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A Warrior's Family (Chapter Cover Art)

Chapter 10[]

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A Warrior's Family[]

Strip Poker Concludes[]

Klathandu System
Federated Suns
August 3029

Hap laid down his hand, "I have a full house. What do you have, Joker."

"Oh what do I have? Let's see." Joker started to slowly lay down his cards. He revealed a 10 of Fists, the Jack of Fists, and finally the Queen of Fists. He looked up at Anastasia, "I'll tell you what, Princess, you can see where this is going. I'll let you keep Hap's charm, because I'm hopeless romantic, if you don't make me reveal my cards. It's sort of one last gamble."

Anastasia smiled wolfishly, "Why would I do that?" she started revealing cards, "I have the King of Fists, and the Ace of Fists, and the Ace of Suns, and Ace of Eagles, and the Ace of Dragons. At best you have a flush, but I doubt you even have that."

Joker looked very annoyed as he revealed a 10 of Suns and a 3 of Dragons. Anastasia raked in her winnings. She gave Hap a sly grin as she put the 'Mech charm on, and flipped her hair over the chain. She shoved her bra in her coverall pocket. She carefully folded the paper as she grinned. She placed it in another pocket. She stood up and pointed at Joker, "And now you can't call me, Princess."

"And you can't call me Princess." She said to Erik

"I didn't sign any paper." He replied. "But I won't call you Princess to your face."

"And you-" She pointed at McFinnigan, "I actually work for you."

"Aye. You do." McFinnigan looked at Roweyna. "Is Anastasia the Princess that forgot who she was and had to find her family?"

"Aye. You read me that story when I was a lass." Roweyna answered.

"I like that name, child, why would I call you anything else?" McFinnigan said with a shrug.

"Thank you, Commander." Anastasia replied, and gave McFinnigan and hug and a kiss on the forehead.

"Roweyna you've always been really kind to me." Anastasia said as she gave Roweyna a hug.

"Aye. Thank you, Anastasia."

Anastasia turned to Hap and took a step, "And you Harold-" She laughed and fell into his lap.

Hap stood up carefully and supported Anastasia as they both got to their feet, "I think it's time you went to bed." As he spoke he looked over at McFinnigan who was gave him a slow and certain nod.

"Wait what about the money?" Anastasia said as she put her arm around his waist.

Roweyna opened up the metal lock box and starting exchanging the chips for C-Bills. Anastasia stuffed the bills in her coverall pocket with her bra. Roweyna gave Hap a crisp 100 C-bill note. He didn't stop to wonder how, but he was happy that he had kept half his money. Anstasia and Hap bid everyone a good night and he half dragged, half pulled Anastasia back to the birthing.

"Hap, when you said you were going to help me get rid of the call sign 'Princess' I didn't imagine this would be how we'd do it."

"Neither did I."

"Also I've never drank this much, or gambled. It's very excited."

"It can be." Hap replied

"You've been wanting to talk to me all day, we're alone now. What did you want to talk about?"

"Us, but not now. Not while you're drunk."

"What about us?" Anastasia said happily.

Hap sighed, he knew better, but he said, "I think we need to slow down."

"I think so too, you're almost dragging me. You're not trying to rush to some lonely part of the ship where you'll-"

"Definitely Not!" Hap interrupted, "I'm going to put you to bed, then get in my own, but that's what I mean. Our relationship needs to slow down."

"What are you talking about?" Anastasia asked

"I like you, a lot-"

Anastasia interrupted him, "I like you too, Harold. Listen, I've only been on a few dates, and those men had only one thing on their mind. You're not like that. You genuinely care about me."

"I do." Harold hadn't realized it, but he did feel he had a strange connection with her. "But I've only known you for three days."

"Right, but I've met men that wanted to make love on a first blind date."

"Anastasia, I'm trying to explain something. I was married once, I rushed into that relationship, we were married in weeks, but after a few months I learned we didn't really know each other, and had a lot of problems that we couldn't solve. I don't want to make the same mistake."

"You had a wife?"

"Yes. I had a wife and it seemed like we fought all the time."

"You want a better wife? I'll fight with you only half the time."

Hap looked at her in disbelief. "This is exactly-" Hap could see she was trying not to smile, "You're playing with me." He said.

She shrugged and smiled, "Maybe. You ever think about calling my bluff? You never did tonight."

Hap looked at her, trying to figure out what she meant since he knew she couldn't bluff, "You're a cocky little thing when you're drunk."

He put his arm around her and started half-leading, half carrying her again. She put her head on his shoulder as they walked the decks.

When he got her back to their berthing area, Anastasia looked up at him, "Let's play one more game."

"Anastasia, you're drunk, and you're feeling very self-confident. You should quit while you're ahead."

"No. I really want your blanket."

"You won my 'Mech charm, haven't you taken enough from me."

"If you're first wife didn't manage to take it from you-"

"Anastasia." Hap warned

"Where's your cards? Do you have some in your go-bag?" She excitedly interrupted him

Hap nodded as he opened his locker, reached into his bag and pulled out a deck of cards. Anastasia snatched the cards tried to shuffle, then she remembered she couldn't and passed them back to Hap. As he shuffled she said, "Okay. High card, If I win I get your blanket."

"What do I get?" Hap asked her

Anastasia frowned, she hadn't thought of that. She shook her head and smiled, "Just imagine the most wonderful thing that I could give you. But you don't have to say anything, because I'm going to win."

Hap held out the deck of cards to Anastasia and she took the top card. She flipped up the Jack of Suns. Hap took the next card and flipped it over to reveal the Queen of Suns.

Anastasia suddenly felt very sober, and a little sick. She let out an "Oh." And then after a moment, "So, what do I owe you?" She remembered her roommate talking about all the degrading things that her boyfriend would ask her to do or, worse, talk her into. Harold didn't seem like that sort of man, but he was right, they really didn't know each other.

Hap looked at his 'Mech charm for a moment. Her zipper was low and he could see the charm nestled between her breasts. He considered asking for it back, but he liked the idea that she had it. To ask her for any sexual favors was inconceivable, she was drunk, and he did want a relationship with her, and she was going to be in his lance. His ex-wife would have been offended that he was not trying to seduce her, of course she was also constantly trying to pick fights with him. This was all too complicated.

Hap raised his vision to look her in the eyes, "Let's talk tomorrow." Hap said, then added quietly, "I don't know what I want."

Anastasia felt relieved that he wasn't asking for something disgusting, but she had noticed he stared at her chest and the 'Mech charm. She wondered for a moment if he was thinking about asking for her charm or something else. She was starting to feel slightly nauseous.

Hap put his cards away and started to take off his coveralls. Anastasia turned around, and unzipped her coveralls and quickly put on her oversized nightshirt. As she pulled off her boots and stepped out of the coveralls she felt sick and dizzy. "Harold, I feel sick"

Hap grabbed her hand and pulled her into the bathroom. She managed to keep from vomiting until she was at the toilet. He held her hair as she regurgitated everything she had. After a few minutes Anastasia was sure she had nothing else to vomit. Hap gave her a cup of water and then walked her out to the lounge where she promptly collapsed onto the couch. He walked back to his wall locker and then went to the bar and poured her another cup of water and dropped a large tablet into the water cup. As the tab hit the water it immediately dissolved and bubbled. He made a second glass for himself.

"Drink this." He said offering her the glass. "It's an electrolyte vitamin tab. It won't make you sober, but if you can drink all this, and keep it down, you probably won't have too-bad of a headache tomorrow."

Anastasia nodded, and took a drink. It tasted salty and slightly fruity. She was sick, and dizzy, but it didn't make her feel worse. "It feels like the shuttle is pulling a hard starboard turn, under full thrust."

Hap nodded, "It's not. You're very drunk. I think the whiskey caught up with you" Hap sat next to her.

"I just want to lay down." Anastasia told Hap as she leaned on him.

"Keep drinking the vitamin water. It's the only way to avoid a nasty hangover. I also want to make sure you don't get sick again."

Anastasia took another drink and pulled Hap's arm over her. She was feeling cold, and sick, but she appreciated that Hap was taking care of her. "Why aren't you drunk?" Anastasia asked.

"I am, but I have about 40 kilograms on you, and I had seconds on dinner, and I've been doing this for a long time, like while I was at the Academy." Hap said "See I had friends, and there were parties. I can't quote doctrine, but I can keep you alive after a night of drinking with mercenaries."

Anastasia groaned, "NAIS needs to change their curriculum."

After a few minutes Joker came by. "Hey Hap, you got any of those vitamin tabs"?

"Yeah. In my go-bag. Grab my blanket too." Hap told him as poured himself a glass of water.

Joker never returned, but an hour later he walked into the head. After he went back to bed Hap nudged Anastasia and asked her if she needed to go. She immediately got up, and Hap waited for her. He saw she had only drank half the water so he finished it. Anastasia staggered out of the bathroom and Hap helped her get to her bed chamber, then went to use the head before climbing into bed himself.

Hap stretched out on his bed and thought about how badly his conversation with Anastasia had gone. "Hey Anastasia last time I ruined a relationship with a woman was because I just rushed into things with her." "Great Harold, I hear you, but let's rush into things anyways." Then there was every time she called him Harold and how his heart melted a little. He shook his head, they had to work on getting to know each other, and being lancemates. He tried to not think about holding her again.

He also realized if Joker heard about him having a drunk Anastasia that owed him some unspecified debt he would never hear the end of it. Of course, by being a good guy and treating Anastasia with some respect he managed not to have her get sick in his bed. Once more he haphazardly came out ahead.

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