After only a single glorious month with Jupiter, his humble and beautiful queen, his steps are hesitant and he has that dreadful sinking feeling in his stomach. She's the one human who trusts him and maybe even believes in him. The time with her in her role as earth's quiet, anonymous protector and the love of his life has been too short, and he knows things are about to change with the news he carries. Why couldn't he have just a few more days before he has to become only a guard in her shadow again?
Forcing himself to take each step to bring her the report feels like going to face his death sentence. Never the less, she relies on him as her protector and sole contact with the universe beyond Earth. It's imperative that he let her know. Clenching his fists in determination, he ignores the echoing, empty sound from his boots pounding on the hall floor and makes a beeline to the Aegis ship that will take him back to Her Majesty's presence on Earth.
Just like every time before, she's anxiously awaiting his arrival. Upon sighting the shimmer from the cloaked ship, she starts excitedly waving and runs toward the hatch as soon as it's open. Her arms are open wide and she has that happy innocent look on her face as she barrels toward him. It makes him swallow hard and curse the report he carries.
Shouldn't he start distancing himself from her? He'll let himself embrace her just one more time. If she suspects anything, it will only make her question, instead of getting on the ship and focusing on what she'll need to do.
Upon impact, he embraces her tightly - taking in her scent, the feel of her against him, the tickle of her hair on his cheek, the softness of her skin, her fingers playing with his hair, her exuberant joy at seeing him, her needy kiss. When she says, "Oh God Caine, I missed you so much!", it almost undoes him and he buries his face in her shoulder, crushing her to him, unable to speak. Still bubbling over she adds, "I want my family to meet you."
A throat clears behind them and they both look up to see Stinger in the entry. "Catch up on all of that later. We aren't here on pleasure," he gets to business in his gruff manner that hides his care.
She turns back to Caine, with a questioning look in her eye.
Standing at attention to report, he mentally puts distance between them, "Your Majesty…"
Her eyebrow raises with deepening suspicion. She knows him well and how he usually speaks to her. Those two words are the same, but the tone is different. Taking his hands in hers and locking eyes with him, "Don't get all formal on me now, Caine. Just spit it out."
"Titus is contesting his mother's will. If you don't attend the proceedings, it may appear that you are in contempt of court. Aegis has decrypted communications of possible attempts on your life. You're not safe as long as you're here, and you will need to start acting like the royalty you are to deal with the proceedings," he reports quietly to keep control of his voice and pulls his hands from hers. "Stinger and I will accompany you to Orus."
"You're acting like when you first found out I was royalty, and I'm having flashbacks of the seal official saying 'My condolences'," Jupiter pouts. When his gaze drops from hers, it's her confirmation. Grabbing his arm she fumes, "Caine! Seriously?"
Stinger interrupts again, "Getting her off this planet right now is in her best interest."
With his free arm he gestures toward the ship.
She mutters, "So much for meeting my family today", as she jogs up the gangplank. "Can I at least call home to let my family know I'll be gone for a while?"
"Be on speaker phone with me, so they can at least hear your voice. They want to meet you," she pleads, not giving up on him or on having him get to know her family. But he gives no answer.
Stinger volunteers, "Your Majesty, would you like to call them from the ship? Then we can get out of orbit without fear of losing the signal."
She hears the phone ring on the other end and Vladie picks up, "Hello?"
"Vladie, I won't be there tonight. Put it on speaker phone so we can talk to the whole family at once, please."
"You're ditching us? Must be a really hot date!"
"Just put it on speaker phone, ok?"
Silence, then the murmuring din rises as the whole family gathers in the room.
"Jupiter, why aren't you bringing your beau tonight?" Her mom sounds a little worried.
Caine shakes his head and gives in, "This is Aegis Lieutenant Caine Wise. We had hoped that I could meet you all this evening, but a matter of Her... Jupiter's safety has come up. My captain and I are taking her to a safe place until the matter is resolved."
A strongly accented male protective voice pipes up, "What are you CIA or something? Where are you taking our Jupiter? Why is she in danger? ..."
"Uncle Vassily, I'm fine," Jupiter interrupts. "They're special agents. They can't tell you any more than that."
"Captain Apini here. Folks, she's safe and we need to keep her that way. We'll bring her back to you as soon as we can, and explain it all then," Stinger interrupts.
"Jupiter," her mom's voice pleads. "Be careful, dear."
"We will, Mom. And I'll bring Caine with me then."
"You both promise?" Her mom asks.
"Promise," she says, but Caine looks at her rather dubiously.
When the call is done, he gestures to his ears and wings, "And how are you going to explain these?"
"If you really want, the ears can be covered with a hat. The wings, well, they're how you catch me when I jump off the tallest skyscrapers of Chicago," she zings a sassy response and charming smile, closing in on him again.
He rolls his eyes, "Like that would go over well. Now if you'll excuse me, Your Majesty."
She blocks his escape. "Caine, stop it! Stop pushing me away. I'm still me, and I will continue to be ME. I need you." Caressing his cheek she continues, "I need you because I love you and also to help guide me and keep me grounded through this court fiasco. Remember I'm new to this 'there's a whole galaxy of worlds with people' thing."
"You have to become one of the entitleds to win this. Don't you see that?" he counters in a growl before pushing past her.
"You're giving up on me?" she whispers as she watches him head down the hall.
Stinger, right behind her, puts a reassuring hand on her shoulder, "I'll have a word with him later, Your Majesty. Know that he needs you more than he needs the air he breathes. He and I also know the prejudice against us as splices. We're seen as disposable and not trusted."
"So are humans and royalty, from what I saw. Thanks for talking with him, though."
He gives her a slightly lopsided grin before following Caine.
The screen showing earth retreating behind them catches her attention, only adding to her growing forlorn mood as she stands alone on the bridge.
Clutching her pillow and blankets from her bunk, she plops down in front of Caine's doorway. She'd tried several times to get him to answer and she couldn't find him anywhere on the ship. Stinger hasn't said that he'd talked with him yet. So this is where she'll stay, until she can confront him again.
"Damn it…", Caine bites his lip in frustration. "Your Majesty... what am I gonna do with you? You can't keep doing things that make you look like a peasant." He's not sure he can handle being close to her when she has to behave like the royals he detests. And she isn't making it easy for him to distance himself, to help her become what she needs to save her world. They'll eat her alive in court at this rate.
Kneeling down, he moves a lock of hair out of her face, then gently picks her up. She mumbles something to the effect of 'Where were you?' and snuggles into his shoulder.
Scanning for options as he carries her to his bunk, he realizes this wasn't the best choice. He won't be able to put her down and retrieve his own covers at the same time. Sighing, he resigns himself to a cold sleep. He kisses the top of her head and strokes her cheek before snuggling in beside her and wrapping his free arm around her, covering them both with a layer of feathers. His thoughts plague him, how in the world will they both be what they need in order to deal with the mess ahead?
Finding herself alone in an unfamiliar room, she swears she remembers arms around her and the solid comforting warmth of him next to her. But where is he, now?
After stretching and rousting from her toasty cocoon, she muffles a yawn and shuffles down the hall to investigate.
Their words echo in the hall, verifying that Stinger, true to his word, is having that talk with Caine.
"You can't play with her like this. Trying to put distance between you two to protect her, then sneaking out of the room you two shared. You're going to confuse the hell out of the girl," Stinger reproaches.
"She was sleeping in my doorway! You would have done the same thing and she was asleep the whole time. Nothing happened!" Caine's defenses are up.
"She'll know you were there, so it wasn't 'nothing happened'. Despite what you say, you can't make yourself truly step away from her and only watch over her, can you? Boy, don't make me knock some sense into you for pushing away the best thing that ever happened to you because you think she might let go. She needs YOU by her side." Stinger's retort has bite even for Jupiter's listening ears.
Guilt for eavesdropping sets in for Jupiter, and she decides to go to her own quarters and wait this out. But in her not fully awake state, she stumbles over her own feet. She recovers, but the squeak that snuck out gives her away. Hearing Stinger calling her to come in, she meekly shuffles in to the bridge.
"Sorry. I just woke up and was looking for you Caine... I couldn't help overhearing. Is there breakfast anywhere? I can eat while you two finish your talk," she offers.
"What was needed was said," Stinger motions for her to follow, so Caine can have time to think.
Author's Note: Stinger was working with Aegis in the movie. I figure Caine would leave the Legion and Stinger might recruit him.