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"The Tiger of Khan"

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@lebreau_liafador:

"I think we see the day quite differently. Yes, the rollercoaster wasn't Ideal, but I got a kiss and a boyfriend. And while the river excursion also wasn't Ideal. I got another kiss so. I consider it a win."

There was no shortage of charm whenever Chance freed her words from their chamber. She was kind, sweet and clever, and even with all the cosmic might running in his veins, the 9th Wonder could do nothing but bask in the daylight she cast. Wrapping his steel arms around her waist, Orion hugged her from behind and gentled the rear of her neck with a kiss, a spark of ecstasy surging down her spine as his lips smoldered against her skin.

"When you put it that way, I'm compelled to agree".

Smiling, Orion broke away, pulling her hand back into the enticing heat of his grasp. Within moments, a man sprinted into view, panting as he returned Chance's purse before darting off. Yet as they strolled towards a restaurant sitting a few minutes away, the 9th Wonder's attention was soon drawn elsewhere - to the polished emerald of Chance's gaze. Holding his words, Orion listened as Chance gave voice to the thoughts brewing in her mind and the feelings leaping out her heart.

A glint silver and amusement danced in his eyes, and his lips curved with a comforting warmth, "Chance, it's okay. Just relax. You don't have to explain yourself to me. Now come on, let's get you something to eat".

Tucking an arm around her waist, his touch bloomed into her soul, weaving it with his until the world stood still on its axis and neither time nor sound dared disturb their peace. Leading her to into the Smokehouse, the 9th Wonder eased her into an outdoor table, sliding into a seat by her right till his thigh grazed hers.

"This'll sound weird but... it can't be any weirder than dating a guy who flies around in a cape and hadn't been to an amusement park until today", he laughed, "But I've never actually you know... eaten anything, well except for ice cream which my younger sister, Tassi, is obsessed with. She likes sharing", Orion shrugged, "But I've never eaten anything else because I don't technically need food. So I have no idea what I should be getting here, and I almost don't want to just choose something off the menu because I might choose something gross that might encourage you to reevaluate how you feel about me".

Joking as a chuckle breezed out his chest, the 9th Wonder grinned, "But make no mistakes, if the two of us ever have to choose the best ice cream to get, prepare for shock and awe. But right now", he paused, eyeing a waiter approaching with two menus, "I'll need you to help me out with what I should pick".

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@lebreau_liafador:

Be it a product of his superhuman senses or a boon from the strength of his newborn connection with Chance, Orion could hear it in her voice - a grain of frustration hidden beneath the sea of emotions flowing within her. Those who sought to protect her had decided - without her input - what was right for her. She was no child, but a hero-in-training. Yet as his mind raced into a library rich in memories, his thoughts cycled through all the dangers he'd encountered in his journey through the cosmos, and he understood.

He understood why those who treasured her made those decisions on her behalf. But he also understood her. So as Chance's touch found his thigh, the 9th Wonder held her gaze, running his hand over hers, and interlocking their fingers like sunlight blooming through the heavens.

"Caring about someone, it's a funny thing", he smiled, his voice a summer breeze, "It compels us to protect and help the people that are dear to us. And sometimes we overstep, we forget that the very people we're trying to protect have agency, that they're not children who need to have things decided for them. But sometimes we can't help it, we just want to keep our loved ones safe, so sometimes... we overstep. But also remember that although some people might overstep, it's out of compassion. So I think those of us who overstep need to be mindful of not making our loved ones feel like children, but at the same time, you need to understand - and I'm sure you do - that when people do these things, it's only out of love".

"So it's important to meet people halfway. Understand where they're coming from, just as they should understand where you're coming from".

Slowly, bangs of light slanted in from the cracks, caressing both his and Chance's faces, and as his eyes melted into hers, so too did her lips into his - until the raft tipped over, abandoned by its balance. The water engulfed them, but as they both arose from the shallow stream, Orion surrendered to the gust of laughter escaping him.

"OH! I. Am. So. Sorry"

"Chance", his smile blossomed, curving deeper and truer as he shook his head, his stride wading through the water, "Shut up". Their skin and clothes wet, their raft flipped on its head as it drifted down the stream, Orion hardly cared, for a tender moment that just won't wait had come.

Easing towards her, the 9th Wonder whisked her into his touch. Tucking an arm around her waist, Orion held her close, curling his fingers around the rear of her neck as the water thinned the fabric of their clothes enough for her to feel all of him, for her feminine curves to soften against his smoldering muscle. Gently, he pulled her forward, finding her lips with his own as his touch breathed his warmth down her spine. Kissing her with an aching need, the 9th Wonder led her lips in a dance, grazing them in perfect sync and suckling tenderly.

Parting her lips open, he shoved his tongue against hers, rolling and curling with it in a heated battle to melt her core as a burst of desire and emotion swarmed through them to warm the water soaking through her clothes, to heat the skin chilled by their wet clothes. Deepening the kiss, holding her till he felt her chest rise and fall against his, the 9th Wonder slowly gentled her lips and pulled away, scooping her into his arms in a stroke spontaneous and certain.

"I know you hate heights, so this'll be a very low glide, I promise".

Carrying her out the tunnel, Orion hovered an inch above the rushing stream until the Sun's inescapable gaze welcomed them back with a burst of daylight, "Between that and the roller coaster, I'd say we've had enough rides for one day", Orion joked, carrying her back to the walkways, "Anyway, taking into account the training, the traveling to a different universe and two out of three rides not going too well, I'd say you have to be a little hungry by now. So let's get you something to eat before I take you back home".

Setting her back on her feet, the 9th Wonder's eyes briefly flashed a subtle light, drying their damp clothes in a heartbeat before he took her hand and led the way to the nearest restaurant.

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@lebreau_liafador:

A velvet darkness wrapped around them, and their ride drifted into a slow glide. It was peaceful, intimate, but the quiet air was soon broken by the well of emotion flooding out Chance's heart. She stirred in his arms, a soft spark in the gentle heat of his touch as Orion smiled through the words - and question - floating to his ears.

"So, I guess this should be obvious to me, but I have to ask. Are we like together...?"

"Well Chance, I didn't kiss you because I want to be your very best friend", he joked, "So yes, we are together. It's weird, I know. We met only two hours ago. But, so what? I've known people who were patient with what they felt for one another, and it didn't last. My father and your aunt come to mind. But I also know of people who listened to what their hearts said within seconds, and they're still going strong".

"The point I'm making is that I'm not scared of this, and I have no doubts about this. I promise you, I'm not showing off when I say this, but my brain processes thought at a superhuman rate, and I ran through hundreds of scenarios for you and I in the past two hours".

"This - us - might go wrong more often than it'll go well. But I'm not afraid of what might go wrong if there's even the slightest chance - no pun intended - of you and I being right".

Meeting Chance's eyes, the 9th Wonder's voice echoed into her ears, goldening her soul as his heart surrendered to the tranquil waters of the feelings blooming within, "Of course, you could make everything I just said really awkward by telling me you'd rather just be friends, in which case, good day to you citizen". Smiling as a chuckle escaped his lips, Orion sought to ease her fears, "The ride's not too bad. Better than stargazing on the moon. But I'm sure you have things of your own that you want to get off your chest, so, I'm all ears".

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@lebreau_liafador:

Under the cool gaze of a midday Sun, Orion felt the seconds ease into a slow march as a whisper from fate itself promised his heart to hers, and hers to his. Chance's words floated to his ears, and the 9th Wonder answered her with a smile, a curve of the lips that extended into her soul, chasing it - her - like a dream as his eyes warmed into hers with a promise. That he would be all that he could for her, that he would walk her through hell on their way to heaven, and that he would be there, on Earth.

"You're a sweetheart, Chance. And this is just one of many experiences I wanna have with you. Because just as this is a perpetual memory for you, this is a perpetual feeling for me".

"Here's the million-dollar question, what happens next?"

Although Chance's voice billowed through the air, it faded beneath the tide of sound rising out the swarm of people stepping around them to enter the ride. Steering his gaze towards the crowd thickening around them, Orion passed his eyes over every face as the polished silver of his gaze glinted with amusement. Returning his attention to Chance, Orion lifted his hands to her face, cupping it as his thumbs grazed her cheeks, her skin the land, and his touch a sunset.

"I wanted to surprise you when I'd ask you out on a second date but", his smile warmed, "There's no better time than now. I'm going to be living here, Chance. My father wants me to take over as 'Thee Champion' on Earth. So I'll be here, with you".

"I told you that tonk fool looked like Thee Champion!", rang out amongst the crowd.

Shaking his head as a chuckle gusted out his chest, Orion pulled Chance aside, allowing the crowd to file into the ride undisturbed.

"Don't get me wrong, I'd have kissed you in front of all of them, but I didn't wanna trigger your anxiety by making you the center of attention more than I already had. But", he smiled, taking her face in his hands, "Now you're the center of my attention, so". Inching closer, Orion held her gaze, his eyes silvering the emerald in her own with a deep stare. Leaning forward, his presence warmed the air around her, and his lips captured hers, pulling her into a heated kiss. And as his lips embraced hers, he felt the passion, the warmth, and the desire bloom out of him and into her. Pressing his chest into hers, his heart thumped in tune with the one beneath her breast, deepening their embrace.

Slowly, his right hand slid towards the rear of her neck, and his fingertips burned with a yearning - a want - he'd never known he had until Chance waded into his life. Gently urging her mouth open with his teeth, Orion nipped at her bottom lip and dipped his tongue inside her mouth, interlacing his body with hers. Fighting her tongue with his own, he chased it, flicked it, curled with it until he felt her knees cave. Smiling against hers lips, the 9th Wonder broke away from their kiss with a final one on her forehead.

"This'll be our thing. A date every Friday after you teach the girls and we train", he proposed, taking her hand and encouraging her to follow him back to the line, "Come on, we still have this ride to try out".

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@lebreau_liafador:

Together, Orion and Chance walked hand-in-hand, her touch as soft as her heart and as open as her soul. Weaving past a sea of people that thickened by the minute, the 9th Wonder listened as she walked him through the jagged forest that was the Liafador clan.

"We're all complicated in our own way", Orion reminded, noting the chaos that had ravaged the stability in Chance's life till nary a sliver of it remained. And as it had before, the stir of emotions in the Liafador's chest thrashed against her heart. Instead of a mask of strength faux and feeble, Chance wore her heart on her sleeves. He imagined then, how often her clamoring heart had been answered by a sigh, a rejecting and lazy regret rather than an ear - a warm soul to listen to the symphony of her beating heart.

So, the 9th Wonder listened, flicking his eyes to hers for a glance, for a smile that curved into the sea of emotions flowing within her.

"Sounds like our families are both a little... complicated".

But as his voice echoed off the cobblestone floor, it faded behind the crackle of Chance's emotionally charged question. Taking her hands in his, Orion met her eyes and chuckled, his laughter a jeweled sound polished by a soul steeped in honesty.

"Why do I like you? What separates you from every other woman I've come across? Well Chance, I can't say you didn't catch me off-guard with that, but... it's like asking someone why their favorite color is blue. What separates it from every other color other than that it's blue and the other colors aren't? You're you and no one else is. That's why", Orion continued, "Liking you isn't a reasoned, conscious choice I made. It's something I was and am compelled to do. So maybe there isn't why, or maybe there are too many whys".

"But I like how you pulled Maya out of her shell, that you taught me something about her that I would've never seen. I like that you called me out for asking you out indirectly instead of directly. I like that you're both bold enough to be a hero but also kind of like a baby bird. Which tells me there's a lot of compassion in your heart. A lot of courage. You're charming, cute, kind. I can't tell you exactly why I like you, only that I do. Just as I can't tell you how to respond, because you're your own person, only you know how you'd respond, and I don't know your heart that well yet".

"But I intend to".

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The roller coaster, the heights it had reached, the twists it had turned into, it was one thrill too many for Chance. Where excitement should've bloomed as inner sunshine to brighten her eyes and soul, anxiety sparked and crackled till Chance could take no more, grabbing Orion by the arm and dragging him to the nearest bench. The breathless heaving of her chest, the unconscious trembling of her foot, the 9th Wonder saw it all, and as the words - a confession, an appeal to comfort, a question about his family - escaped Chance's lips, Orion answered her with an embrace.

Wrapping an arm around her, his touch was morning light, and her soul the blue it warmed into a sky of radiant gold. Guiding Chance's head towards his chest, resting her ear against the soothing thrum of his heart, Orion ran his fingers through her hair, playing with it, grazing her scalp with strokes long and soft, his touch repainting the colors of comfort that had been faded by fear. And as the sounds of people moving to and fro dulled around them, the glow of Orion's heart shone through his voice.

"I'm sorry, Chance".

And for a moment, Orion said little else, comforting Chance in his divine warmth while his voice echoed off the very air.

"I just wanted to have fun with you, but I should've asked if you were okay with roller coasters... and flying", he smiled, his lips easing into a curve soft and kind, "I like you, Chance. We just met, I know that, but for whatever reason, I do. And the last thing I want is to scare you off, so thank goodness you grabbed my arm and dragged me away from that ride with you. And if I'm being honest, it wasn't really that fun", and how could it be, for an alien demigod who'd witnessed cosmic thrills unseen by the mortal eye?

"But the fun I did have was being with you there. Anyway, to answer your question, I have... a lot of siblings. So, there's Tassi and Maya whom you've already met. There's Catalina, you know her. There's Leo, although I'm not sure you two have met, he's...", a chuckle flowed out his chest, "Something. A warrior-king in another galaxy. Then there are my siblings that have no Liafador connection. The first is Achilles, he's a hero here on Earth, goes by 8th Wonder like I go by 9th Wonder because you know, you need a prototype before you get it right", he joked, "I'm kidding, of course. He's wonderful. Probably my best friend".

"After him there's... we're just so many, but you asked for this so you're getting it. There's Pandora, a sister of mine. She's a bit of a wildcard but her heart's in the right place. Then there's Caelus, my brother, a bit of a weirdo, half well-meaning and half-jerk. Another brother of mine is Hypnos, sweet guy, quiet. After him, there's Bia, my sister. Very proud and very headstrong. And after her I have two other siblings who are polar opposites, Pallas and Aurora. Pallas is a wild, carefree guy, and Aurora is serious, calm and fiercely intelligent. Not that Pallas is dumb, he's just... not smart? That didn't come out the way I wanted it to".

"Anyway, what about your family? Because I don't really know much about the Liafadors despite my father's previous marriage to one. Oh, and you pick the next ride", he smiled.

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One after another, the children riding around the bumper car track crashed into him like a stormy wave. And as his car smashed into the corner wall, Orion flicked his eyes ahead to sight the charming mind that had orchestrated his defeat. Answering her blown kiss with the summer glow of his smile, the 9th Wonder climbed out his bumper car as the ride drew to a halt. Gliding across the track, Orion inched towards Chance as a breeze of amusement escaped his lips.

"Let's go", he paused, taking her hand in his, guiding her out her bumper car as he echoed a tease, "I can carry you to the next ride, you know so you don't pass out like you almost did at your place".

Entwining their fingers as he had before, the 9th Wonder led Chance through the dense crowd, flicking his eyes from ride to ride as the weight of one too many options sat in his mind, "There're a lot of rides to choose from. And while I never answered your question about whether or not I feel fear", the corners of his lips twitched, rising with a playful curl as his gaze settled on a sign that drew his attention.

Dragon's Fury.

"The next ride looks like it might ask you the same question".

From afar, Orion followed the dizzying twists and turns as Dragon's Fury - a maddening roller coaster - dipped, dove and whirled along its steel track. Screams of fear and cries of thrill stormed through the air, and a smile flashed across the 9th Wonder's face as he led Chance towards the ride's entrance, "Can't be worse than flying, and if it is", he shrugged, his smile a sunrise blossoming into her soul, "You'll be with me. Come on".

Within a moment's notice, Orion and Chance were swept from the entrance into the amusement park's most daring roller coaster. Seated by the Liafador's right, the 9th Wonder felt a tide of excitement rise in his heart as Dragon's Fury made its steady climb to the peak of the railroad track. Time ticked away, and after a second more, the ride awoke, thundering into a spinning dive as the air raced past them.

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"You don't seem like the type to tire easily, well I do"

Chance's words floated to his ears, and the warmth of delight swarmed over his heart. Following her past the detector, Orion smiled, his sunset charm made all the richer by the golden arc of his lips.

"Well", a glint bold and playful danced in his eyes, "A man who tires easily is a man who is no fun at all". Yet as the molten bass of his voice warmed the air, the 9th Wonder's attention soon swept to a name that drew a wrinkle of amusement in his mind - Tuk Tuk Turmoil. Again and again, his thoughts uttered the name and it echoed off the walls of his mind. It was fun, the name. Fun to say, and in all his time across the cosmos, he'd never experienced anything like it, a name that was fun to say. This, he imagined, was a glimpse of that human charm his father had told him about, as if Chance herself already wasn't.

"Tuk Tuk Turmoil", Orion chuckled, "Kind of fun to say".

Wading through tides of people, Orion entwined his fingers with Chance's, and the spark between his touch and hers stunned his heart into a leap. Glancing at her, Orion held her in his gaze for no longer than a second before a golden feeling stirred in his chest and a silent laugh escaped his lips. Returning his eyes to the path ahead, the 9th Wonder tried to make sense of what Chance was saying. Driving into each other at high speeds? Thoughts of danger flashed into his mind, but as he sighted the miniature cars ramming into one another, his concerns vanished and his smile returned with a tease.

"No mercy huh? And here I thought you liked me".

While Chance dashed away, Orion strolled towards the nearest bumper car. Calmly easing into its seat, Orion wrapped his hands around the steering wheel and nary a second later, his car was rocked by Chance ramming into it. His bumper car slid across the floor, and Orion found Chance's eyes with a grin small but amused.

"You're a bit of a honey badger aren't you?", he teased, driving off to weave past the other cars, building up momentum before sighting Chance again and thundering into her car with his own, "I hope you won't tire out too quickly. Catch me if you can".

Driving off, the 9th Wonder bumped into others as his mind drifted to what else Chance would show him before dragging his attention back to ramming his car into hers.

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@lebreau_liafador:

Ms. Aensland. The name echoed off the walls of Orion's mind, drawing from his memory an image - real or imagined - of Earth's mightiest hero, one heralded even by Thee Champion himself. Surely she wasn't Chance's roommate, was she? Yet as the Liafador met eyes with the 9th Wonder, all thoughts of Abigail and his father ceased, vanishing from his mind as Chance's awkward charm held the totality of his attention.

"I like you too", he smiled, and his silver eyes then were a moment, entangling her soul in a gaze striking and magnetic, "I'd say take your time but I don't wanna run the risk of giving your roommate enough time to find out that there's a strange man in her home".

While Chance darted off, Orion swept his eyes across the air, taking corners of the city far and wide into his sight. It was strange, being in a mortal city. He'd grown so accustomed to living in a city forged from divine crystals, one that glowed in the heart of an alien cosmos, that to be here in London, to hear the sounds of a bustling city, the cars, the people, everything, to feel not like a knight in an order of warriors cut from the same cosmic cloth, but to feel like part of a community, an ecosystem, was oddly grounding.

He need only grow accustomed to the smell.

"I-I'm ready..."

Soon, Chance's heaving lungs disturbed his focus, and the 9th Wonder dragged his sight back to meet eyes with his date. He could see her chest straining to draw air into its chamber, so as he eased to her side, a harmless tease floated out his smiling lips.

"For me or to pass out?". A cool laugh breezed out his chest, and that charming arc returned to his smile.

"You look great. Come here".

Inching towards her, Orion gently swept Chance off her feet, carrying her in his arms as his touch encouraged her body to melt into his, to ease the tension out her every muscle and cast it into the ether, "We're flying there".

Gently leaping into the air, the 9th Wonder climbed up the clouds at a steady pace, "You're with me, it'll be alright". His divine warmth wrapped around Chance's body, shielding her from the cold breath of the sky as they soared over London. Below them, the city was a canvas, its people the finest of brushstrokes moving from street to street. While Chance steered him towards Chessington World of Adventures, Orion draped them in the nurturing warmth of the Sun's light.

"This'll be my first time at an amusement park, so I'll follow your lead as you show me the best rides".

Sighting the greenery and attractions rising ahead, Orion eased into a slow descent, landing at the amusement park's entrance as a thought flashed into his mind.

Right, Earth currency.

Dipping a hand into his pockets, the 9th Wonder pad the feeble entrance fee for both he and Chance before pulling her hand into his familiar grasp, "Once we're inside, you're the boss", he teased.

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Eyes glued to the smile flashing across Chance's face, Orion felt the air warm from her light. And as the seconds flowed with the tide of time, Chance's words echoed off the crystalline roses glinting into existence, and the 9th Wonder matched her smile with his own.

"Alright, I'll only be a moment", he nodded, sweeping his eyes across Flora, his silver gaze tunneling through the fragrant air until it had found Maya, "Maya, a little help?".

Within a moment's notice, his plea was heard, and his body was engulfed in a pillar of light. Slowly, the glow dimmed and his sapphire cape and scarlet battlesuit were no more, replaced by a polo shirt of soft yellow and jeans of light blue. They hugged his herculean brawn well, and as Orion returned his gaze to Chance, the 9th Wonder found the off-world Liafador pondering how the wonders of a mortal world could charm an alien demigod who had traversed the cosmos.

"Well", Orion chuckled, a subtle twitch of bold charm tugging at the corners of his mouth, "What if I told you I cared less about having a good time on Earth than I do having a good time with you?". In his years as a knight of the cosmos, Orion had convinced himself that he was satisfied - at peace - with the responsibility and duty thrust upon him. But being trapped between his own ideals and his father's expectations had robbed him of much. He was a hero, and he always would be.

But as he stood within an inch of Chance, he was a person too, and her words had left his heart aglow with a desire - a wish - that he'd never acknowledged before.

Freedom.

"Also, aren't you in the least worried about what your dad will say? I am a Liafador after all."

"Yeah and he fathered two kids with one, one of whom you'll be teaching. So not much room for his opinion". Shrugging, his eyes ablaze with confidence, Orion reached out to pull Chance's hand into his grasp. His warmth seeped into her very being, comforting her without the echo of words, melting her palm into his as though it had only ever belonged there.

"Chance, relax. It'll be okay", Orion smiled, "We'll have fun. Come on, let's head back to Earth so you can change", he paused, a portal spiraling open before them, its rim sparking with spacetime sorcery, "Or would you rather have Maya use her powers to help you instead? Actually, never mind that, Earth it is".

Leading her into the portal, both demigod and mortal plunged through the border between universes before quickly emerging in Chance's London abode.