Downtime in Las Vegas
Part Eight: Comrade in Arms
by Aggy

Erin rested her head on her arms, wondering what the hell had happened during the past few hours. Somehow she had went from the object of practical jokes to an active participant in Ton and Face’s verbal fencing matches. She was exhausted by their never-ending stream of banter. Exhausted and exhilarated.

There was a warm comfortable camaraderie between them that she had never experienced before. After Wes and Hobbie left her with her new assignments, Erin had feared that she would be seen as an intruder in a profound friendship, but she was instantly accepted and welcomed. She was treated as if she had always been a part of their lives.

Simply put, they were the most alluring men she had ever met. Wes and Hobbie were stunning and each had a certain charm that was compelling, but the practical jokes conflicted too much with her personality. But the two Wraiths were almost perfect matches for her…unusual…personality.

Usually, her strange sense of humor and curious outlook on the world kept her in perpetual conflict with the people around her. And now…now she was surrounded by beings that valued the very traits that had made her an outsider. Part of her was embarrassed by the way she thrived in their presence; fairly glowing as they acknowledged each jibe she made. But she didn’t care. She was enjoying herself too much to acknowledge what this ego boost said about her self-esteem.

Whatever the reason, Erin rarely felt so at ease with anyone, let alone people she had just met. But there was something familiar about the Wraiths that went beyond her multiple readings of Alliston’s books. Their personalities just seemed to mesh. That was the only way she could describe it. It felt like she had known Ton and Face for years.

But that kinship didn’t stop them from exhausting her with their wit, which made her grateful for this little respite. The flyboys had wandered off to grace others with their glorious presence. Erin raised her head a micrometer and noted that Ton was trying to dazzle Lisa with his superior intellect and seemed to be failing miserably. Face was dancing with Mirax while her husband; Corran glared vibroblades into the ex-actors back. Erin chuckled and considered taking a little nap until the boys decided to torment her again.

Not that I don’t enjoy their torture. They’re the first guys I’ve met that like the fact that I can be mouthy. She chuckled, thinking of the myriad of comments the word "mouthy" would have been thrown about if either one of the Wraiths could read her thoughts.

"Um…excuse me."

Slowly, Erin looked up, startled to see the dark-haired Wes had been spending the evening with standing by her table. How close they’ve been all night, I didn’t expect her to leave his side, let alone go mingle with the rest of the guests.

"Hello," Erin smiled, trying to put the woman as ease. Wes’ new attraction seemed as nervous as a droid surrounded by jawas. Wonder what Janson told her. That I have a temper worse than the Emperor’s? "Would you like to sit down?"

The woman gratefully took the chair that Erin gestured towards and settled herself nervously. Gods, she must think that I’m a barbarian. Suddenly, Erin had visions of herself running amok among the party with her face painted blue like something out of Braveheart.

Erin chuckled which caused her guest to smile shyly. "Um…God, I’m so rude. I’m Michelle Keets." The lanky young woman offered Erin her hand. "Call me Mike, if you like."

"Ok, Mike." Erin was startled by how the young woman beamed at the nickname. Even lower self-esteem than mine? Didn’t think that was possible. "Can you answer a question for me?"

"Sure," Michelle answered, running a hand through hair that Erin had at first was brown. Now, it looked almost black. A very startling contrast to the almost milky paleness of her skin. Up close, Mike was rather pretty in a lanky sort of way. And if her personality could withstand the outrageousness of Wes Janson, she must have a formidable will beneath her self-doubt.

A description that could fit me…

Erin pulled her thoughts away from her mental image of herself and to the question that had been niggling the back of her mind all night. "Why did you change pairings with me?"

Mike eyed her for a moment, considering her words. "Want some polite answer or the truth?"

"The truth. After all I’m now playing nursemaid for the pair you had been assigned. If they have any dark secrets I should know about…"

"Oh…no no no. Nothing like that," Mike blurted. "It was my fault. I couldn’t get over the fact that I was tour guide for…"

"For…" Erin encouraged.

"The Face." Mike looked decidedly uncomfortable by the admission. "He’s just so gorgeous. I couldn’t think straight whenever I was around him, let alone deal with the pair of them constantly bickering."

"They’re not bickering, it’s banter," Erin explained.

"I know," the tour guide sighed. "I just couldn’t wrap my mind around that style of wit. But Wes…" A dreamy look filled Michelle’s gray eyes. "Wes is…"

"Enraptured with you?" Erin asked, though she already knew the answer. The way Mike was watching Wes made her feelings quite obvious.

"I wouldn’t say enraptured," Michelle blushed.

"Come on, Michelle, Wes hasn’t pulled any stunts all night."

"Actually he has," the tour guide muttered, almost glaring at Wes.

Erin knew that glare and the emotions behind it quite well. "What’d he do?"

"Spiders in my soup."

The redhead stared at Michelle for a moment then began to laugh. "Did they look real?" Michelle gave a sullen nod. This one might be a comrade in arms. "I guess he’s the one who rescued them from my lingerie."

Mike looked shocked. "He put them in your panties?"

"Not while I was wearing them!"

"Oh good, ‘cause they would cause visible panty lines."

Erin stared at the women for a moment then began to laugh.

Michelle grinned. "So…How exactly are you planning to get even with the nerf?"

"Hadn’t thought about it actually."

Mike looked disappointed. "But you must have revenge."

Erin chuckled as she and Michelle began to plan. Yes, she it would seem that Erin truly had found a comrade in arms….

Continued in Part Nine