I hugged my knees to my chest, keeping my eyes on Raiou as he went about his business. It hadnÕt been a quarter-hour since heÕd carried me aboard this small sport-skimmer. I was grateful for the speed – it cut through the rolling waves enough that I hardly felt them – but scared. How long before I was brought before the Captain General? And how long before I had to face Jareth? Neither were happy thoughts. My pulse still thrummed in my ears from the bolts of pain that had become so bad I could not help but scream and still worsened until I could no longer, and the light civilian clothing I was wearing did nothing to stop my shaking. Raiou sat down on the other side of the small chamber, crossing his arms as he watched me. We held each otherÕs eyes for a long moment. My head was starting to clear enough to think more than scattered, quick thoughts, and I mulled over RaiouÕs presence darkly. He had been a good friend, before we had split. But he had made clear that his loyalty was with the State, no matter how many horrible things they did. No matter how many right things they didnÕt do. As soon as I had collected myself enough to hear him, Raiou had arrested me, reciting those exact same words I had so many times. I hadnÕt wanted to hear them, I knew them, and he knew that, but he made me listen anyways. Protocol. I was about sick of the State controlling my life. Raiou hadnÕt moved yet, and I couldnÕt read his dark eyes. And he had my glove, so I couldnÕt even guess his emotions. I clenched my left hand, feeling the skin of my fingers touch, feeling bare. He had my Com too, but I could live without that; I depended on my glove. That was your brother, eh?Ó I nodded, surprised that he had spoken; Evret had made everyone else on the ferry get as far away as possible, but he hadnÕt left the room. I hadnÕt been conscious enough to know if anything had gone between him and Raiou, but if it had, it wouldnÕt have been kind. He didnÕt seem to be doing much for you.Ó I shook my head fiercely, even though it made head spin. He knew there was nothing he could do. He knew before it started.Ó I shivered slightly. He knew?Ó I nodded. He knows more about us than we do, itÕs what he studied.Ó Raiou sighed and stood up, starting towards the cockpit. Raiou?Ó I called, my voice shaking weakly. He turned, and I looked at the bench next to me and then back at him, closing my eyes as my focus shifted. He gave me an unreadable, quiet smile, and came over, sliding next to me with his trademark easy grace, but there was something uncertain, almost shy about it. We sat, almost touching, in silence. His nearness calmed me a little. I wanted to move closer, but didnÕt; I needed physical comfort, but if this was the best I was allowing myself. Evara, youÕre shaking.Ó It was the first time he had called me by my first name that trip. I shrugged and he started to stand, but I touched his arm. He looked down at me with that unreadable half-smile and took my hand. IÕll only be a moment, Mimic.Ó He squeezed my hand before dropping it, and I pulled in on myself again. When the State was done with me, would I still be called that? Raiou left into the cockpit, returning with a large, light-blue blanket. With one knee on the bench, he placed the blanket around me, and I leaned in to his shoulder. I was unsure how he would react to that, but he put his arms around me. Come here,Ó he breathed, with that seductive confidence I remembered so well from the Academy. I needed no further invitation. ~*~ RaiouÕs heartbeat was louder than my own in my ears, strong and steady like the rest of him while mine still raced and fluttered. Still cold?Ó I shook my head and snuggled into his chest, feeling the grip of his arms tighten around my waist. Just a little shaken.Ó He sighed. I wonÕt let them hurt you.Ó I pulled myself up so my face was just above his, and I could feel his breath. I know,Ó I whispered, and kissed him gently. And it struck me that, even without my glove, even with all he had done against me and my cause, I wholly trusted him in this. Shan and the boys wonÕt like me, will they?Ó it really wasnÕt a question, so I answered him with another kiss, which he reciprocated eagerly, that odd hesitation gone from his eyes. I giggled, nuzzling his shoulder. TheyÕll get over it.Ó They better.Ó Mm?Ó I looked into his brown eyes, and he smiled warmly but with a hint of mischief before reaching up to kiss me again. LetÕs not worry about them right now.Ó Fair.Ó It seemed we had an agreement, but that said nothing about what would happen once we reached the capitol. I asked Raiou, and he told me not to worry, but I squirmed until I could lay my head down over his heart, which, though it was beating more quickly than it had been, was still more steady than mine. Kitten,Ó he crooned, stroking my short hair, you worry too much.Ó IÕm scared.Ó DonÕt be. You can worry later. Forget about it for now.Ó I knew what he was saying. Despite his seeming confidence, things could still go wrong and we might not be this close for some time. How long?Ó Two hours. I can slow us down a little to make it three.Ó I nodded and rolled off of him, twisting so I can down on my feet, still wrapped in the blanket. Raiou stood and put his arms around me, hugging me tightly. I had grown since the last time we had seen each other, but he was still a full head taller. I followed him into the cockpit, and he stood over the control board, programming in a slower speed and slightly different route. Headquarters would know the moment he did this, though. Could HQ change it back?Ó No, but someone higher could.Ó He read my anxiety. WeÕll know if they do. Besides, I doubt they will.Ó He traced one of the scars on my temple, and I shivered at the contact. Of course. We were constantly monitored for hormones and chemicals. And something told me that right now I was being watched very closely. LetÕs go back,Ó I mumbled, leaning into him. Fair.Ó As he took my hand and led me into the main chamber of the small boat, I thought about Jareth. I didnÕt think Raiou would do what he had, but then, I hadnÕt thought that of Jareth when we were together. Raiou sat back down and pulled me towards him. Just curious,Ó he whispered, a little nervous, how far were you planning on taking this?Ó He knew about Jareth, had been part of my shield from him after what had happened. And even though I was dead scared of it happening again, I wasnÕt going to let that fear keep me from what I wanted now. How far do you want to take it?Ó He smiled as if that was exactly what he wanted to hear – which I do not doubt – and pulled me in close.
September 1, 2007