Chapter Twenty Six - Other Side of Smudge

Firebird's doubts

Every A.U. brought me closer to end. When I landed on Smudge, by Pier Four, I was practically in tears.

Priam and I had our ratty cloaks from the last incursion. We dressed each other. It was so painful to do it, to touch him for the last time, to know I would leave him here and fly away. But I held my face in a sweet smile, hiding my pain as we came down, and I led towards the jungle.

How I loved the way he moved, those long steps, that erect posture, the peacefulness of him. For he was peaceful. In himself he was completely at home.

Soon we were away from everyone, walking shaded paths, and when I saw the two stones, I knew this was where it would be.

"Priam, before we continue, I need to advise you..." I say as if this was a mission briefing.

He leaned against one stone, his long legs bracing him, his arms crossed, the cowl thrown back, his beloved face drinking me as wine. I perch upon the other stone, waiting, but there is nothing to wait for. I am the one to speak, I must speak, and the words tumble;

"Why didn't you ever ask me my name?"

He didn't expect the question. He puzzled it a long time, as if translating, then, meeting my eyes; "It didn't matter."

"What do you mean it didn't matter?" I grate.

"Why do you pose this question?"

In all my versions of this moment I never blocked this response. I thought he'd nod, say;
"When did you realise?"
or lie about seeing my name somewhere, when he'd proven he couldn't read.

And then, like lava, it pours from my lips;

"I love you. I love you more than I thought it was possible to love anyone."

"Why are you saying this to me?" he is confused.

"Why did you want to meet my parents?" I quickly staple.

"I do not understand why you question me. Why have you brought me here?"

He is either a terrific actor, or all my suspicions are garbage.

"I need to know if I can trust you," I say, and say it in such a way he is to feel that these questions are only preliminaries, that there's a bigger question to come.

He looked at me with his warm eyes, and in his soft voice; "If I wished to harm you, I could have done so. I have not. Hence, there is no reason for the question."

"No, Priam, I am not talking about me, you harming me. No."

He shakes his head, confused,trust, and he says; "What are you considering? Do you think I will steal the quarry for the reward? But if I were to be directed by money I would have taken what you offered. You must know I am not."

"Then what?"

"Then what....?" he repeats.

I am beginning to think I have misjudged him. But he could be playing me. He could be trying to get over this bump, get back to Newfrance, and kill my father.

"You've never called me by my name." I say.

"You never gave me a name to call you by." he replies.

"You never asked."

"I am not supposed to take, you are supposed to give."

I lowered my head, tears began. Had I ruined a wonderful love with doubt?

"Why are you crying? I do not understand." Priam utters, moving from his rock, standing
before me.

I don't want him this close, I raise my hands, move, walk from him, wiping my face, trying
to get it to make sense. None of it makes sense.

I can feel him watching me, standing by the rock behind me, watching, as if this is an unusual chemical process that wasn't supposed to happen. If everything I have thought about him, all the negatives were a lie, then this is how he would react. So they have to be lies. But if they are lies, then why is he here? Why is he with me?

If I tell him, if I confront him, he will hate me. He will look at me and doubt every second we have been together, and he will walk away, and I will lose him forever. Forever.

"Oh, Priam." I say, catching control, looking at him. I know there are words that have to follow this, but I don't know them.

"You say, I would be your partner. I would it be so. I would to do what you do. Why do you doubt? Do you think I will fail?"

He is innocent. He can't be but he is.
Now what do I do?

My plan was to take him here, zap him, leave him, and go away.
That was all of it. Nothing more.

Zap him, he lies down here for the next thirty minutes while I return to Pier 4 and I go away. That is all. But I can't do that now. I can't abandon him here.

He walks towards me, I watch him approach, he stops and asks; "Are you pregnant?"

Am I pregnant? Pregnant. Confused.

"I don't know," I say, maybe the first honest words that have come out of my mouth since I have met him...No. The first truth was that I loved him.

"Do you think I would renounce my child? That I would...?" he has no words. He has no idea what I intended.

"I'm sorry, let us discuss this another time. I shouldn't have brought it up now." I fix my clothing. "Let us see if we find any clues of incursions into this forest. Now we know that this is the likely entrance, so let us split up, and study the terrain. I will go this way for ten minutes, you go that way, then we return here." I walk off quickly, as if I'm searching, but I'm looking within.

Fighting for Sense

If he were to kill my father, how would he of gotten off Newfrance?
He is a Eugenic.
They don't believe in giving up their lives for a cause. I don't think.
He has to pass on his genetic endowment.
So maybe he was only wishing to meet my mother to thank her.
Or to learn if his father was the one who was killed.
It doesn't have to be his father. It could be anyone.
He can't be sure.

His father could have been captured ten years ago, but the prisoner we had was killed
nearly twenty.

I look at the ground. I see footprints. I follow. My watch silently vibrates. Eight minutes.

I hurry back. I don't see Priam. I wait. Could he have gone to the yacht? Abandoning me? I move to the stones, I'll climb them, maybe I can see the path back to the city. If he takes my yacht....?

He steps from the foliage.

"I have found evidence," he exclaims, proudly.

"So have I", I say, pretending I only climbed the stone to sit.

"Footprints go in, but not out. The ground is muddy and soft," he says, pleased with his investigation.

I feel so guilty and stupid.

"We will have to use bateyes for we don't know the place, they do. We'll have to be stealthy."

We walk back to the city, he is talking. Priam is actually talking. He is talking about how easy it is for someone to hide in the forest. Easier than in the city.

I only came here to lose him, the idea of people hiding in the jungle was just another of my quick lies. But it makes sense. It is making so much sense that I can almost believe that is
why I came here. He does.

I'm quite tired when we reach the pier, he makes me a meal, but I want to sleep. He holds me in his arms as we lay on the bed and I think to myself, jump.
Jump.
Just jump.
Stop thinking, stop doubting, close your eyes and jump.
He'll catch you.

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