The following is chapter 1 of 11. It is a short story that happens one year after Phoenix Emperor. Thus the .5 designation. Because it gets a bit, in Fanfic terms, lemon-flavored I will not be publishing this story in printed form. I will, however, make it available as an ebook for a dollar after it’s gone through a couple of editing cycles. The ebook version will be available in April 2018.
If you’re interested in reading the rest of it, I suggest subscribing to my Patreon, as the chapters will be posted there once every couple weeks.
Miki stared down at him.
“You did it on purpose. You led me on. You never loved me.”
“I…” He couldn’t find the words to refute her.
Because she was right.
He hadn’t loved her, he let her think he did just so he could use her to escape.
There were no words that would make up for his actions towards her.
She lifted a drill. “I’ll make you pay for what you did to me.”
He twisted his body. Binding across his chest held him in place. At least his arms were free. He lashed out at her face with his nails.
Unfazed, she pulled the trigger. The drill buzzed to life.
Vathion screamed, eyes snapping open, startled awake by his own noise.
Silver eyes and hair hovered over him in the dim light of the room. Flinging his arm out, Vathion sent the apparition of silver and midnight staggering back. He ripped free of the blankets as he sprang to his feet on the bed, laboring to breathe.
Scheerahis stared at him in silence as he finally recognized what had been a dream and what hadn’t.
He collapsed to his knees, shivering in a cold sweat, staring down at his hands. Black blood was under his nails. “Scheer…” Vathion said, voice breaking. He swallowed. “I’m sorry.”
Scheerahis’ continued silence left him unsure if he had somehow damaged his relationship with the Varas.
Slowly, the Varas came to the side of the bed. He had scratches across one cheek. His silver eyes were unreadable. He had picked up on Vathion’s extra abilities quickly and taken to keeping his thoughts too quiet to be heard. He touched his cheek to wipe the small bit of blood seeping from one scratch. “Sloppy,” Scheerahis said in Varas. He turned and left the room.
Vathion stared after him. “What?” he sighed, then looked at the bedside clock. Outside, dawn was starting to paint the horizon pink.
Pushing his hands over his face, he swept his bangs back, slicking them away from his forehead with the sweat that lingered there. Now that he was awake, he could feel the ache in his knee from the sudden movements. Carefully climbing off the bed, he threw the blankets onto the bed and headed for the shower.
“Do you need anything for pain?” Raiche asked in the bathroom as he pulled his shirt over his head.
Dropping it to the floor, Vathion shook his head, avoiding looking at his reflection in the mirror.
It had been a year.
He didn’t feel like he’d made any progress even if the scars had faded some. The Palace site was cleaned up; including the Hyphokos colony ship. Getting that done had been like pulling teeth out of a gant, even though it was a decision that had already been made. Mostly it was because Parliament. Despite having been hand-picked and assumed to be highly intelligent people, they had turned out to be idiots that couldn’t agree on anything. Rebuilding the colonies Gelran had destroyed wasn’t getting anywhere with any sort of speed. People were still starving in the streets on Cordaan.
Sulking in the shower was getting him nowhere, though. He hurried to get clean and dressed again.
Combing his hair as he limped into the sitting area, Vathion shivered slightly in the cool morning breeze. Scheerahis had left the patio doors open. He was on the paving stones next to the pool, performing his daily ritual stretching and punching the air.
Vathion shook his head, got something to eat from the kitchen and sat on the couch to chew his toast and drink tea. As he sat, his eye rested on Miki’s funeral urn where it rested on one of the upper shelves in the sitting room.
Hiba had hidden the evidence of his crime but out of cruelty, he had sent Vathion her ashes.
He picked up a datapad and perused the news as a distraction. Not that there was much relief to be had there. There were two leading stories, the first being memorial planned for this afternoon. Vathion would be rededicating the Memorial for those who had died. It had been built on the northern side of the Palace site and even though half the money had been from donations, the other half had come straight from Vathion’s personal account. The other was some flu epidemic and suggestions on how to avoid getting sick this Spring.
Scheerahis took Vathion’s teacup from his hand and drained it.
“Hey-!” Vathion looked up. The Varas had taken a shower and gotten dressed.
“You’ve been sitting there holding it for an hour,” the Varas pointed out. “It was cold.” He sat on the edge of the table in front of Vathion. He stared.
“What?” Vathion asked, lowering the datapad.
“I have a question,” Scheerahis said. “About this repetitive picking at old wounds you people do.”
“It’s so we don’t forget those who died,” Vathion said. “It’s like your Honoring songs.”
“Except those are of great deeds and last time you did this ceremony, it was a lot of crying and you standing in a dangerous place, talking at people who weren’t listening,” Scheerahis said and straightened, hands on his knees. “It makes you difficult to be around.”
Vathion took a breath and let it out. “I apologized for-”
“This,” Scheerahis touched his cheek. The scratches weren’t even raised now. “Didn’t even sting.”
Vathion looked away. A pillow fell on his head.
“You still do it,” Scheerahis said and stood, heading into the kitchen.
“Thinking the dark thoughts that make everyone uncomfortable.” Scheerahis returned with a cup of tea of his own and sat on the other couch. He pulled his bare feet onto it. Picking up a datapad from the table beside him, Scheerahis flipped it on manually. Vathion heard the startup sound for Battle Fleet.
“Don’t forget we’re questioning you this morning,” Vathion said and got up to get started getting dressed.
“I remember.” Scheerahis didn’t look up.