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2042-03-01 Swooping Is Good

From X-Factor

2041-03-01 Swooping Is Good
Date Posted 2015/08/22
Location India
Participants Ciel, Rohan
Summary Rohan likes his reunions dramatic.
 
The thick humidity in the air holds the day's blistering temperature despite the fact that the sun sunk below the horizon several hours ago. It also holds the dust and grime kicked up from the city's traffic, despite the fact that Ciel and her team are providing perimeter security on a property near the outskirts. For a long time, the night is quiet, and the team gets a bit lazy in the heat.

By the time they notice the arrival of unexpected guards, they're already close enough for action. Everything goes badly very, very fast. A call goes out to the team inside the property, advising quick retreat, while shots and blows are exchanged outside. Inside, security becomes suddenly alert, and the smaller team barely manages to avoid direct conflict. By the time Rohan and his companion make it out a back window, their car is gone and guards with guns are closing in fast. The conflict has moved as their defending team works to draw them away from the house proper, and the mercenaries have split, creating pockets of fighting in scattered location. Teamwork is-- at a minimum.

"Shit," is Rohan's professional assessment as he takes in the situation, hesitating a moment longer than is wise. He tilts his head toward a nearby outbuilding, and then smiles to himself, pulling himself back up on the ledge of the window to leap from there into the roof of said outbuilding, catching the edge of the roof and pulling himself up. Balancing on the roof, he glances down to his companion, who blinks at him as to say 'you're mad,' and disappears into the shadows. "Suit yourself," says Rohan, and he steps as quiet as possible across the roof, his figure dark against the dimming light, but only visible if you're looking up. Beneath him, in the small outbuilding--the scrape of a hoof, a soft whinny.

On the outskirts, light flashes again and again. It's a familiar sight, even from a distance; the sparkle is difficult to miss. Ciel breathes heavily as she steps through a portal to come in behind her opponent, bringing her hand down hard at the back of his head. She pauses only a moment before the crack of a gunshot catches her attention, and then she's halfway across the property locked in a struggle with two guards and a single teammate at her back as they attempt to disarm the unfriendlies.

"Shit," breathes Rohan again, attention caught by that sparkle. He moves to the edge of the roof, pausing a moment, barely daring to breathe, as a guard appears. Luck is with him; said guard pursues his erstwhile companion and misses the shadow on the roof. Once they are out of sight, Rohan swings off the roof. The outbuilding is open-sided, a roof put up over a few pens where reside horses. They're a local breed, well-built and elegant, with ears the curve inward, nearly meeting. A chestnut in the back pen is turning in frantic circles at the gunshots, coat nearly white with lather. Nearer, a black-bay stallion is calmer, head up, watching. "Hello there, boy," murmurs Rohan, moving to the bay's pen. "Want to go for a ride?"

A third guard joins the first two, and Ciel spins, a bit frantic. "Go!" she shouts, her voice carrying in the night's silence. A portal opens, and her companion darts through it. Ciel's two steps from disappearing herself when a hand catches her wrist. The guard holding her is tall and broad, and he wraps an arm around her throat as she jabs an elbow back into his stomach.

Rohan is in luck again; there's a bridge hung nearby, and the dark stallion obediently bows his head for the bit, with the condescending air of a monarch performing some great favour. He is less in luck a moment later; no saddle is nearby, and he is forced to clamber on using the pen's slats as a mounting block. The stallion walks slowly out--and then a gunshot sounds, nearby, and even this horse startles, head up, and then bolting. Rohan is nearly thrown off, grabbing at the dark mane to steady himself. "Hold on!" he calls out, but it's not clear whether it's a reminder to himself or a command to someone as the near-black stallion thunders on, nose pointed at the sparkles in the distance.

In the distance, sparkles disappear. Ciel's elbow does little good, and she writhes in her captor's grip. He staggers half a step backward. She twists, jerking her head around in an attempt to get a visual behind him, but when another portal opens, it's entirely at the wrong angle, and it flickers out a second later.

The stallion settles into a more controlled canter from his earlier blind panic; Rohan relaxes, his body moving with the horse, with his rhythm. He grins brightly into the night, and continues riding toward those sparkles, the horse's hooves pounding a welcome. She may not be able to quite see him yet, but Ciel can certainly hear the beat of those hooves.

There are hooves, and there is ringing in Ciel's ears, and neither one seems particularly /promising/ from her position. She jerks forward, putting the force of her mutation behind the movement. It's more surprise than strength that wins her freedom, and she stumbles forward even as her attacker stumbles back. She's in the air, then, shooting forward, but the distance she puts between them doesn't last. She flags, speed slowing, and her opponent thunders after her with increasing speed.

And Rohan is here, bent over the stallion's neck, and the horse is gaining on Ciel's attacker, and shoots past him, like an Indian Secretariat. "Sky!" he yells, looping one arm around the horse's neck to steady himself, and swooping toward his flying comrade as the horse thunders past to try to grab her about the waist and scoop her up; an inadvisable maneuver at a walk, and a perilous one at a full gallop, with the horse so sensitive to weight shifts

He doesn't have to reach far. Ciel drops down with palpable relief, pacing the horse with clear effort until she can settle in front of him and slump forward with clear exhaustion. "Ro--" she says, breathless and surprised as her chest heaves in search of adequate oxygen. Behind them, the sound of a car engine roars, and Ciel tenses. "Do we need an escape hatch?

"Miss me?" wonders Rohan, with a breathless laugh, turning the horse aside with the touch of a calf. "Are you up to it? I can try to lose them in the trees; there are places cars can't go, after all--but Blackie here needs a rest."

"i'm always up for it," Ciel assures him, but her smile is weak, and the portal she opens ahead of them is weaker. There's barely enough room or time for the horse to fly through, and it snaps shut immediately behind her. They're well into the trees now, in a small clearing, and Ciel slumps backward into the steady warmth of Rohan's chest.

Rohan lets the horse fall into a walk as the portal snaps shut, the reins pulling through his fingers. He wraps an arm about Ciel's waist, and asks, "You all right?" His voice is soft, worn at the edges with very genuine concern.

Ciel nods, a silent movement as she lets her eyes close for a brief moment. "Just worn thin," she says after a beat. She finds her smile, and it sounds in her voice as she adds, "Glad to see /you/. Where the fuck'd you come from?

"I was the infiltration team," Rohan points out. "Well, me and Anwar, but he zigged when I zagged. Hopefully he's all right. Hopefully they're all right." The fingers of his free hand tangle in her hair. "They've been shifting us around so much," he says quietly, "that I almost didn't think I'd see you again."

"Not /that/ big a country, tiger," Ciel answers with a tired snort as she twists a bit to look at him over her shoulder. She falls back against him again, head tilted toward the night sky. "How long've you been here? I thought you were south.

"Seems pretty big to me, Sky, but I grew up on an island." Rohan keeps his eyes on her; good thing the horse is unlikely to steer himself into any obstacles. "Four hours. Was thrown into the deep end as soon as I arrived back. The joys of the mercenary lifestyle."

"Five days," Ciel supplies for him, unasked for answer to the same question. "Please tell me you got whatever it was you went in there to get.

"It looked like a big box," says Rohan. "Heavy too." His gaze lingers on the fall of her hair, the curve of her forehead, and he determinedly looks away. "But, yes, we got it. You?"

"We were supposed to make sure /you/ didn't get interrupted." Ciel laughs, short and dark, and shakes her head. "Fuck that right to hell.

"Sometimes," Rohan says with the air of someone confiding a great secret, "our missions actually go the way they're supposed to." He laughs quietly. "It's almost enough to make retirement sound attractive."

"Dear lord," Ciel says, a little horrified as her fingers tighten in the strands of the horse's mane. "Can you imagine the boredom?"

"I don't know," says Rohan thoughtfully, considering. "I'm getting older, after all. Maybe I only want to risk my life every third or fourth day."

"/Crippling/ boredom," Ciel says, less thoughtful. "I think I'd go insane with it. What would you even /do/?"

"Cook," decides Rohan. "Make little people out of clay. Go for a nice canter cross country with a beautiful woman." He lowers his head, mouth closer to her ear and adds, "Then get bored and try a daring raid."

Ciel answers with a snort and a laugh, but it's clearly tired, and she slumps back into the warmth of him as he leans closer. "I don't suppose you've got anything to eat?" she checks, hopefully wistful. "I lost my supply somewhere between being punched in the gut and being choked."

"There's a protein bar in my right pocket," Rohan tells her, a touch of laughter in his voice, "but you'll have to find it yourself. My hands are busy."

"You're not nearly as cute as you think you are," Ciel answers on a bit of a grumble as she twists, balance careful, to slide her hand back into his pocket. It's awkward and uncomfortable, and for a moment it seems like she may be in real danger of toppling sideways off the horse.

The horse does not like that either, sidestepping and swerving in response to the shift in weight. "Careful," Rohan tells her, voice low, wrapping an arm about to keep her steady as he tries to soothe the horse with legs and weight and one hand on the reins. "I really don't want you to get smushed." For a moment, there's a serious note beneath his playfulness.

"Unlikely," Ciel answers, but she does look a little abashed as she resettles her weight. Her free hand clenches a little harder (maybe too hard) in the horse's mane as she rips the protein bar open with a jerk of her teeth. She takes a bite, swallowing before she says, "Where'd you learn to ride a horse?" And then after a beat, "Where'd you /get/ a horse?

Rohan answers the second question first. "Whoever we were raiding today is a horse lover, apparently. Kept a few at the side. I picked the friendliest." He is silent for a long moment, body moving with the gentle rhythm of the walk. "Took lessons for a few years, when I was a kid," he says finally. "My little sister loved horses. She wanted to learn, but she was too shy to do it by herself."

"Your little sister," Ciel says, turning the words over in her mouth as if she had never once considered them in conjunction with Rohan. She blinks at the trees ahead of them, working on her protein bar before she asks, "How old were you?

"Twelve," replies Rohan. "I kept it up for a few years. After all," he adds lightly, "it's a really good way to meet lots of girls in tight pants."

Ciel snorts, letting her head tip back to rest against his chest. "Now there's the Ro we know and love," she tells him. Another few quick bites makes short work of her protein bar, and she stares forward, squinting toward the distance. "How far're we, do you think?

Rohan musters some mock indignation. "What? You think I'm an indiscriminate letch? I'll have you know I am a very discriminating one!" He looks over the horse's ears, at the trees, and admits, "I don't know. It was your portal."

"Don't worry, tiger," Ciel murmurs with low amusement. "I like you as a lech." She twists a little in her seat, scanning their surroundings, then says, "I don't even know if we're going the right way. It'd probably be better if just waited until I can hop us somewhere more familiar.

"Want to stop and give this fellow a rest, then?" asks Rohan. "I think we're far enough to be safe. And--well, you look tired. I don't even mean that in a lecherous way, Sky."

"Is 'you look tired' usually lecherous when you-- no. Nevermind. Don't answer that," Ciel says, twisting enough to give him a dry look before she nods. "Find a nice tree to sit under or something. I'll feel better when the sugar hits my system.

"Only when I want it to be," says Rohan, insisting on answering it anyway. He finds a tree, and hands Ciel down to the ground before following her. He knots the reins short so the horse can't step on them; the horse seems more interested in grazing than running away.

Ciel wastes no time in clearing a small area of stray branches and rocks so she can settle down, leaning back against a tree. She watches Rohan's work with a curious gaze, eyes lingering on the work of his hands. After a long moment she asks, "You think they're gonna leave you here for a while?

"Depends on whether my own special talents are needed or not," replies Rohan, settling in beside her. He raises an eyebrow. "Why, Sky? Do you pine for me when I'm not there?"

The look Ciel turns on Rohan is dry, and just little exasperated around the edges. "Well now you've ruined any urge I had to say anything even vaguely nice," she tells him.

"Now I'm hurt," replies Rohan with a sigh. "Wounded to the core." He leans his head against the tree. "I pined," he tells her. "A little." He holds his thumb and forefinger a few milimetres apart.

Ciel looks suspicious, and then deeply dubious. She snorts her skepticism and reaches up to grab at his hand, pinching thumb and forefinger together. "You don't know what pining is.

"You don't think I don't know what it is to lie awake and wish someone was there?" Rohan sounds a trace too serious for a moment, adding lightly, "To look at other girls fluttering their lashes at me and thinking they're all just entirely too _nice_ to me?"

Ciel stills for a moment, his hand caught in hers, and she stares at him as if something about his features has gone suddenly and unexpectedly unfamiliar. When she speaks again, her voice has dropped a few notches. "Pining, huh?" she says, still light, still watching.

Rohan's fingers tighten on hers. He stares back at her, dark eyes wide, and catches his bottom lip in his teeth, his breath coming just a little too fast. When he finally does speak, his voice is forcedly light, a touch shaky. "Pining," he agrees. "Like a parrot, for the fjords."

Ciel answers with a laugh, sudden and a little unexpected. She turns away, letting her head fall back against the tree behind her as she releases his hand. "I have no idea what that means," she tells him, her smile easy and loose. "Do parrots have a particular affinity for fjords?" She pauses a beat, then adds, "What exactly /is/ a fjord, anyway?"

"Only Norwegian Blues," Rohan tells her with a sudden flash of his brilliant smile--a little more brilliant and manic than usual, as if he had just saved from _something_. "Beautiful plumage! Er. Remind me to introduce you to classic British humour sometime."

"I've always thought 'classic' mostly meant 'boring'," Ciel challenges with an upward flick of her brows, her smile lingering on her lips in a warm curve.

"Things become 'classic' for one of two reasons," Rohan says. "One," he raises a finger, "because they are legitimately pretty bloody good. Or, two," he raises a second finger, "no one can understand them so they decide they must say something deep and profound."

"Boring," Ciel determines, concise. The curve of her lips threatens toward a smirk. "Or maybe just weird. If you're talking British humor.

"I meant in general," replies Rohan. "And I agree. Although I suppose it could apply to British humour, too."

"I'm more okay with weird than boring," Ciel muses, stretching her legs out in front of her with a glance rolled toward Rohan. She studies him with a smile that speaks of some private amusement, then adds, "But I think you know that."

"Nobody likes boring, Sky," says Rohan. "It's just that people's definitions of 'boring' disagree." He watches her, eying that smile, and says, "I think ours agree well enough."

"I dunno, I've known a few in my life," Ciel disagrees, but she doesn't argue long before she flashes him a wide, brilliant grin and answers him with a wink. "Damn right they do," she says.

"Good," murmurs Rohan, and he reaches out to snake an arm about her waist, pulling her closer. "So," he wonders lowly, "how not boring can we be right now?"

Ciel tilts into him without objection, but once there, she reminds, "We stopped to /recover/ strength, tiger. We're not /that/ far from the hot zone."

"What's life without a little danger?" contends Rohan, with another flash of that smile, and leans down to kiss her. It is a slow, lingering kiss, and once it finishes, he presses no further. Instead he holds her close, listening to the rustle of the leaves and the steady sound of the horse clipping grass.

Despite her protests, Ciel turns her face to his without hesitation. Her fingers curl light at the nape of his neck, barely skimming his skin, and when he pulls back, she chases after to press her lips to the corner of his mouth, nearly chaste. "Maybe I missed you," she says, her smile slow as she brushes her thumb against his cheek, just above the place her lips marked. "A little."

Rohan smiles again, but this isn't his usual brilliant grin; it's something smaller, softer, more private. "I hope you missed me," he murmurs, "just as much as I missed you." He reaches up to brush the back of her hand. "A little."

Ciel taps her thumb sharp against his cheekbone and says, "Don't get cocky, Ainsworth," before she drops her hand to brace it against the ground, using it to lever herself upward. "I think I'm good to go. Let's see if we can get home, hm?" The look she tilts down at him is all sorts of suggestive, aided by the return of something like color to her cheeks. And indeed, it's no more than a few portal hops to somewhere populated, and then a very short ride back to a room and the private safety it offers.

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