Chapter Forty One - Firebird

The Winter of NewFrance


As contrast to our first visit, where the spring matured into summer, It was dead of winter as we arrived; snow, ice, and we certainly weren't dressed for it.

I ran in, but Priam strutted as if he didn't feel the cold. Jeannetton stared as if I'd brought home a massive scorpion. She waited for him to move into his room before accosting me.

If things had been better between Priam and myself I might have not reacted as
I did; I sent Jean on two weeks vacation. I didn't fire her, I didn't send her away
without pay; I sent her on a limited vacation, because two weeks was going to be my 'limit'.

I went into my room, had the 'bots take my clothing to wash, dry, iron, fold, and
put back into a deodorized case.

I pulled on my warmest clothing to brave the weather, and insure the sluices
were closed. Although this should be done automatically when the temperature
dropped to freezing, it was not a certainty.

Completing my task, I hurried back to the house to hear Priam in the kitchen.
I took off my jacket, sweater, boots, entered the dining room. We ate together,
he being distant and silent and me wondering what happens next.

I'd thought after he saw the souvenirs, after I tried to make it seem our mistrust
semantics, we'd get back to where we were when we landed here the first time.

I didn't push. I let the day end, with me in my room, he in his. I let the next day
open, assuming he was working out his problems, or I would work out mine.

But that's not how it was playing.

The next morning, breakfast had been cooked and left, but there was no Priam.

He was in the gym.
As I entered, he left.
Okay.
I had reached saturation point.

I cornered him in his room;

"Priam, are you going to talk to me?"

"No." he replied.

"How long are you going to keep this up?"

"As long as I can."

"Okay. I'll drop you at the Space Port. Take your yacht..."

I walked out of the room, shouted at a Robot; "See he packs his things and gets
into the car!" forgetting to say the code which would activate the damn thing.

I tried to calm, couldn't. I stomped back to Priam's room.
The door leading outside was open.

Priam had walked out into the freezing day in nothing but his shirt, pants and
sneakers. I saw him in the distance, moving to the river. Walking and walking
until he just stopped.
Just stopped.

I could see his body trembling as he returned to the house. I ordered the heat
turned up, another blanket brought. As he reached the patio, I ran, wrapped him
in the blanket, hurried him into the house. As he entered he fell on the bed. his
eyes started to close, I shook him awake, ordering a bot to heat tea, the other to
bring the Brandy.

"Drink...", and he did.

I didn't know if he had decided to get sick to prevent me getting rid of him,
or in his lack of comprehension didn't realise how very cold it gets in the
winter in this part of NewFrance.

Suffice it to say, he wasn't going anywhere.

Holding One

He caught pneumonia,
Priam did.
It only lasted about a day.
But he had it.

He was a Eugenic with a super immune system, so I didn't think of hospital.
I oxygenated the air at it's highest level, turned up the heat. He coughed up
a lot of phlegm and I rubbed his chest and back with eucalyptus oil, mopped
his brow, and all around took care of him.

He slept most of the day and I didn't like the silent sound of the house so had
soft music covering the quiet. By sundown he seemed fairly right, until he got
up to use the bathroom and coughed up a lung. I raced in to hold him, get him
back to the bed.

A little later I fed him the chicken soup I'd made...(opened a container all by myself).

"I am better," he said, swallowing the soup as if it tasted repulsive, when it was
rather good, to my palate.

I was really going to ask him why he went out side in the frost, but didn't.
Asking questions never got answers, or answers I'd want to get.

I spent the night in his bed...it's a super king as all the beds in the house are.

In the morning we were woken by an A.I. telling me that the police were here.
I left Priam, pulled on my jacket, to the door. I extended the vestibul so it
snaked to where the Police were parked.

They were just checking if I was 'alright' and if I planned to visit my parents.

"Yes to the first, No to the Second, and Goodbye."

I went back in, Priam was almost invisible by the side of the door, and when
the cops had gone, he said; "Time to do Firebird things, huh?"

I made breakfast, he choked down my rather good scrambled eggs, then we
packed. I went to the car, opened and heated it, had Priam wrap in a blanket,
because I didn't have a jacket big enough to fit him.

Once he was safe in the car I had my 'bots carry our stuff, lock the house.
I took us to a Mall, leaving him in the car, did the shopping, had my purchases
taken to my yacht.

I hoped Priam wouldn't say anything about his yacht, and he didn't, but, for
whatever reason, I sent an avatar to fuel it and fly behind us.

Domestic

Once in space I made him stay
abed; saying;
"Priam, just relax, don't do anything,
get your strength back."

"Firebird I am quite well, thank you, but do enjoy your care..." and he smiled.

I slept alone in my room that night, woke to the smells of a Priam breakfast.
I came out, he had finished, and was exercising.

After I'd eaten, done my usuals, I took the second cup of coffee to the sofa, sat
and looked at him. He looked at me. As I said to Doug, he said more with a look
than others with a speech.

He was sitting on the floor in jeans and a vest top, his arms going around his
knees, waiting.

"Can we talk?" I ask.

"Firebird, we don't talk. We lie. What do you wish to lie about now?"

"You lie to me, Priam."

"Captives often lie to jailors."

"You are not my prisoner..."

"What am I exactly?"

The Questions

What is he to me?
My lover?
We haven't made love for a long time.
My partner?
In what?

He is waiting for an answer. I answer with a question; "What would you like to be?"

"I told you." He said.

Told me?
When?

And then it comes....

---"I can not promise how long
it will last, but right now I
want to be here, with you.
I like what you do. I like how
you do it, and I want to be part
of it. Part of you." ---

Part of me.
He wanted to be Part of Me.
And that means?
I really don't know what that means.

"What do you plan, Firebird? To leave me on Earth?" He asks.

"No."

"I see my ship following...do you want me to board it?"

"No."

"What do you want?"

"I want us to be the way we were that first trip to New France."

Carefully he speaks; "I do not feel about you as I once did. It is difficult to
desire someone whom you can not trust."

"I can do it," I toss.

"I can not."

"When did you stop trusting me?" I ask.

"It was not an abrupt halt, it was a slow ebb." he defines.
"You will not regain the power to hurt me again."

"I don't want that power, Priam," I say.

"Good," he drops like it's a heavy weight.

"We were happy, once."

"Yes. But you don't want happy. You want a dossier, and I will not
prepare one for you."

I don't know exactly when this conversation became so horrible,
I think when I spoke.

"Priam..." I began.

"Why can you not just accept me?" He asks.

There were the usual responses, but none of them would work. I had to find
something real and honest that answered, and it wasn't easy.

"I'm a Bounty Hunter, Priam. I am naturally suspicious, naturally curious, it
comes with the success. How can you so easily trust me?"

He shrugged; "How do you know I trust you?"

I held silent.
He continued.

"I trusted you at first. I seised no weapon, I took no money, I needed you to
comprehend that I wanted nothing from you but yourself."

Yes.
That is true.

"But all you did was lie to me."

So I am thinking to myself, maybe now, maybe here and now I better be honest.

"I had an abortion." I say.

"I know," he replies softly.

Our eyes meet.

"Firebird, I can hear your heartbeat, I can smell the change in your sweat, I know
when you lie to me. I've always known. I kept believing that the next day, the next
day, you would trust me. But that next day never comes. Will it?"

We never said forever. It was a now relationship that ends when now becomes
then. I came into this relationship with the upper hand. I'll go out of it, at least his equal.

I forced my voice into the standard Firebird drawl;

"When you left Earth I thought you gone forever, thought you'd taken the
yacht and gone. I cried and stared into space, then decided I had to get
on with my life".

I paused, went back to the very moment;

"I told myself, you had been a fantasy, never real. You were mercenary
and you were wise. Far wiser than you let on. We'd had more than the
month together you promised. And it was over. I couldn't live longing
for the day you would return, when I believed you would never return."

He sat on the deck, his arms over his knees. His eyes never left mine,
and he seemed to be waiting.

He knew. I had believed him oblivious. Oblivious to my obfuscation.
Perhaps it had amused him and he had retaliated by playing brain dead.

Without my veil of lies, I felt more myself. Our relationship was no longer
lover, might not even be friend. There was nothing left to lose.

"Raising your baby, seeing you in that baby, and you, never coming back."

He watched me as if I were a fish he was considering selecting for dinner.

"I had an abortion. Then made up my mind that as I was on Earth, I would
spend two months as a tourist. But each day it got harder,"

My voice cracked, it angered me to show this kind of pain in front of him,
but it didn't matter anymore.

"It got harder to be alone.
To know I was alone.
I didn't want to go to NewFrance but I didn't know where else to go."

(Finish it Firebird, give him the whole vomit of truth.)

"When I saw your ship on the monitor I couldn't believe it. But again, I'm not taking full blame".

I wasn't a Supergirl, I got emotional now;

"You didn't say;
--'I'll meet you in space en route to Newfrance'--
you said you'd leave and I should go to Newfrance. That is what you said.
If I knew you better, if you had let me know you better, I would have understood.
But you won't let me know you better."

Although he didn't move, he seemed to congeal, and his voice, his beautiful voice accused:

"And telling me the truth now, cleanses your soul? I am supposed to feel...what?
Redeemed?" And he paused, "Or betrayed?"

"Well you've got the truth now. All my lies are dead. But yours still live. You lied
to me. You have always lied to me Priam, so it is not unbalanced."

Sitting in that languid pose, as if bored, as if wishing I'd shut up and go away so he
could finish his exercises, then start his grooming, he took his eyes from mine. I sat
just looking at him, bleeding inside, but hiding it. When he turned his face back to
mine, his expression was different, he was different.

"This is what I took from them. This is what I killed fifteen of them for..."

He rocked to his knees, rose, sauntered into his room, returned. Looming over me,
he reached down, grabbed my hand, placed a tiny crystal vial on my palm.

The Key


"That is the key. The Key of Yaap Van Nuessan...one of the Firsts.
He is my ancestor. Van, in my name, makes him my direct ancestor."

Blood infused his skin, his voice strong, violent, and I could believe him
capable of murdering fifteen men with his bare hands.

"I am not going to nauseate you nor myself with legends and the obsession
with genetics and genealogy. But they, of Dalmar, wanted this key. Van Nuessan
is Dalmar's greatest hero. Almost all Dalmar have a 'Van' in their name for his
DNA was the best."

The room resonated with his passion.

"They have pursued each generation of Sagir to get this key. Each time they
have captured one of us, the key had already been passed. It came to me.
Dalmar killed many Priam Zals, but I am not as easy to kill as many Priam Zals."

He stared into me.
He forced me to know that he was as dangerous as Doug believed.

"They killed many Priam Zals for this key. I hid it on Smudge, in the rucksack.
Then I hunted Dalmar."

I saw the power in him, as if he glowed,

"I gave myself to them, pretended weakness from their beating, but I am very strong,
I am stronger than all other Priam Zals, perhaps all other Eugenics. And I have
greater endurance...and regenitive abilities. I killed them."

His voice, his posture, the look in his eyes; yes, I had misjudged him; no,
I had been deceived. He saw through me and gave me what would work,
until such time he couldn't bother any more.

Yes, we lie to each other.
Now he gives me his truth;

"I flew their ship to a Space Station, contacted Gassan...I know much of Smudge,
Firebird, for I have been there very often."

His eyes pinned me like lasers, perhaps enjoying the lies he had told me. Maybe
enjoying having tricked me into believing he was unaware of Smudge and those
that traded there.

He savoured the moment, as if comparing his lies to mine, and feeling victorious.

"I returned to Smudge, to Ahmet to retrieve the key...but you captured me before
I had gotten it."

And dramatically, he points; "There is the key, Firebird. You have it."


Going For It All

I did not know how I was to feel, what I was to do or say, and didn't plan.
I caught his hand. "Here," I say, putting it on his palm.

"You keep it," he says.

I grip his hand. "You didn't have to tell me." I say.

"If I didn't tell you, our relationship would be over."

He loved me.
Priam Zal truly loved me.

It shocked, but there was no other way to 'spin' it.

I still held his hand, brought it to my lips, my eyes in his. I pulled on his arm,
brought him beside me on the sofa, and he sat until the violence within him
dissipated, until his voice would come low and flat.

"Where are we going?" he asked.

"Smudge, but have a side trip to Earth to restock."

I was not sure if this break in topic was good or bad or had a meaning.
As something to do I take up the wand, flick on the com screen:

"These are our quarry..." I say, "We have plenty of time to study them..."

He glanced at the screen, then back to me. I knew what he wanted to hear:

"And I'll show you how the Edge works."

His eyes bored into mine. I didn't want to consider him trying to take the Edge from
me, or leaving me as soon as he understood what it was.
I pretended it was a matter of little import.
I told myself to trust him.
To just love him and trust him.

There was no choice, I couldn't be without him. I needed him to be with me.
Really with me, not just sharing the same air.

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