disclaimer: disclaimed.
dedication: to Les, and to Rachel.
notes: yea this is happening.
notes2: go away, I like Kaldur/Raquel.

chapter title: the eleventh dimension
summary: So four mercenaries walk into a bar… and then end up running all over the galaxy, trying to save a kidnapped princess. — full cast; spacepirates!AU.

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"Ugh, look at these numbers—Kal, where are you, tell me what I'm seeing is wrong!"

Kaldur'ahm glanced across the spilled-beer sticky table in the seedy little space bar that they called home, to stare unblinkingly at the fuming girl sitting opposite him. Raquel Ervin was glaring at him, the set of her mouth sharp and dark red against her dusky skin in the dim light.

"What is it?" he sighed.

"Look! Look at this, Kal! Just look!" she snarled, and shoved a slim blue light screen at him. He caught it out of long habit—Raquel was always throwing things at his head, all the Gods couldn't stop her when she wanted to do something—and squinted down at it.

The numbers scrolled.

"I don't see a problem, Rocket," Kaldur said.

"Oh? Really?" Raquel said. Her eyeball was twitching. This was not a good sign, Kaldur thought. "Really? Because I do! I see we're missing about a ten thousand credits. Ten thousand credits, Kal. That is a lot of credits!"

"Wally needed an upgrade," he said.

"He's not a machine!"

"I never said he was," Kaldur said. He spoke slow and reassuringly, to keep her from raising her voice any more than she already had. Already, the other patrons of the bar were looking over and raising their eyebrows at Raquel's outburst.

"Then why am I missing ten thousand credits, pray tell? We have bills to pay, remember? If we want to still have a home? A place to sleep? We need those credits, Kal!"

Kaldur could see that this was going nowhere good.

He slid into the booth next to her, and slipped an arm around her slim shoulders. For a minute, she went tense all over as she tried to hold onto her anger, but it didn't last. She slumped into his side as the fury drained out of her; but that was how Raquel worked: she got mad fast, and forgave even faster as she burned the rage off.

"We'll have to take another job," she sighed, and rubbed her hand down her face. "Or maybe three—ugh, I know his jets needed an upgrade, but…"

Kaldur knew that she was trying to wipe away the exhaustion and the frustration. He pressed his thumb hard into her shoulder, pressed down hard into the knotted muscles.

She melted utterly. "You're the best."

"So I've been told," Kaldur said.

They sat there for a while, and watched as everyone got steadily drunker as the night went on. Neither of their partners where anywhere to be found; knowing Wally, he was probably showing off for the girls down at one of SPEED's more sketchy tracks, and Dick… well, no one knew where Dick was even on a good cycle.

The old jukebox in the corner crooned a long lost tune from a different century, crackled up and rent through with synth that sounded just a note or two off. Kaldur listened as Raquel hummed along to it, the quiet murmur of tongue like electric, eyes like a child falling from her lips to merge with the chatter of the room, 'til it was a swell of noise that crested like a stellar wave and broke over their heads with all the grace of an in-system dinghy.

The snap of goggles against skin had the pair of them looking up to see Wallace West posturing in front of them. He burst in flushed, an orange-and-black windswept blur in ugly clothes.

"Dig it, guys, these implants are shway!"

Kaldur and Raquel looked at each other. She spoke for the both of them. "You need to stop picking up weird words from those chicks. They'll rip you apart, Wally."

"Awww, but Rocket, they think I'm cute!"

"I'm sure they do," Raquel said. "As long as you move fast."

"I do move fast," Wally said. His leered down at her, same as he always did. "Want me to prove it?"

Kaldur could already see where this was going—

smack!

Yeah, that was where it always went. Raquel's kinetic bubbles bounced against Wally's skull, cheerfully unconcerned with the pain they were causing him. Well, at least she hadn't punched him out this time.

Wally was a kind of nightmare to work with when he was bruised.

"Flash, stand down," Kaldur ordered. He was not above pulling rank when his old friend got out of hand, especially when Raquel was concerned. She was the one who kept their finances in some semblance of order, and kept the jobs coming in—it never did well to get her upset.

Wally grumbled, but assented. He slid in on Kaldur's other side, and blinked around. "Hey, anyone seen the kid?"

"I am not a kid," Dick said, and dropped silently from the ceiling to Raquel's side. "So what now?"

No one was even surprised. The old vinyl cracked a little under their combined weight, three men and one woman and a table's worth of electrical paraphernalia. The jukebox still sang her war songs in the corner.

And then the waitress came.

"Whadda'ya want?" she snapped gum as pink as her hair.

Raquel wanted sour, Dick wanted sweet, Wally wanted some period, and Kaldur asked for water. The bot cheeped at them, credit slot open.

The lady did the honours.

After the waitress had wandered off, cashbot bobbing along behind her, Raquel turned and looked at Wally. "I have a bone to pick with you."

"Yeah, yeah, I know. No glove, no love—"

"Do you ever think about anything other than sex?"

"Is this a trick question?" Wally asked.

"Oh my god, Wally, I don't even—ugh, you know what, I don't care what you do with your dick as long as you keep it away from me. Just stop spending credits, we're poor enough as it is!"

"You make me sound diseased," he said, petulant. "I'm not diseased!"

"And I'm not interested, anyway. Give it up. The point is, either stuff your wallet up your ass, or I will do it for you. Geddit?"

Wally gulped. "Yes, ma'am."

"Good," Raquel said. She ran a hand through the dark, spiky mass of her hair—the tiny LED implants along her ears sparked up and shone wetly with the movement. "I'll see what I can do about the boss—god, we're so behind on out payments—"

"We'll be fine, Rocket," Dick said. "We always are, remember?"

"…I am not going to answer that, because if I do, I might start screaming," Raquel said.

Kaldur kicked him beneath the table for good measure. Dick made a pained sound, went full-throttle kicked-puppy on them all. He tried for a hug.

Raquel shoved him out of the booth, and felt absolutely no remorse.

Kaldur couldn't actually remember why he liked these people. There was something about them that made him think family, but a lot of the time he just thought morons when they came to mind. The sky outside was the colour of lead, and the sunset filtered in through the grimy little portholes darker purple-grey than it ought to have been.

An elbow in his ribs brought him back to the present.

"Drinks are here, Kal—are you hungry?"

"Not really," he said.

"Good," Wally grinned widely. He'd gotten back up, scrunched onto the seat at Dick's side. "I'll eat your share!"

"Go ahead, you're still growing. You need it," Kaldur said.

(There was not a single trance of irony, here.)

"So are you," Raquel said, lips pursing.

Kaldur drained the cup of clear iced water that was set in front of him, then stood and stretched. His muscles pulled and click-click-clicked as the hydraulic-manipulation implants in his shoulders shifted to accommodate the change in muscle-stasis. Bionic bot eyes followed him, he could tell.

"I should get back to the ship," he said. "Move, Robin."

Dick scarpered.

Wally grinned widely again. "Don't worry, we'll take care of Rocket!"

"Oh, no, no way am I staying here alone. I'm coming with you," Raquel said. Her nails clattered against the tabletop as she gathered all her work up—they were painted an iridescent purple, this week. She boxed it all up with a flick of her wrist, and then she was standing at his side, grinning out of the corner of her mouth.

"So, we gonna go?" she asked.

"Yes," Kaldur said. He looked down at Wally—Dick had disappeared up into the rafters again, and he was pulling that spooky-shit echoey giggle that worked out so nicely when they were raiding ships out in the middle of deep space, but when they were at home just got tiresome.

"Don't break anything, please. Keep your head," he said, as though this would really stop Wally from doing exactly as he pleased.

Wally grinned around a mouthful of greasy bar slop.

"You're disgusting," Raquel said. She was honestly almost impressed that he could pull something like that, but then, this was Wally. No one ought to have been surprised when he did things, but they all had the grace to wince at him.

"Why, thank you, my dear!" he said around a mouthful of food.

"At least you know how to swallow," she smirked, and then looked at Kaldur. "Ready?"

He inclined his head just enough for an acknowledgement.

She slipped an arm around his waist, cold metal at her wrists against thin black fabric, and smirked over her shoulder. "Stay out of trouble, boys!"

And without further ado, Raquel dragged Kaldur out of the bar, body and electronics and all.

They made out like thieves in the night, skipping silently through the hangar across the way. It was nice to be planet-side; it was such a rare occurrence in their line of work that it was tempting to slack off, and maybe let things go for a little while.

But they couldn't do that.

Tula wouldn't stand for it.

Lovely little ship that she was, she wouldn't stand for it at all. She hung in the dock, a thin warbling flute note among the crash of cymbals and sweet heavy jazz instruments of the other ships. They all loved her, all of them, and they'd let no one touch her thrusters or her controls or her biomass. She was the team's diamond girl, the one thing they would never sell.

Raquel touched her shimmering hull after she'd stripped down to an old once-white tank top and grease-stained pants that had been Kaldur's, once.

"So, girl," she said, smiling. "Ready for another round?"

A girl rolled off a dirty bed, hit the floor with a solid thud.

"Owwww, motherfuck—"

"Language, Artemis."

She looked up, already reaching for the plasma knife under the mattress. Long habit, honestly. "What the hell are you even doing here?"

"I have a job for you."

"No," she said. "I already told you that we're done."

"You might like this one."

"No," the girl said. She tossed long blonde hair out of her face. "I said we're done. I mean it."

The man chuckled. "Oh, I'll just leave this here, then. Give you time to… look it over. You know the number, if you want it."

"Get out!"

She shoved him out, and closed the door over his laughter.

"I hate him," she said aloud. "I hate him, I hate him. I hate him! And as for this—ugh, who cares?"

She knocked the manila folder he'd left on the desk off, and watched furiously as pictures scattered all over the floor. She sat on her bed for a moment, fuming. She should have stabbed him—should have knocked him on his face, taught him a lesson; something.

She didn't belong to anyone but herself, anymore.

Artemis looked over the mess for just a little while longer.

She couldn't stand messes.

Her eyes focused on the pages—gods, this was so old school, were these people ever going to learn—and widened just a fraction. That was big number. That was a really big number. She picked them up, brought them to her nose to make sure she wasn't seeing things.

Wow, no, definitely a really big number.

That would be enough to get her—it would put her—she'd be—

No.

She wasn't supposed to be—doing this anymore.

She was supposed to be better.

But this wasn't killing, and this wasn't anything really terrible—she'd be taking the target to somewhere else, just transport…

Artemis hissed, and picked up the phone.

It only rang once.

"Hello, girlie."

"How do you always know it's me?"

"You're the only one with this number."

"Ugh. Whatever. Look, I'll do it. But this is the end, okay? This is it. I do this, we both get paid, and then I never see you again, alright? After this, you have to leave me alone."

He chuckled again. Artemis felt slimy all over.

"Excellent," he said. "Then I will send you the details in the morning."

Artemis didn't say goodbye.

She just threw the phone across the room and slumped back down against her bed. She could do worst, as a last job. And it would be enough to get her a transport out of the galaxy and maybe to a quiet planet on the fringes of the Empire, where that asshole and his ilk found nothing interesting to get their

Artemis ran her hands through her hair, and decided she'd try to get some sleep.

After all, it was the only thing she could do, right now.

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tbc.