Ce qui embellit le désert, dit le petit prince, c'est qu'il cache un puits quelque part...
("What makes the desert beautiful," says the little prince, "is that somewhere it hides a well.")
Lunikkh ta'avik. Poisoner of wells. She had called him that, the day he had finally tasted the triumph of having her in his power, the day his knife had cut into her supple skin just as the machine had torn away that veneer of logic. He had wondered, like a curious child wonders about a sleeping Volcano or a seemingly inactive power socket, what might happen if one of the tasteless, bland creatures were forced to feel. And like a cruel child he had begun to tear the feathers off his pretty captured bird, shattered its wings, cracked its frail bones one by one.
Poisoner of wells. An ancient incentive, none a follower of Surak would use in their right mind, for it implied more than mere hatred for an enemy. Hate and fury, passions that could change as quickly as the Vulcan heart beat, and the foe you battled so cheerfully today might be your ally tomorrow. But the poisoner could not be forgiven, would be despised and shunned, not even granted the sword but forced to drink of the water that would be his death. Drink, to the very last, bitter drop.
Itsak was beginning to taste the bitterness of a victory won at too great a price.
Anger he had expected, arrogance and in the end, fear and despair. Had reveled in the thought of the aristocratic face wet with tears, to hear that level, melodious voice falter as she begged for her life. And had been stunned by the sheer heat of her fury. Amazed, and at long last, impressed. Enchanted.
But it had not resurfaced, only sunk as if to the bottom of the mountain, simmering in the impenetrable depth. No, he was no longer expecting to break that stubborn will, to ever hear those sensual lips utter a plea. Too many times had he been on the brink of taking that last, irrevocable step, snap the slender neck under his hand, drive the sharp blade into her side. Every time her eyes had dared him to do it, every time that proud face had lifted to defy him, no matter what he had done to her.
She was sleeping, sleeping at last. Unable to deny a beaten, battered body driven to exhaustion the rest it needed any longer, she had stretched out under the silks and it was the one, the only time he ever saw the lithe, slender body devoid of tension. Even her face was different, softer, but distant. So distant, he wanted to reach out and cup it in his hands, demand to see what it was that could bring about this expression, demand that she look at him this way
He dared not stir, not even to reach out and pull the shimmering silk over her bare shoulder, outlined in dim silver against the starlight that filtered through the window. So close, he could feel the heat radiating off her skin like the desert soil breathes warmth long after night has fallen. But he knew the lightest touch would be enough to wake her, make the dreamy, almost tender shadow over her face disappear.
In the utter silence of his quarters, Itsak clenched his hand into a fist. The desire to pull her close, make that warm, supple body mold against him, bury his face against the neck marred by his own knife it was overwhelming, and it was futile. Oh, she would not fight, scratch, bite. She never did.
Only locked herself somewhere deep, defying him with a body that did not resist and still refused to yield. Refused to give but a second of what he had realized he wanted.
I know what you want
A voice as silk and velvet, melancholy, almost gentle were it not for the steel beneath. She had told him, that first day, even as his blade cut lines of emerald over her steadily moving chest.
And what is it I want, Vulcan?
She had known, even before he did, and denied him ever since. What he hadn't done to see at least the fury again, hear her curse his name, something, anything that told him he held sway over even the tiniest part of her soul, could hurt her, make her feel, feel anything.
If only she would fight, snarl, throw things at him, destroy his quarters and dig those pearly teeth into his hands, kick with all the surprising strength in those long runner's legs he could laugh and shout back, struggle and argue, revel in the heat of her anger and seek a million ways to soothe it. One part, only one part of her soul that was locked away in a fortress nothing could breach, and if it was the one that hated him. He yearned for it as a man dying in the desert prays for water.
A human speaking of the thin line between love and hate will only be met by calm, uncomprehending gazes on Vulcan. For to those born under Nevasa's merciless light, the metaphor is severely lacking in accuracy. There is no line. There is a gulf, a canyon, an ocean, too wide to cross in anyone's lifetime. No, if anything, they are one and the same. Not even sisters, or twins, but threads so entangled and interwoven none can separate them without destroying both.
When one points out the seeming contradiction, it will likely be met with more puzzlement.
Vulcans have always loved their enemies, though not precisely in the way a gentle man who walked a distant planet, a different desert, had suggested. But with the fierce, untamable enthusiasm of one roused to feel one's own heart beating, drink the air as if it were life itself. How can you not love the one who makes your blood run faster, makes you taste the sweetness of fury, lets you be alive what does it matter who dies, who lives to hate and love another day? There is no contradiction in mourning a hated enemy. Nor in love that kills.
Your sire was negligent, Vaek'Riov.
I will not debate that, lady Vulcan. But you did not merely say that to raise my ire and make me kill you. Because you know I won't. Not yet.
Never his name. Not once had she said it, not even in anger.
Outside the window a Warbird gracefully tipped over one wing, a silent dance in the eternal night. Once he had believed it would soothe the unceasing pain, the sharp blade tearing at his heart to defy them all, become by struggle and merit that which others had thrown at their feet from birth. But it hadn't. Oh, there was a sweetness to power, a satisfaction to staring at those who looked down their noses at the half breed with the knowledge they would not dare speak disrespectfully in his presence. Or at least, not do so and expect to live.
But at the end of the day, there was always the emptiness, the unfulfilled promise. The cold, hollow void that nothing could fill, until in the end there was only the spark of hatred left to keep a living, beating heart from freezing. Until you turned to that hate and vengeance like one turns to a flame at night, cold and lonely in the dark. Until every flame became hate, had to be hate, for nothing else had ever kept you warm. But one thing about staring into the fire too long is that it can make you blind to other light.
Shiarrael. Everything he could have ever desired, she had been given and thrown it away, with both hands. Not thrown, hurtled, kicked, dashed, shattered. Stubborn, infuriating, ungrateful, selfish Shiarrael. He had nearly convinced himself she deserved his hatred as much, if not more than anyone else. Then why was it that in his mind he kept seeing the innocent infant with eyes like his own, dozing peacefully in her mother's arms; the willful, indomitable child that made him laugh against his will, defended him so angrily against his grandfather; even the defiant, angry creature drenched and bloodied after one of her illegal Kormerek matches and could not hold on to the hate, felt it slip away like mist before the sun.
Even her. Shiarrael's Vulcan. Twice the despicable creature, born of a race that reveled in their perceived superiority, cast away all feeling and believed it gave them the right to treat others as if they were just as heartless. A fool could see the finely chiseled features of a noble born, the perfect, elegant mannerisms of one raised to more than play lapdog to a disgraced Rihanha commanding a pitiful excuse for a starship. And yet it was obvious she had done just that, run away just like her Commander, selfishly abandoning her heritage to do as she pleased.
No. I want my OWN life. You don't understand!
Because I am half Vulcan?
No- not because of that- it's because you've never been imprisoned by expectation!
Expectation? I envy that Shiarrael
Two birds, fleeing what they perceived as cages, seeing the kindred spirit in the other? Or merely two stubborn creatures out to bend the universe itself to their will, arrogant and never caring about the hurt they left in their wake? Itsak was no longer sure he knew.
The scent he remembered so well was clinging to her again, warm, exotic, whispering of cloudless skies and air so clear, so sharp it cuts like a blade. Shadows, deep and rich as velvet, and a hidden spring in the hills, sweet and clear rose petals, floating on the surface. He could see it, felt as if he had but to reach out to trace the thorny little flower clinging to life among the rocks and sand, the rich, vibrant blossom like a memory, only he had never set foot on the dry, inhospitable planet where this rose grew, and it was not his hand reaching into the water. Nor hers, or his father's.
He obviously failed to convey even the fundamental aspects of your heritage.
Without him even noticing, his fist had opened and he was letting his fingertips graze over the mass of sable curls, the luxuriant abundance spilling over the pillow, the silks. Shimmering black against the pale aquamarine, bathed in starlight. He didn't reach for the finely tapered ear, the smooth temples, the graceful curve of her spine disappearing under the fine spun cover.
Asleep. Still asleep. But it seemed as if he were the one dreaming.
A smile. Oh so fleeting, he might as well have imagined it. With her face turned away, towards the star dotted darkness, it was easy to believe in a trick of light but he was sure. Sure that for an instant he had seen the face she had showed her lover, the Vulcan he had slain or had he?
Once more Itsak resisted the impulse to grab her, shake her, force her to tell him, let him see what was hidden at the bottom of the well, beneath the barrier of those luminous black eyes. Break the magical moment, the stolen time, the silence. Dare one last desperate assault at the fortress of her heart, her soul, the secret hidden away from prying eyes.
And then he nearly laughed, low and bitter, his fist buried in the fragrant tresses.
She would not surrender. Like the flower after the storm, again and again she rose and turned her eyes to the sun. It had sealed his defeat. And if only for one heartbeat he believed she would forgive, Itsak would lay his sword at her feet like the warlords in the old stories and await death or life. Either would be welcome.
Poisoner of wells. By his own hand, the water that could have been redemption, deliverance, hope had turned bitter and foul.
Nothing but vengeance, and even that flame had turned to ashes.
The shriek of the comm rang so loudly into the silence, he cursed and his head snapped up, but his piercing gaze only found empty air to bore into "Fvah'lla!"
Hanaj's smooth, unperturbed voice answered, with barely a hint of smug satisfaction "The test was successful, Rekkhai. We are ready to depart within the hour."
"Good. I will be there shortly."
One hour, and even this fleeting dream would be no more.
Not that it had ever been more than a dream.
Dark, dark eyes settled on him and he could not even summon the razor sharp smile of triumph, take pleasure in telling her it was her world which would die soon. Only one last flame was burning, one pitiful glimmer in the dark, and he turned to it with relentless determination. "It was not him, was it. The thaessu. I should have known."
No answer, only that unnaturally silent gaze, fierce like the sun beating down on a dead, empty desert. He grabbed her by the neck, pinned her onto the bed, murderous fury in his eyes. "Who!"
And if he had to search Charon himself, every deck, every corridor, every dark hideout, he would find and kill him. Kill the rival who had been freely given what he was denied, but not before he had made him suffer, told him in excruciating detail what he had done to his lovely prize, and would yet do.
For the first time in what had seemed forever, she spoke, and it was only to return the words he had given her once. "Have no fear, Vaek'Riov."
Amazing, even now her musical voice was still the same, rich and resonant, water and velvet, the low, deep ringing of a bronze gong. "He will let you know."