Wings of Equity
Click on image to enlarge.
by Sean Kennedy
Category: Erotica/Gay-Lesbian Erotica/Romance
Description: The truth is that those who make a difference usually get martyred. What good are you dead? Ezra Kneebone is most at home in the skies, piloting his airship with his best friend Jazz, even if it doesn't quite pay the bills or warm Ezra's empty bed. Those same skies are also the territory of a man known as Icarus, who uses his metal wings to steal from the rich and feed the poor. Icarus and Ezra could be soul mates but for one thing: Icarus has a bounty on his head, and Ezra is desperate for money. Against the wishes of Jazz and her partner, the formidable Lady Bart, Ezra is determined to get his man... in more ways than one. But when Icarus saves Ezra's life, Ezra realizes he would be betraying a hero--and his heart--if he turned Icarus in. Unfortunately, the bounty is tempting more than one hunter, and Ezra will find that loving a fugitive may mean becoming one too.
eBook Publisher: Dreamspinner Press/Dreamspinner Press, 2010 2010
eBookwise Release Date: August 2010
6 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [324 KB]
Reading time: 206-288 min.
From the age of six, Ezra Kneebone knew he was meant to live his life in the skies. All it had taken was one visit with his parents to a special skyshow put on by the local council, in which the newest and oldest of all manner of aircraft were on display both on the ground and above the clouds.
He remembered being placed upon his father's shoulders, as if those extra inches of height would enable him to reach up and touch the bellies of the craft as they flew overhead.
"I don't know why anybody would want to go up in one of those things," his mother had said, shivering at just the thought of it.
"I don't know," Ezra's father had said. "It could be fun. What do you think, Ezra?"
And Ezra had looked back up at the vehicles that seemed to promise the same freedom offered to the birds that until this time had been denied to man. What person wouldn't want to be able to take to the skies, with all the promise of that everlasting expanse? Even at his young age, Ezra could understand that feeling, even if he couldn't put it into words with such eloquence.
"If I go up there," he told his parents, "I won't ever come down."
* * * *
* * * *
* * * *
The sky was empty.
Ezra Kneebone sighed to himself and tapped his goggles. The sound of gears clicking into place as the goggles refocused bounced off the walls of the canyon, even though you could imagine they would sound insignificant in such a vast landscape.
There wasn't even a cloud to observe. All you could see was the brown of the mountains and the dirt of the desert floor, and the blue of the sky. In this climate, snow didn't even fall on the peaks to break up the monotony of color. Still, Ezra loved it. It was all he had ever known, and all he really wished to know.
But today brought a momentary pique. Frustrated, he pulled his goggles up and against his hair. The sun was bright, and he squinted against its onslaught. Jumping from the rock on which he was perched, he lifted his sleeve and spoke into the leather wrist cuff beneath it. "Jazille, can you hear me?"
"I'm not hard of hearing, Kneebone," came the crisp reply. "And my, you're being formal. Are you ready?"
"Can't see a thing. Have you picked up anything on the sensors?"
"A flock of pigeons, and nothing more. I think we're chasing ghosts."
Ezra chuckled. "Wouldn't be any stranger than chasing a man that can fly."
"I can fly," Jazz replied, her voice crackling with static. "It's just that I need a craft under me."
"True enough. But our man has wings."
"Just another bit of machinery, if you ask me. He's not that special."
Ezra looked around, but couldn't see any sign of her or their ship. "Are you going to talk my ear off all day, or are you going to come and get me?"
"You always have your knickers in a twist. I'm right here."
He felt and heard the rush of wind and the roar of the engines before he actually sighted her. Cutting through the air, billowing steam behind it, the dirigible buffeted the airstream as if it were being tossed upon waves. The mechanics that kept it afloat screamed at the strain upon them, but Ezra knew that Jazz had everything in control. He felt safer in her hands in the air than he did on his own two feet on land.
Their dirigible was a lot smaller than the other ones around. Ezra had designed it himself, with Jazz's mechanical expertise aiding him in being able to downsize the engine and therefore the size of the ship. It allowed them to move faster, and had also paved the way for the idea of airships being adapted for personal rather than commercial use. As Ezra had said, "I have never really wanted to get into the business of shipping and delivering, but get me in the air so I can get where I'm going faster than anybody else. Who won't want that?"
They had christened her the Lilliput. Being a prototype, they still had ongoing problems with her performance, but this proved to be anything but a deterrent for their plans of eventually building a fleet. Jazz, as well as being an exceptional pilot, was one of the best mechanics around.
He could see her now through the cockpit window, the sun bouncing off the material of the balloon and reflecting from her goggles. She was choosing to fly with the windows down today, so her bright red hair was tied back into a utilitarian ponytail, and her face wore its customary frown as she controlled the flight of the dirigible from her console.
"I'm not landing," she instructed him, still over the comm system. "You're coming in the hard way."
"Just the way I like it."
"Grow up, Kneebone."
He watched her pop the hatch of the cockpit and activate a pulley that released a rope hanging from the top of the balloon. With one hand on the console, she swung the rope over to him and he caught it on their first attempt as the Lilliput drew level with the top of the cliff to allow him easier access.
Without even pausing, he launched himself off the cliff top and swung across the impossibly deep chasm below. He misjudged the height and did a full body slam against the window of the cockpit. Jazz shook her head at him as he scrambled to find the footholds punched into the metal frame. He released the rope as he crossed over the curved dome of the roof and jumped into the pit.
"That was all class," Jazz said dryly.
Ezra slammed the hatch shut and pulled the lever to close the windows; now it was a lot more quiet inside the dirigible than out. "Next time, you land."
"It wasn't your best entrance."
He gave her a cheeky grin. "Now, how would you know what my best entrance is?"
Jazz fixed him with a long-suffering expression. She had heard it all before. "Your crass bravado isn't necessary with me anymore, Kneebone. Save it for the men you're trying to bed when you next go to Whiskeytown."
"It's not fair that you judge me for my shenanigans in Whiskeytown," he said, falling into the seat beside her. "We all can't be as lucky as you in finding true love."
"You're not going to find true love in Whiskeytown," she said coolly. "But you will find something much more permanent and even more painful."
"They have powders for that now," Ezra said with a laugh.
Jazz watched the ground drop even further beneath them as they headed for deeper skies. "You should buy a crate then, the amount you'll need. Plus, it may be cheaper in bulk."
Ezra tapped his foot against the console. "How do you know so much about Whiskeytown, anyway, Jazz?"
She slapped his knee. "Stop that. And I've heard the stories you've told me when you've had a bit too much to drink."
"Aah." He nodded. "A loose tongue that should have been put to much better purpose, I guess."
She dropped the height of the Lilliput suddenly, and Ezra was jerked out of his seat. He was hit by the floor, rather than him hitting the floor, when she made them regain it just as quickly.
"Sorry," she said with no compassion behind her tone. "Were you not wearing your restraint?"
From his position on the floor, Ezra scowled at her. "Just get us back home."
"Aye, Captain." She chuckled to herself, and to be kind, made sure the return trip was the smoothest she could offer.
* * * *
Flying back into Shrevesport was always a tricky business. The city skyline lay in a perpetual shadow from the hundreds of airships that populated it. Many of them remained in the skies, and crew and passengers would have to embark and disembark from the roofs of the buildings; others found fields and bought vacant blocks of land upon which they could be tethered down and secured. The Lilliput didn't have that problem due to its unique size; Jazz loved to flirt with danger by zipping dangerously close between the larger ships, finding new alleys of sky and air to travel through where no other ship could follow. Returning home was her favorite part of any job, as she got to put her flying skills to a true test of endurance and stamina. As did Ezra's nerves.
He breathed a silent, thankful sigh as Jazz finally guided the Lilliput into its usual berth, and he left her to do the usual system checks as he made his way down to their office.
Well, he called it an office, but it was a sorry excuse for one. Especially when it also served as house and home for him. The ramshackle building was in a less salubrious part of Shrevesport, not that far from Whiskeytown. As part of the industrial district, it was always noisy, smelly, and busy. It was also where they hoped to set up a new premises for the launch of their own line of ships, if that part of their business ever got off the ground--no pun intended.
A pole near the office door had a "Wanted" poster thumbtacked to it. Ezra scowled at the crudely drawn likeness of Icarus and tore it down before anybody else got the fool idea to go after him. Icarus was to be his and Jazz's bounty, and the reward money their riches--riches that would get their patent and the means to further develop their prototypes for a whole slew of Lilliputs to take to the air.
"You still haven't found him yet?"
Ezra closed his eyes briefly and counted to five before turning around.
The sumptuously dressed Thomas Harding stood resting upon his silver-tipped cane, a cheroot smoldering between his lips. His lascivious smirk traveled over every inch of Ezra's body, and he puffed even harder at his cigarette.
"Neither have you," Ezra countered, his natural dislike of the other man impossible to hide. "If you had, it would be all over town already."
"That it would," Harding replied. "Everybody loves a hero."
"Our definitions of 'hero' differ," Ezra replied. "As would most peoples' when it comes to yours."
"Jealousy's a curse, Ezra Kneebone."
Ezra was tired, and this was the last thing he wanted to be dealing with. "Is there a reason you've landed on my doorstep?"
"Don't be like that. We're old friends." It went unspoken, but he insinuated with a glint in his eye that once upon a time they were more.
"One drunken night I regret more than anything else in my life does not mean we're friends," Ezra replied bluntly.
Harding dropped the innuendo and grinned. "Come, it wasn't that bad."
Ezra imagined pushing the dandy into the gutter, where the refuse of the city slid by in a disgusting sludge. Somehow, it wouldn't be punishment enough. "What is it you want, Harding?"
"You heading into Whiskeytown?"
Ezra stiffened. "And what business is that of yours?"
Harding leaned into him. "I'm telling you not to waste your money when I'm right here."
"Get knackered, Harding."
"Just a perfunctory deal."
"I'm not that desperate."
"Funny, I thought all regular visitors to Whiskeytown are."
Ezra snapped, and shoved at him. Harding stumbled, laughing all the way.
He could have done worse to him, but his link to the Lilliput squawked on his wrist cuff. "You at the office yet, Boss?"
Still looking at Harding, Ezra raised his wrist to his lips. "Just got here, Jazz."
"Had a sense you were in trouble."
Jazz and her senses. "Everything is fine."
He could tell she wasn't convinced. "Aye, Kneebone. I'll be there in ten."
"Saved by the little lady?" Harding grinned.
"That's to your benefit, not mine," Ezra spat.
"All that hate, such a waste. It would be better if it was directed elsewhere into other, more pleasurable, energies." Harding fondled his moustache lasciviously, mockingly.
Ezra's face darkened. "Never again."
Harding had the audacity to laugh in his face. He stroked the tip of his cane against Ezra's cheek. "You're not going to find Icarus, believe me. You cannot compete against my team and my resources. You and your little lady should just stop trying."
Ezra wrestled the cane away from him and threw it into the gutter, where it washed amongst the raw human waste and kitchen slops that flowed freely amongst the city streets. "Sorry about that. And word of warning, don't call Jazz the 'little lady' again. Once I'd finished with you, she would start all over again with you. And you'd be worse off in her hands."
Harding stared down at his half-submerged cane with disgust. "You may be right. Much as I hate to say it, she's the best mechanic in Shrevesport. If I could convince her to leave your sorry ass and work for me, I would."
"That'll never happen." It made Ezra proud as punch to know that was one thing Harding would never have over him. The man had never understood the concept of loyalty.
Harding pulled a handkerchief out of his vest pocket and gingerly picked the cane up. "This needs a cleaning."
"The river is not even a click away," Ezra said helpfully.
Before he could jump away, Harding reached over and wiped the cane against the bottom of Ezra's duster. "No need."
Ezra jumped for him, but Harding held out the reeking cane between them.
"Now, now. Your rudeness is appalling, Ezra. I was even going to cut you a deal, against my better judgment, and offer you the opportunity to pool our teams together and split the reward. Other ships have found it most profitable."
"We have no need for kindnesses such as those," Ezra said, his fists balling against his thighs. "Good day, Harding."
"Your loss," Harding sneered. Still holding the cane before him, he headed back up the docks. Jazz was coming from the opposite direction, and they shared looks of equal loathing with each other. She gave him a quick feint, which made him stumble slightly.
Ezra shook his head and unlocked the door to the office.
Jazz came up behind him as he was pushing open the door. "What did he want?"
"He came to offer us a job."
"And you better have refused. What is that god-almighty smell?"
"Of course I refused!"
She ignored him and began inspecting his clothes. "It's coming from you! You smell as if you took a dip in a cesspool...."
Her face screwed up, she tracked down the source to his coat and began to yank it off him. He protested, but she wouldn't listen to him. "Disgusting. Clean it immediately!"
He obeyed her, hating to do so but just as aware that his coat needed to be washed free from the foul substances smeared on it by Harding's cane. The coat was thrown into the double tub in one corner, and he yanked the chain that started the large beaters in the center as water poured in from a sluice in the window.
"While you're doing that--"
Jazille threw in a large bag of her own soiled clothing. "And don't even get funny about touching my unmentionables."
He should have known she would find a way to capitalize on his misfortune. "Your unmentionables are unmentionable to me."
She waved him off. "Now, tell me, honestly. You did refuse, yes?"
"I said so."
"Yes. But you often lie, like every other member of your sex."
"Thank you, Jazz."
She gave him a disconcerting smile. "You lie less often than others. That's why I can stomach you."
That statement was akin to her pledging eternal loyalty, and he was happy to take it.
She frowned. "What are you thinking about?"
Ezra dwelled upon the thought that had been plaguing him since he had seen Harding outside the office. "Why does a man, when he's had a turn at you, think he has something over you for all time?"
"You are really asking the wrong woman this."
Perhaps he was. Jazz might have shared his predilection for liking the same sex one was born as, but unlike himself, she was happily shacked up and her days of wandering were long over.
"I suppose so."
"It's too early in the morning for philosophizing," she said, yawning. "But never too early for beer."
"Don't you have to meet Lady Bart?"
"I can make time for a beer."
He appreciated her act of generosity. "No, go to the Lady."
"Are you going to be alright?"
She nodded at him. "Sure. But don't go to Whiskeytown."
Ezra didn't reply; he didn't want to lie to her.
Jazz stared him down. "Sometimes I don't know why I bother."
"Say hello to Lady Bart for me," Ezra called after her.
He could see her shake her head through the glass of the door as she disappeared into the crowds on the street.
* * * *
Whiskeytown was only a small zone in the city of Shrevesport, but it was notorious and its reputation was at least three times its size. Ezra knew he should stay away, but he had a burning need and it wasn't going to be satisfied by his hand alone. Whiskeytown was made for people who had no significant others in their life to take care of such things. It was also made for those whose basest desires did not conform to those of the social majority.
Ezra crossed into the small buffer that divided Whiskeytown from the better parts of town. A few stalls were manned within it, usually offering clean-up services or drinks for the customers before or after their pleasures were sated.
"Latest edition!" called out a printboy. "Icarus sighted in Waulkham Hills!"
This immediately captured Ezra's attention. "Here!"
The boy ran over, carrying a small wooden newslink. It projected a static-filled image of what looked like a strange bird taken from a long-distance lens. Ezra could immediately tell by the quality of the projection that the boy worked a cheap newslink, and he found himself feeling strangely sorry for him. It was probably why he was forced to work so close to Whiskeytown. The printboys within the Whiskeytown zone probably didn't even have the projector, just the news-stick that would feed the download into the customer's lek-book.
"You have your lek-book, sir?" the boy asked.
Ezra nodded, pulling it out from within his coat. It had seen better days. The wooden back was losing its varnish, and the brass buttons on the front needed a clean, for they were dulled by years of use.
The printboy pulled the newslink out of the projector and connected it to the lek-book, which began whirring in protest. "It's a large edition, sir," he explained. "But they're all getting like that. Maybe you should invest in a Lek-book '97."
"And I suppose you know where I could get one for a fair price?" Ezra asked with a grin.
"Just so happens, sir," the boy laughed.
"If you have access, why don't you have a spiffier version of the newslink?"
The boy's face fell slightly. "Got to make do with what one has."
Ezra felt sorry for showing him up, and paid double the price for the edition. This brought a smile back to the plucky printboy.
"Enjoy your time in Whiskeytown!"
Enjoy was a strange word to use. Even though Ezra wanted that human contact, even if he had to pay for it, there wasn't an enjoyment to it. It was perfunctory, not like doing the deed with someone you actually....
He shook his head. It was exhausting to be sentimental.
The lek-book chirruped as he searched for the newscast he had just bought. The rest of the news could go to the Dickens for the moment; all he cared about was the latest story on Icarus. He passed through the tube that served as some illusory filter for the rest of the world that didn't want to believe Whiskeytown existed, all the while reading.
Icarus was still on the lam. Womenfolk claimed to be in love with him, and who could blame them? Even though a close-up pictogram had never been taken of him, reports from those who had crossed his path described him as a Greek legend breathed into life. He apparently wore naught but brown, low-riding leather pants and the mechanical wings on his back, hence the not-that-original name coined for him by the press. Ezra reckoned that with such a costume, he must get pretty cold out in the desert at night. Unless he really was a god.
And Ezra knew there was no such thing. He hit the button on the lek-book that would cause it to go directly to that story the next time he fired it up and then put it away in his coat again. His nostrils flared at the sour smell that indicated he was truly in Whiskeytown again.
Another original name coined by the press, and this one had stuck. Whiskeytown was home to a number of distilleries, and where there was drink, there were lowlifes and the whores to service them. He could already see some, both male and female, lolling around in doorways along the main road. They perked up at his entrance, trying to get his attention.
He knew better than to go for the prettier ones. They were often flirting dangerously close to the age of consent, and in cahoots with older pimps who then stepped in to let the blackmailing process begin. Not that the workers that put their bodies out there ever saw much of it. Whores never became rich, no matter what dreams they first had when they went into the business.
One in particular caught his eye. He had dark tousled hair and equally dark eyes. His lips were full, as if they were used to doing the job Ezra had in mind for him. The young man nodded at him, Ezra nodded back, and their opening conversation was completed.
Ezra followed him into the house, and the whore led him upstairs. In a small room that was surprisingly clean, the transaction began.
"One or two?" he asked.
"One," Ezra replied.
"Are kisses extra?" Ezra asked, knowing they were.
"They're an extra two coins. Did you want to cuddle after?"
Ezra did, but it wasn't worth the extra cost. He would just feel emptier going home. "No."
The whore nodded. "Eight coins, all up."
"You better be good," Ezra muttered, digging for his wallet. He handed half the money over, and the boy accepted it. Both knew it was foolish to either give or receive the full amount before the act took place.
The whore shoved the coins in his back pocket, walked over to Ezra, and gave a perfectly adequate performance at desiring his kiss. Ezra allowed his arms to slip around the other man, holding him closely as their mouths worked together. He suppressed a moan as their tongues met, clashing with a hint of teeth. Maybe the lad was worth his price.
The whore pulled away. "What do you look like under that jacket?"
Ezra didn't want the bother of undressing. "Just concentrate on the important stuff."
The lad nodded and fell to his knees. His fingers deftly unbuttoned Ezra's pants and pulled his member out, already hard.
"That's a right pretty cock you have there, sir."
"I didn't pay for sweet talk," Ezra grunted.
The whore looked up at him with scornful, heavy-lidded eyes. "And I may be a whore, but it doesn't mean I have to be treated like one."
Ezra liked him. For a moment he allowed himself to imagine getting the young man off his knees, taking him back to the office and giving him a job aboard the Lilliput. And if it developed into something more between them, what of it? There were worse ways to find a partner, that was for sure.
It was a nice imagining, but a foolhardy one. The lad, even if he was getting screwed over by his pimp, could still make more than Ezra could ever offer.
He steeled himself, pulled a cigar out of his pocket, and lit it. "What's your name?"
The lad hesitated, his mouth open.
Ezra puffed impatiently on the cheroot. "Your real name."
It could be a lie, but he nodded. "Lee."
"Well, Lee, nice to meet you. But I want my cock sucked. You have nothing to fear from me, I ain't gonna backhand you or make you do something that goes beyond the realm of a normal bit of work for you. Maybe some more kissing afterwards. Is that okay?"
Lee, his lips plump and very kissable, nodded.
"Okay," Ezra said, satisfied. He leaned his head back against the wall and closed his eyes again as he felt Lee's warm mouth envelop his pecker.
Lee was good at his job. He played Ezra like a harmonica, and it wasn't that long before Ezra was flooding his mouth. Lee continued to pump him, sucking him dry. Ezra felt weak at the knees, but didn't want to show any frailty. It could just mean trouble later on if he required Lee's services at another time.
He was softening when he was finally released, and a slight popping sound issued as he fell out of Lee's lips. Lee deftly wiped his mouth clean with the back of his hand to remove any evidence that might have spilled, and began tucking Ezra back into his pants.
Ezra grabbed him by the shoulders and pulled him up. A momentary look of fear crossed Lee's face, but Ezra made it fade away by claiming his mouth in a kiss. Tasting himself on Lee's tongue, Ezra felt as if he had regained his own power. He released the other man and reached for his wallet again.
It was only four coins he owed him, but he gave him a five-piece. "Keep the change."
Lee nodded. "You look me up the next time you're here. I can do even more."
Ezra didn't doubt it, but he nodded. "Good day, Lee."
"Sir? Will you tell me your name?"
Ezra hesitated, but shook his head and turned to find the door. Once it was closed behind him, he checked his pockets to make sure his wallet, keys and lek-book were all accounted for. When he was satisfied that they were, he made his way back to the buffer zone.
And what he had anticipated was self-fulfilling. He felt miserable.
* * * *
Jazille opened her eyes to find the full glare of sunlight filling the room. "Dammit, how is a girl meant to get any sleep?"
There was a low chuckle from the other side of the room. "I'm sorry, my dear, but I cannot get dressed in the dark."
Jazz sat up against the headboard and gathered the blankets around herself. "Why get dressed at all? I haven't had enough of you yet, and it's not like you to be satisfied so early." She squinted to see Bart moving around her dresser, still deliciously naked. Her body was luminous within the sunlight, as if she were Venus emerging from the shell.
"You may have the day free to yourself, but unfortunately I do not."
Jazz sighed. "It is cruelness indeed that our days never seem to coincide."
"Perhaps you would be bored with me if they did," Bart said teasingly as she sat before her mirror.
"Bored with you? Never!" Jazz suddenly frowned. "Why? Would you be bored with me if it were so?"
"Of course not," Bart said, turning to look at her. The dark shadow between her legs was a marked contrast to her pale skin. Jazz longed to be within range of it once more. "Nothing would please me more."
"Then come back to bed."
Bart began rummaging among the dresser drawers. "Do not harangue me so, foul temptress!" she declared in her most faux Imperial accent.
"Foul?" Jazz asked. As Bart turned to face her once more, she pushed the blankets away and exposed herself to her lover. Bart stood, open-mouthed, deliciously shocked and pleased as she watched Jazz tease her.
Bart swallowed heavily. "My love, I have to go."
Mock pouting, Jazille threw the blankets back over herself. "Fine. Go, then."
"You don't know how much it pains me to leave you in such a state."
Bart pulled her underbust corset down from where it was hanging upon the Oriental screen that was meant to provide a modesty barrier. In front of Jazz, Lady Bart had no need for such modesty.
Jazz watched her pull the corset over her torso until it settled at the cusp of her breasts, and grimaced. "I don't know why you cage your beauties like that. They should be unfettered and wild."
Bart giggled. "My beauties? I suppose they are." She walked over to Jazille. "Unfortunately, they are too wild to be free."
"You mean, unlike mine." Jazz pulled the blankets tighter around herself.
"Yours are perfect," Lady Bart said honestly. "They bring me much pleasure. But you must admit, if you had such as mine, they would make your job a lot harder. Mine are needed for decoration; for distracting and teasing the buffoons I have to mix with in society. Anyway, you need to help me lace these up."
"I will do no such thing. It's barbarous. And anyway, all wild things should be free."
"Then I will have to call in Jessie, and you will have to go."
"Fine," Jazz huffed, not wanting to have the maid disturb their last moments of privacy. She scooted over on her knees to where Bart stood at the foot of the bed, provocatively dressed in nothing more than the unlaced corset. "I hate this thing you're putting on, but the rest of your clothes are nothing but the best fashion."
Bart braced herself against the post of the canopy bed, hanging on as Jazz showed no mercy pulling on the laces that dragged the metal and whalebone closer together. "You do know that you cage yours as well," she wheezed. "You just cage them in the clothes of a man."
"They don't gasp for breath as yours do. It's dangerous, the fashion of a woman."
Lady Bart laughed becomingly, then winced as Jazz savagely tugged at the stays, giving herself traction by digging one heel into the mattress. "Oh my dear Jazz, you are a card. Do you never want to dress like a lady?"
Jazz snorted and began tying the knots.
"Never to put on an elegant dress, rouge your cheeks, and paint your lips a wild color?"
Jazz released her, and gave her a swat on her lily-white bottom. "On board the Lilliput, an elegant dress would soon become a rag. Do you not like me for what I am?"
Bart rubbed at the affected area, a mischievous grin plastered on her face. "Of course I do, darling. You are unfettered and wild, and that's why I love you." She cupped Jazz's cheeks and kissed her tenderly. "But it doesn't mean I would not like to see you dressed properly once in a blue moon."
"Well, maybe one day I'll see you in pants and a vest."
"I think your day will come before mine," Lady Bart sighed, and walked back to her dresser.
Jazz began reaching for her own clothes from where she had tossed them on the floor. "I may surprise you one day."
"One can dream." Bart slid into her knickers, and Jazz regretted seeing even more flesh disappear beneath cloth. "Has Ezra gone to Whiskeytown again, do you think?"
"It is where he can always be found when there's money in his pocket." Jazz pulled on her pants, making sure her holster was secure, and reached for her shirt.
"Poor man. I think he is lonely."
"Kneebone?" Jazille snorted, most unladylike.
Bart looked up as she fastened her skirt over the bottom of the corset. "Yes, Jazz, men can get lonely. Even a man like Ezra Kneebone. Why do you think he goes to Whiskeytown so often? It isn't just to satisfy his carnal urges."
"No?" Jazille slammed her gun into her holster.
Bart buttoned a fitted jacket over the corset and began liberally powdering the gentle overfill of breast that swelled above the bust. "He craves the touch of another man, and he wants the company of a man. I think he would love you if either of you were inclined that way. But alas, you have no manly pipe between your legs."
Jazille reached behind herself and threw a pillow at her lover. "Stop!"
Bart watched the pillow fly past her. "You're not normally that bad a shot! My dear, Ezra is just a typical man. He wants to let someone into his heart, but he will not let them. It is harder for a man who loves other men to find a true mate. Any unmarried man is immediately suspect, whereas women just become pitied spinsters."
"Or widows," Jazz said without thinking.
A wave of darkness crossed over Lady Bart's face, but it was gone just as quick as it came. "Do not diminish my memories of Marcus. I loved him. Perhaps not in the full manner of a wife. Not in the way I love you. Even though in moments like this, I think you do not deserve it."
Lady Bart turned back to her mirror and began applying rouge to her cheeks. "Did you ask Ezra about the loan?"
"I already know the answer."
"So, what you mean is no, you didn't," Bart admonished her, their eyes meeting in the mirror.
"Why ask when I know I'll get my fool head bitten off for doing so?" Jazz pulled her hair back and tied it.
"Because you'll get your fool head bitten off by me for not doing so!" Freshly made-up and ready to face the rest of the day, Bart crossed the room to sit by Jazz. "You should wear your hair down. It becomes you."
"And I'll get my head torn from my body if I'm crawling around on the Lilliput in mid-flight and my hair gets caught in the engine or propellers, won't I?"
Bart stroked her hair gently. "I would hate to see that. Although it would make you quiet for a while."
Jazz harrumphed. "More like forever."
Bart reached for a black hat with a small white band, practically her only concession to color at the moment. "You don't really climb about on that blasted airship in flight, do you?"
"I'm the mechanic. Sometimes I have to."
"I thought you were the pilot?"
Jazz rolled her eyes. "I'm both."
"So, pray tell, what exactly does Ezra do?"
"Everything else," Jazille informed her, then pursed her lips. "Well, I mean to say, whatever is left over from everything else I do."
Lady Bart drew out her fan from a side pocket and smiled at Jazz coquettishly before hiding behind it. "Ask him about the loan, I implore you."
Jazz conceded grumpily, and was rewarded with a kiss before she was sent on her way.