The world does not end where the sorrowing moon walks on high and the silent stars look down in sadness.
F. W. Krummacher
He's asleep, finally. I had begun to think he wouldn't, but I can tell by his breathing that he's drifted off at last. I'm not a bit sleepy myself, and I need to think about what happened today... I don't sleep much, anyway, and I usually do my best thinking at night.
What happened this evening? Oh, I know what happened, the sequence of events and who said what and did what. But why did it happen? And how?
And what are we going to do in the morning?
He'll say, get married. He already did say it. And it's not like I want not to. But...
On the other hand, it's not like he has anyone else to turn to. And we do get along. I mean, now that I've realized romance is a fable men use to control us. Nothing like offering your whole self, everything you've earned and done and become, to some man and having him say, "Thanks, the sex was great, now run along and let me get back to my important life" to make you understand that.
I should have listened to Roxolana, all those yahrens ago. What I thought was cynicism was just clear-eyed vision. "Men don't marry us, dear," she said. "We're commodities. Oh, they may like their habits, they may like having someone who knows all their little quirks and turn-ons, someone they don't have to pretend to try for, but that's all it is. Don't mistake proprietariness and laziness for passion and love. If he wanted to marry you, he'd have bought out your contract so no other man could touch you and be all obsessive about your spare time... there's profit in that, if you can put up with it, but it's not love, either."
But I knew better... starry-eyed idiot that I was.
So this isn't love. But it's more than habit. It's friendship... we do get along. We like each other, and we can spend time together without driving each other up the nearest wall. I just don't know if that's enough for a lifetime.
Sheba... How could I have ever thought I liked her? Tonight it was suddenly all so clear, and all too late. I suppose she's happy now. I hope she at least makes him think he's happy. Starbuck won't be happy at all otherwise.
He shifts restlessly in his sleep. He has bad dreams... god, I could be bounded in a nutshell and count myself the king of infinite space were it not that I had bad dreams. A good classy quote is worth fifty cubits, easy... Not that this one's true, exactly. He'd go mad cooped up. But he does have bad dreams. Lots of people do, though for most of us they're fading, or gone. I reach out and stroke his shoulder, very gently, so as not to wake him. He's not a cuddler, not asleep; it's part of that 'cooped up' thing, I think. But after a moment he sighs and quiets.
Maybe it will be good for him, after all...
So, what happened this evening? Maybe if I go over it, I'll understand what to do.
We went to dinner. He won a lot of money yesterday and felt like spending some of it. He never hangs onto his money, he doesn't see the point. Expensive nectar, good food, a song from the musicians... when he's flush, he certainly shows you a good time. And it's not exactly a kick in the teeth when he's not, either... And best of all, of course, if you say Good-night to him at your door, he smiles and accepts it and goes away. And still calls again.
What an idiot that man is, to have all this his for the asking and never ask...
So we were eating that sinfully decadent dessert with the nectar and the chocolate when Sheba and her friends came in. I was glad we were on dessert; she's enough to put him off his food, though he tries so hard to hide it. Talking carefully loud enough that we could hear her, she started in about her evening out with Apollo the night before, all coy and "I could if I would". She all but pinned her name tag to him. She made it sound like they were just waiting for his father's blessing... When she started in on how good a kisser he was, I saw Starbuck swallow. So, I reached out and put my hand on his.
She's her father's daughter, I suppose. Not much ever got past him, either, and, though it took me long enough to see it, he turned everything to his own use. She pretended to have just noticed us and squealed (no other word will do), "Oh, what's this? Is there a secret? Something you two want to share? Are you beating us to it?"
I felt his hand tense under mine, and, I admit impulsively, I said, "Shall we tell them?" That's a question that can mean anything, up to and including, "What we do is none of your fracking business."
He looked at me, and I could read the question in his eyes, so I nodded, and he said, "Looks like it, Sheba."
So then, of course, she's absolutely thrilled... she's not too dumb to have noticed who's her main competition, even if Apollo isn't up to admitting it. By the time she's done, everybody in the dining room knew Starbuck and I were engaged. Toasts and kisses and good wishes... though I'm sure, as soon as she's with her own kind, she'll start the 'only a slut would marry a whore' chorus...
And then, as soon as we could, we came back here, to my quarters. And the first thing he said was, "If you want out, just say so; I'll be glad to do something unforgivable."
"I don't want out unless you do," I said. I'd rejected him once, and been sorry for the hurt it caused, and I wasn't going to do it again.
"You're sure?" he asked, those blue eyes so lonely it almost broke my heart.
"I'm sure," I said, and pulled him to me.
Marrying him will mean sleeping with him, of course, but I don't mind that. Sex with him is good, as good as it gets. He's thorough and considerate and gentle when he ought to be and hard when you want it... he knows you're there and he really takes the time to make you glad you are. No satisfying himself and rolling over, or, worse, making a half-hearted effort and leaving you all frustrated when he's done. Sleeping with him's not the problem. It's loving him. It's making him happy...
But I can try to do that.
He makes it easy, after all. When I kissed him, he asked me if I was certain, if he might stay. I smiled, saying that most men didn't go back to the BOQ the day they got engaged.
"This wasn't on the schedule for today, for either of us," he pointed out.
"I've always loved that about you," I said, "you don't assume. Even now, let alone the price of a meal"
He was too quick, understood far too well far too fast; probably he'd been thinking about it for some time but not feeling as though he had the right to speak. Now he did: "That stairway you said you fell down last sectare?"
I saw in his face that he'd seen the answer in mine, so I shrugged and nodded.
He touched my face, so gently. "Who?"
"Starbuck, it's not worth worrying about."
"It," he said, "is you. You and attempted rapeit was attempted?"
Not that 'rape' was the word I'd thought of, but... "Yes," I said. "He left."
"You're worth worrying about," he said firmly. "Who was it?"
"Who?" He put his fingertips on my face, right where the bruise had been. "I want the name, Cassie. Who?"
So I told him, and now I'll be waiting for Briard to be brought into the Life Center and wondering what I should say... though it's likely enough Starbuck will just manage to get him publicly and horribly humiliated. Still...
How easy he makes it to care about him.
I look at him sleeping, curled up on his side and peaceful. At least I can keep him from being alone.
And it's not like Apollo wants him, after all... Or anyone wants me.
So, I suppose what we'll do in the morning is go on like this is what we want.
There's nothing either good or ill but thinking makes it so.
I look at him again. He's woken up, his eyes dark in the dimness. "What's wrong, Cassie?"
"Nothing," I say. "Just not sleepy."
"C'mere," he reaches and pulls me down to lie on his chest, his hand stroking my hair. "Okay?"
"I'm fine," I say, nestling against him just because it feels so warm, so good.
"Good," he says, kissing my temple gently.
I close my eyes. Maybe this isn't the smartest thing we could either of us do, but I think there are a lot of things dumber.
I think, maybe, we'll be okay.
|Hang the Sky with Stars|
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