The ride back was tense. Nobody spoke a whole lot, except Allayne, murmuring quietly over the wound in Erramun’s back, pulling out the bullet and healing the muscle and sinew and skin. Ezer muttered at traffic, Chitter muttered at her cameras – including the tiny button camera and mic Senga had planted in the desk, including the one Erramun had planted on a pillar, including the clever little skimmer they’d managed to get on the guards’ computer. Erramun was silent as his name.
Senga was steaming with anger and twitching with worry and said nothing at all. She held Erramun’s hand, even though he obviously didn’t need it, and the way that his fingers traced over the back of hers told her that he knew, too, that she needed it.
“There,” Allayne breathed. They were nearly to the garage. “All better. Damn, are you telling me you don’t have a Man of Steel Working in your repertoire?”
Erramun rolled his shoulder, testing it, before answering. “I’ve got three. problem is, people notice when bullets bounce off of you. Easier to make them think they missed. Used it on her, though.”
He tapped her back. “Bulletproof spine. I’m tough naturally. Part of the package. Might get stupid if you got hurt, though, and place like that, can’t afford to get stupid.” He looked suddenly worried. “Hope you don’t mind.”
She squeezed the hand she was still holding. “Thank you. Turns out you’re a bigger target, though. Or maybe they just thought I was really helpless and you were, um. Kidnapping me or something.”
“I think they bought the act.” He sounded more than a little surprised. “I’ve never done something like that before. Not be in front of people trying to pull their attention. Not acting.”
“Hrmph,” Ezer muttered. “You don’t need to act too hard with that boob job they gave Senga. Nobody’s looking at anything but her tits with that.”
Erramun growled. The sound was so low that, at first, Senga didn’t pick up on it, but it slowly grew louder. She squeezed his hands. “That’s what they’re for,” she reminded him gently. “That’s why Allayne gave me these. Because they look fake and they draw the attention somewhere else. Like a fake mustache but for low-cut dresses.”
The growl slowed and stopped and he looked over at her. “I don’t like them.”
“Don’t think anyone asked you, Silent Boy,” Ezer grumbled. “So who gave us away?”
“As far as I can tell-” Chitter tapped her screens “-and I can tell everything, nobody did. Seriously. Nobody made a mistake. Senga and Erramun were on their game. That guard couldn’t peel his eyes away from her tits. The other one was getting all protective that ‘Eddy’ there was gonna hurt the girl or something, but that just made the whole thing better, you know? It made them get invested in the people they were being. And upstairs, Allayne went in, did her job, got out. Nobody sensed anything, nobody even had a clue that anything might possibly be going on. It was flawless.”
“The big man there got shot at.” Ezer was driving, and that was probably the only thing that kept him from staring at Chitter’s screens. “So it wasn’t flawless. Something happened. I want to know what. I don’t like my people getting shot at.”
“I’m not your people,” Erramun snarled. Senga held on to his hands and didn’t squeeze any tighter. If he needed to growl, Ezer was a big boy and could handle it.
“No, but you’re my crew’s people and that means I care. What the fuck is your problem?” Well, in theory, he could handle it.
“My problem? My problem is that you’re an arrogant dipshit and you’re an amateur. You have no idea what you’re doing and you’re in charge, it looks like, because you have no other fucking skills. And if you’re in charge, that means that you’re putting Senga at risk, and I don’t-”
“Easy.” Now Senga intervened. She squeezed his hands firmly. “Erramun. Back it off a notch. What do you think Ezer did wrong?”
“Hey!” That was, from the sounds of things, not the help Ezer had been hoping for. “Who says-”
“He’s putting blame that might not be there. He’s getting angry and possessive when he needs to get analytical. He hasn’t told us how much of the mission, if any, succeeded, and he’s not looking at follow-up steps yet.” Erramun squeezed back; his voice sounded like he was sort of forcing himself into calmness.
Or being forced.
“I don’t… fair.” Ezer huffed. “Shit. You’re right. Okay. Look, i’m not good with my crew getting hurt, and this was close. So. We got everything we needed. All the cameras and recorders are still in there. Allayne got exactly what we needed from the server room, which is a win flat-out. From the surveillance cameras Chitter has been watching – their cameras and ours – they don’t suspect that you two had anything to do with the others. That third guard was just trigger-happy, and he’s getting a serious dressing-down.” Ezer cleared his throat. “That means the mission was a success. We’ll get paid, I’ll demand a double bonus for uncalled for and unexpected shooting and get at least a single bonus, and well, we all did our jobs perfectly. Even you, big guy.”
Erramun let out a breath that could have been acknowledgement. He ran his thumb over Senga’s knuckles and grunted – it was almost a word. Senga held tight to his hand and wondered if she’d ever understand him.