Dolly had kept her nose all but glued to the window for most of the flight, but now she shifted and fidgeted disconsolately in her seat, resting the back of her head against the glass as she turned to look at her travelling companion.

“There’s nothing to see now. Can’t even look at the sea now it’s dark.”

Ian cupped her chin and tapped her pouting lips with a chiding thumb. “What? Have we been married so long now that you can’t sit and look at me all day?”

Her eyes brightened as she snapped playfully at his hand. “I’ve never been on an aeroplane before…”

“Oh I see! And the same can’t be said of me, eh?” The Liverpudlian peered at her over the top of his ever-present sunglasses, then took his turn to sulk, folding his arms and ostentatiously sticking his nose into the air. Chuckling softly, Dolly traced the tattoo on his left arm with a fingertip, outlining the shape of the “D” emblazoned there. It was an oddly feminine tattoo, limned in soft flourishes and inked in a neon purple, incongruous with the man’s muscular build. It was her own mark, counterpart to his tag that etched her spine, linking them as firmly as the rings on their fingers.

With a soft, intent inhalation, she twisted around in her seat to place a kiss on his bicep. “Some things are worth doing more than once. Some things… and one person.”

“Mmm… Careful, love. It’s gonna be ten more hours until we land in England.” He looked from her to the man seated across the aisle, who was watching them with a disapproving sneer, then gently but firmly pushed her back into her own seat. Like a cat, she immediately wriggled around again to lay her head on his shoulder, this time in a manner far more chaste.

“It’s been so long since I’ve been there… Tell me again what it’ll be like in Liverpool?”

It was the fifth time she’d asked since they left New York and a long overdue honeymoon, but it was impossible for Ian to feel irritated with her, not when he longed for it just as much as she did. The story came easily to him, rooted in memories five years old, calls made and photographs taken far more recently.

“We’ve bought a nice house in Stanley Park where you can hear the cheering on a Saturday if the match is at home. It’s got three floors – plenty of space for Jacob and my folks to come to stay or…” He picked up Dolly’s hand from the armrest and held it between both of his, basking in the limpid gaze she shone up at him. “…For when we start our own family. There’s a garden for Gerrard to play in and they should be putting in a doggy door before we move in.”

She bit her lip, frowning slightly. He squeezed her hand gently. “What’s up?”

“What if someone tries to climb in through the doggy door?”

He laughed, tucking his chin down to plant a kiss on her forehead. “Then I’ll shoot him! But you don’t have to worry any more, Blue.” The eyes that earned her nickname were wide as they looked at him, trusting and believing every word he spoke. “It’s a safe area… Real safe, real quiet. No enforcers, no gunfights… The worst that will happen is that the Bish will get stuck in a queue of soccer moms taking their kids to school.”

“Mmm.” She leaned her cheek against his shoulder again. “It sounds perfect. Almost like a dream.”

“We’re not going to wake up, love.” He wrapped his arms around her as best the aeroplane seats would allow and held her like that for a long moment. “Now, why don’t you try to sleep until we get there? Your nose is going to wear a hole in the glass if you keep pressing it up against the window like that.”

She fidgeted again, crossing and uncrossing her legs, gripping the armrests hard enough for her knuckles to go white. “I… I tried… I can’t… The seat… when it leans back… and the lights and the air smells like bleach and the belt strapping me down and I try to relax but I can’t and…” Her voice cracked, eyes turning to him, wanting him to make things better, that mute appeal he could never refuse to answer.

He cut her off with a firm finger pressed against her lips. “Here…” He pushed up the armrest between their seats and patted his leg. “Would that be better?”

Bottom lip still trembling and unshed tears in her eyes, she nodded, fumbling to cast off the seat belt and turning around to lay across both seats with her head pillowed on his thigh. Ian shook out the blanket and gently spread it over the two of them, brushing one hand lightly through the gold silk of her hair before draping the blanket over her head. He shot a smirk at the man across the aisle as he reclined his seat, then reached up to turn off the overhead light.

“Gotta love first class.”

As the interior of the cabin slipped into shadow, Ian settled back in his seat and sighed, still smiling.


The following article was commissioned by CCP Games as an expansion of a in-game “scientific paper” I wrote documenting one alliance’s research into a cure for “The Vitoc Method,” a method of slavery which administers a deadly virus to a slave that requires a daily, addictive cure.

In the expanded paper, I did my utmost to capture the cultural flavor of the Minmatar Republic and their tribal approach to science. I also kept the science as believable as I could, which required some fairly deep research. Some “hand-waving” had to be employed as obviously, in the realm of science fiction, not everything will necessarily fit into explanations from modern science, and it was important that the piece remain consistent with pre-existing lore in the game.

Vitoxin – EVElopedia – The EVE Online Wiki.

While certain other aspects of this article and other pieces of work related to it are covered by NDA, CCP agreed that it would be impossible to disguise the fact that I had written it and said I could refer to it on my CV and portfolio.

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