~ * ~
“Don’t worry, Mister Fournelle, the shuttle will be at Starbase Freedom’s private-liner bay.” Jesse looked at him and grinned. “But you don’t trust me, do you? Well, I have even better reasons not to trust a Service Corps officer. Have you already made plans for my arrest as soon as I dock with a stolen shuttle? So, we are at an impasse, are we not?”
Jesse couldn’t keep the mocking tones out of her voice. She hated the way Fournelle looked at her. Like so many others. She knew very well once Fournelle agreed to her plan, he wouldn’t back out, but goading him was irresistible. Besides, she felt mean. For the last few days, she’d purposely bickered with Krayne whenever the opportunity arose.
She took a few steps to the shuttle’s hatch, even took a step inside before she looked at the forbidding officer. “Mister Fournelle,” she tightened her lips at his look, biting the insult lining her mouth. Taking a deep breath she said, “Thank you.”
Fournelle didn't answer her. A movement on the edge of her vision caught her attention. Krayne stopped as she noticed him, his face taut, his jaw clenched and his eyes cold.
Exhaling slowly, Jesse hesitated before answering. "Yes."
"What, no goodbye? Or is everything clandestine with you?"
Jesse smiled casually. "It's easier. No excuses. No lies." Her hands gripped the hatch.
"I'm sure it is. Just a clean thrust to the heart and walk away." He looked at Fournelle. "Leave." As Fournelle's footsteps fell away, he said, "What about our marriage? Our plans?"
"What marriage?" Jesse scoffed. "When I cross over into Alliance space, it will be nonexistent. You made the only plans. Don't blame me for your delusions of a rosy future. We had none." She watched his eyes flicker, his jaw muscles bunch.
"I see. So just what have I been?"
"An escape." She smiled and shrugged. "In more ways than one. I'll admit to using you, even enjoying you. You've let me evade capture, provided some entertainment, and of course, given some physical relief. But I have no interest in becoming your rehab project. I guess it's just time to move on before I become bored."
"Too glib, Jesse. I don't believe you."
"How can you?" she said in disparagement. "You don't even know what I am. I've run into your type before, both as a man and as an officer. You see the outside with desire, and I'll give you credit for not backing off when you discovered what's on the inside, but when you learn about the underside, it will be a different story."
"That's not true. I know you and I know what you are."
Jesse gave a dry laugh. "Of course it's true. You only think you know me. I'm not just the pirate and thief you believe. There are countless Alliance laws I've broken. Did you know Jet ripped a man's throat out with her bare hands? That she was instrumental in Durant Rosche's death? And tell me, what will you think the first, second or third time you run into someone for whom I've whored?" She watched him flinch. "Then what? You want me to make a list beforehand? That's just for starters, there's more. Do you want to know all the details?"
She watched him swallow, his jaw setting in rigid lines. "You can tell me whatever you want. It won't change how I feel. I love you. Not unless you say straight out you feel nothing for me. Tell me you don't love me."
"Of course I feel something for you. You came along at an opportune time. You know what Merit and Thor were doing to me. But love? My God, you're a Corps officer. If you think I'm stupid enough to allow you to capture me with sex, and then, when you get bored in a few months or so, pass me along to Alliance justice, think again." She watched his face remorselessly, even smiled at his expression.
"And the shuttle? Another theft?"
His acceptance was too quick. She watched for a trap. "No, it's part of the agreement I made with Fournelle. I told him it would be at Starbase Freedom before the Nebulae docked. You going to stop me?"
"That's not a wise move."
"Then say it and make me believe it."
Jesse stood in the shuttle's portal for a lifetime. She slowly moved back to the gangway and stopped directly before Krayne in Ranger at-ease position. "I don't love you," she stated slowly and clearly.
He looked into her face for another lifetime reading her truth there. "Go, then. Get out of my sight." His voice held a calm command.
~ * ~