Peter’s eyes narrowed dangerously, and he glanced around the crowded dive to ensure no one had heard her. “Call me that again and I’ll wring your skinny little neck.”
Jenny gave a mirthless chuckle, and reached to snag one of the man’s fries. “Is that what ya tell yer mother when she asks ‘ow ‘er li’le criminal’s doin’?”
The man snatched her wrist, but Jenny merely leaned in, narrowed eyes trained on him as she ate the stolen fry. “And what if I drug you back to the ship right now?”
Jenny gave a cocky wink in spite of the nauseating tug in her chest. She deftly twisted her hand free. “You won’. Ya ‘member ‘ow well tha’ went fer ya last time… Ahh! I know tha’ glare,” she chimed, plucking up another fry. “Answers one of mah questions! You don’ know where Blackstar’s parked the Empress, do ya?”
“One of your questions?” Peter asked, his jaw flexing as he glared down at the redheaded engineer. “Fine, I’ll bite. No, I don’t know where the ship’s parked, but it’s not your concern. What is your concern,” the man murmured, leaning into a little too close as he shot a dark glance down the bar filled with workers eating their midday meals, ignoring Jenny’s hand that played with his tie, “is that we’re watching you. We know where you go and when. We even know where some of your little friends wander. I wonder how much those Mordesh would go for, or that little blonde Aurin – What was her name?”
Jenny grit her teeth, shoulders tense as she leaned a little away from him, her glare burning into his shoulder. “I think ya underestimate ‘im. Ya always underestimated all o’ us.”
“Everyone has their price, princess. Fantastic might be untouchable, but he can only protect his little crew so much.” Peter sat back up, frowning in offense at the counter when he saw that his drink hadn’t been refilled. “I should get going. Always a pleasure, Jen.”
“Ya gonna see Seth?”
Peter paused, scowling. “Why do you want to know?”
Jenny’s lips curled in a wicked smirk as her hand slid up his tie. “Give ‘im a message fer me.”
“Drink for you, honey,” said the bartender as he appeared by them, setting a clean little napkin down with one hand and the drink with the other.
Peter shifted his glare to the bartender and opened his mouth to make an asinine comment, but there was no time for him to say it. Jenny’s hand gripped Peter’s tie, and with a swift, sharp yank she pulled the man’s face down to smash against the edge of the bar. He yelped in pain, backing into the patron behind him as he reeled blindly and grasped at his bleeding face.
“Shit! You bitch!” he shouted. Half rising to lunge for Jenny, a small wave of whiskey suddenly sloshed over Peter’s pants, followed by another to the face that redirected his ire to the bartender as the crowded joint fell silent. All eyes on them, several people gravitated to the scene, expecting the worst.
“Shit, honey, I’m sorry about that,” said the bartender, scooting the rescued napkin towards Jenny and pulling a towel from his apron to wipe up the spill on the counter. “I’ll get ya another.”
“What the HELL, Mike?!” Peter shouted, blood pouring from his nose, his shirt and pants soaked with alcohol.
The bartender, who clearly had issues with Peter as well, fixed the young man a withering look. “You’re bothering people and bleeding on my bar. Get out.”
Peter snarled, giving Mike and Jenny black looks. Still holding a hand to his bloodied face, he snatched his coat from the seat of his bar stool, shoved roughly past the redhead, and stomped out.
There was a communal shuffling throughout the crowd as the threat of a full-on fight diminished. Some clearly disappointed, the workers slowly returned to their meals and conversations.
“Piece of trash,” Mike grumbled as he poured Jenny a fresh glass.
Sniffing, she turned to face the bar, shooting a diffusing, charming wink to the man on the other side of the empty stool who still stared. “Sorry fer the disturbance,” Jenny murmured with an apologetic smile at the bartender. “I can take off too.”
Mike chuckled at her, and set a fresh drink on her napkin. “Stay as long as you like, honey. Drinks on me. Get you something to eat?”
Jenny lifted her whiskey and offered the bartender a little toast. “Ya go’ them little fried pickle things?”
The bartender ushering the lurking Aurin waitress to scamper back out to refill drinks, he reached to turn the music to something more lively and nodded. “Sure do. I’ll have them right out for you.”
As he stepped away to lean in the kitchen door, Jenny let out a long, heavy breath. Shit. Shit, shit, shit. Setting her elbows on the bar she lifted her glass and drained half of it. Blue eyes turning distant for a moment her gaze finally drifted down to her napkin. She focused on it, frowning as she noted the pale markings showing through the fibers, then turned it over to read.
end of the bar
The young woman hesitated, then glanced up, her eyes following the bar around till they found the man sitting in the last bench. Jeremy. Her shoulders sank, but the smile that turned up her features was genuine, and she tipped her glass a little towards him. There was no getting out of this one.
Jeremy beamed back at Jenny, raising his glass in reply. With a dutiful scoot backwards he stood from the bench and weaved his way through the dispersing gawkers toward her. “Well well well,” he hummed at her with a smirk. “That was something. Ten out of ten, Jenny – that guy didn’t see that coming. Neither did I, come to think of it.”
Jenny returned a smirk in kind, gesturing to the now empty seat beside her. “One reason I don’t often wear necklaces,” she teased. Then, more seriously, “How much did ya hear?”
He tilted his head at the question, holding his smirk in place. “Enough that I have some questions for you,” he responded, blinking at her, and lifting a hand to place on her shoulder. His eyes scanned her up and down, brows raising slightly. “You alright, though?”
Jenny glanced to the front door of the establishment before smiling and putting a hand on his. “Hmmm, better now…. An’ after all that I s’pose I don’ got much of an excuse t’ not answer you,” she added with a good-natured smile.
“Suppose not,” he confirmed slyly as he turned and rested his elbows back upon the bar-top. “Though first off – you need to tell me where you learned those moves from because… damn,“ his hands splay out a bit and he broke into a chuckle. “Seriously,” he leaned towards her, voice lowering, “that was just about the sexiest thing I’ve ever seen you do. I mean – almost. It’s up there.”
Jenny’s fleeting look of surprise turned into a mischievous grin, finding herself feeling suddenly pleased that he’d enjoyed the little show, and she leaned in as well. “Oh, that ol’ trick? Honestly? Saw someone fail ta pull it off in a movie years back an’ though’ I could do a ‘ole lot better. Got a lot more tricks where tha’ came from.”
“Seems like that could come in handy,” he murmured, sliding his hand around her back and using their closeness as an excuse to kiss her cheek. He pulled back, looking at her, smirk fading subtly as he did. “So,” he made a small up-nod of his head towards the door. “Who was that guy to you? Pretty clear he was unhappy to see you well before you broke his face.”
_ _ _ _ _
Jenny strode out of the Nebula, fitting a sack of emergency rations (Marko’s leftovers from breakfast) into her canvas pack. She could hear the engine of the ship she’d called in for and glanced back to the other few who’d decided to come along on the little field trip.
Fishing her datachron out of her pocket, she double checked her messages.
heeeeey. So if I send you some coords how fast do you think you can make it out to Wilderrun?
How fast? Please. In spite of her rush and the weight of worry for the stranded trio, she couldn’t help but smirk. It’d been one trouble after another with small intermissions since the start. Since before the start. Jenny grinned and double checked their destination. For a minute – naw – more like a few seconds she was upset for not being taken along. But it was an impulsive, fleeting emotion that was easily discarded. She couldn’t blame him for asking her to stay. She’d have done the same, even if it was only supposed to be a quick there and back before poor Bron crashed his newly fixed ship.
Other people’s troubles are a good distraction from my own, he had told her. The afternoon at Cliff’s bar seemed to have been a forever ago. Where they had agreed to show their cards – well, the ones they were most willing to share. He had spied on Seth for her instead of leaving when things got bad. He’d come back after Malgrave and risked his life for them, gotten shot, and kept her awake in the dataspace when all she wanted to do was sleep and not wake up. Jenny sat herself in one of the two pilot’s seats, adjusted her pistols at her hips, and fastened her seat belt with a resolved click. Now it was her turn.