her, some strange expression on his face.

Simon ghosted forward, next to the troll, and fired again, point blank into the skull. This time it was too much for her. She turned away, shuddering at the weak thumps made by falling flesh. Then warm arms wrapped around her, Simon turning with the embrace until he stood before her. "Shanna?" he asked. "Are you ok? Did he hurt you?" Anger finally seemed to color his voice. "What did that bastard do?"

She reacted, not thinking as she snarled, stepping back and slamming a tightly clenched fist into Simonís perfectly sculpted jaw. He rocked back, then snarled a curse right back at her. "What the hell was that for?"

Suddenly aware she stood in some warm liquid, she began to shudder, not knowing why the room had abruptly turned so cold. She turned, being certain not to look down, and moved back to the small room. She pulled on her dress, not caring about the water damage to the expensive fabric or Templar playing peeping tom behind her. Finally settling her dress, she turned to face him, never looking below the waist. "Take me home," she demanded quietly, woodenly.

Simon just looked at her for a bit, cradling his jaw. Then he snorted faintly, pulling off his jacket to wrap it around her. He moved to the bathroom, turning off the shower, and came back to escort her out the door.

She didnít notice much en route to the car, or even the trip back to the archology. She just stared out the window, letting buildings and people flicker past without really noticing them. Simon might have asked her some questions, but they washed over and past her as well. It just didnít matter.

It got harder to ignore things when they got back, security people and her family gathering around and babbling trivialities at her. She gave them a few murmurs just to get them to go away. Reality blurred, letting her view it only as if from behind a window streaked with rain, until finally she stood alone in her room, somehow clad in a sweat suit with dry hair and mercifully clean feet. She stared around dully, then dropped the blinds against the sunlight. Shedding her clothes, she crawled into bed and stared at the ceiling, trying not to imagine blood dripping through the bars of light separated by shadows of the mostly closed blinds.

Finally Shanna sighed and closed her eyes. Hiding in the darkness, she couldnít recall the last time she shed tears. Distantly, she wondered why she now wanted to cry....



As always, this fic couldn't have been written without help. Firstly, thanks to Rob, who's seen to it that I managed to write this without suffering from constant, overwhelming blushing ;). MC: good buddy, cheering squad, and reminders that different doesn't have to mean bad. Finally, perhaps most importantly, Quietus. He proofread, advised, lent me Simon AND the whole party/car scenario, and kept the characters in line, all for free. Chummer, NEVER let me take that for granted. If I DON'T thank you every time you hack at these, either worry, or whack me upside the head. So thank you again.

Get me out of here!!!! A.K.A. Home

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Send me all complaints, questions, and (well, if there are any) compliments at Norcumi@backtick.net.

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