It was late by the time she got back to her suite, and she was ready to collapse from exhaustion from her strenuous work at the infirmary. She had a new respect for what Allyson did. She didn't know how one doctor could handle an infirmary for a whole spaceport with only a few nurses to help her, but, unfortunately, this was becoming the case in most spaceports because of the lack of training available. Little energy was being put into education since the hostile Andromedan takeover. No one had a great deal of hope for the future anymore. Poverty was becoming more abundant, and Vida realized how lucky she was to be free of that worry. Borderport was the richest spaceport in the galaxy and though many people visited the famous port, only the priviledged few were able to afford such a lavish lifestyle. And even Borderport had it's problems. The crime rate was high, as well as the death rate, and the homeless still crowded a large number of the corridors. Things were likely to get worse, Vida thought and sighed. The Human race was destined to die out unless there was some effort to prevent it. There had been attempts to revolt, but they had all failed. The Andromedans were much too powerful, and eventually, their will had been broken.
Vida crawled into bed, still thinking about Humans. There had to be some way to break the Andromedans hold over them, there just had to be. She shook her head. How had she let her mind drift to the problems of the Human race? It was far too complex a problem to have any simple answer. There was no use in her worrying about it now. She had problems of her own to deal with. At least she had a job now, she thought, happily. Her life was beginning to come together, but there was still the issue of Tristan to resolve. Why was it when she was finally settling down, she had to meet someone like Tristan to ruin everything she was trying to build for herself? What was it that attracted her to him? She used to be so much like him, but that part of her life was over and she had moved on, or at least was trying to move on. A beep from her door distrupted her thoughts.
"Who could that be at this hour?" she wondered as she made her way to the door.
It was Tristan. "What are you doing out of the infirmary? Dr. Winters said you wouldn't be released until morning," she said with surprise.
"Technically, it is morning."
"Let's go," she told him, grabbing him by the arm.
"Hold on. Where are you taking me?"
"Back to the infirmary. You shouldn't have snuck out like that."
Tristan got out of her grip. "You're not taking me anywhere except into your suite. I'm not going back there."
"But I work there now, I have a responsibility--"
He put his finger to her lips to quiet her and pulled her inside, closing the door behind them. "Please, Vida," he whispered sensually.
Vida's whole body ached at his words, and her feet almost gave way from under her. She swallowed hard. "What is it you want from me?"
"Nothing, I just wanted to come by and see you."
"At 1:00 in the morning?"
"Look, I can't stay in that hospital another minute. Just let me crash here tonight." He stared pleadingly with his blue eyes peeking out from the mass of dark hair surrounding his face.
"Fine," she sighed, trying to look annoyed. "But on one condition."
"Let me cut your hair."
"It's a deal," he said, laughing.
Blond hair fell onto the kitchen floor as Vida snipped away the long, dishevelled locks that covered Tristan's face. Each snip of the scissors revealed another portion of his features: his warm, bronzed neck, chiselled brow, and glacial blue eyes. He looked nervous when she pulled out a razor, but as she went to work, he quickly relaxed, feeling safe under her gentle hands. Slowly, the mask fell away and she saw him as he really was for the first time. His eyes shone brightly against his short, jet-black hair, and his clean-shaven skin was so smooth and comforting when she touched him. He peered at her shyly, then took her hand from his face and gently kissed the tips of her graceful fingers. It was as if they were in slow motion, the moment stretching on for eternity as they drew closer, both anxiously anticipating that sweet kiss. And when their lips met, the restlessness of Vida's soul was eased at last.
When their lips finally parted, they stared at one another, hardly believing what had just happened. It was more than a kiss; it was a profound understanding between them. Vida could still feel Tristan's fingers moving through her hair, and the smell of him filled her.
"Thanks for the haircut," he said, releasing his hold on her.
Vida cleared her throat awkwardly and stepped back. "No problem," she said, struggling to find words to fill the uncomfortable silence. "Um, did you want anything to drink?"
"Maybe just some water."
"Sure, I could use a glass, too," she agreed. "Why don't you go sit in the living-room while I pour us some and clean up in here?"
"I'll help you," he offered eagerly.
"No, really, go sit down."
He shrugged his shoulders and left the kitchen. For once, he didn't feel the need to argue with her. He watched her sweep the floor in the small alcoved kitchen. Her feet moved with ease and grace across the tiles, and her body flowed like water, urging him to drink. Her soft wisps of curly hair gathered around her face and neck. They reflected the light above her, creating a halo around her head. She turned to come into the livingroom, and Tristan quickly looked away, pretending to be lost in some deep thought.
Vida passed him a glass of ice water and sat down beside him, feeling self-conscious in her silk pajamas.
"Are you tired?" she asked. "Because I can get some blankets and you can sleep on this couch."
"All I've done lately is sleep. I can't stand it."
"Neither can I," she said, looking down at her hands. "Do you--"
"Have nightmares?" he finished her question. He took a sip of water. "Yeah, every night."
Her mouth opened slightly in surprise. "You do?"
"Did you think you were the only one?"
"I don't know."
"Are you sorry you're not?"
"No, of course not, I'm just...surprised."
"I'm not. I've always believed there were others like me, but I'd never found anyone until I met you."
"How could you be so sure?"
"I found you, didn't I?"
She smiled at him, watching him with her fiery eyes, seeing the icy surface of his eyes slowly melt away.
"I want to tell you something," he said, taking her hand.
"Okay," she replied, feeling her blood pounding hard at his touch.
"I want you to know that when I left that day, it wasn't because of...because of you. Well, it was, but it was only that I thought you would be better off without me around. But whenever I tried to leave, I couldn't do it. I made up plenty of excuses, but the real reason was that I didn't want to leave you, no matter how better off we both would have been. I even went back to your suite that night. Your door was unlocked, so I crept in and I found you asleep on the couch. I just watched you for awhile, and I wanted to wake you up, but I was afraid you'd get mad at me for breaking in again." He looked at her. She was half hidden in the darkness, but he thought he saw her smile.
"I wouldn't have been mad," she said as she thought of how she waited for him that night.
Vida looked at him and smiled, her heart beating even louder, hoping and fearing what he'd do next. His hand crept up to touch the smooth skin of her cheek and she nestled her head into his caress. Like a magnet to metal, they drew closer to each other, propelled by some unknown force that neither one of them could control. They touched with delicate lightness that grew into a raging passion as the night flowed into morning.
Vida awoke the next morning in a euphoric daze. Her naked body was cosily wrapped in her comforter. She could feel every fiber of the soft material on her bare skin, a sensation which she had never experience before. She had always slept with pajamas on, but she could get used to this. A sound of the sheets moving beside her startled her, and she turned her head to see Tristan watching her. She wondered how long he'd been awake.
"Good morning," she said.
"A very good morning," he replied, pulling her close to him.
She smiled, feeling safe in the warmth of his arms. He kissed the nape of her neck and worked his way up to her lips. She moaned with delight at his sweet kisses, never wanting them to end. He nibbled at her left earlobe and she began to laugh, and pushed him away.
He smiled and said, "Oh, so you're ticklish, are you?"
She sqealed uncontrollably as he ran his fingers down her neck and her sides. When he stopped, Vida got up to tickle him back, but he was nowhere in sight. She gave up and rested her head back on her pillow, refusing to get out of the warm bed to chase him. Suddenly, she felt a soft, yet tormenting tickle at her sensitive toes. In reflex, she let out a high-pitched yelp, and flailed her feet about with all her force. When the tickling stopped, she got out of bed, ready to plummet him with pillows, but she paused when she noticed he was sitting on the floor with his hand covering his nose.
"Did I hurt you, sissy-boy?" she teased.
"No," he said sarcastically, "you only broke my nose."
"Let me see."
He pulled his hand away from his nose, and Vida felt a pang of guilt as she examined it. She had indeed broken it, but it was healing quickly.
"I'm sorry, I didn't mean to hurt you. You shouldn't have tickled my feet like that."
"I see," he said, "so it's my fault that you broke my nose."
"Come into the bathroom and I'll clean you up," she said, slipping on a night gown and throwing his pants at him.
Ten minutes later, his nose was looking fine and smelling the rich aroma of coffee that Vida made for him. She sat beside him on the couch, sipping her coffee and staring apologetically at him. Her nightgown tumbled away from her legs as she crossed them gracefully. He reached over and touched her thigh to find that it was as soft as he remembered it last night. She moved closer to him and sat on his lap, wrapping her arms around him and kissing him gently. The doorbell rang.
"Don't answer it," he begged.
He kissed her long, smooth neck. She ran her hand down his back to warm her cold hands, and he shivered with pleasure. The doorbell rang again.
Vida stopped and looked at the door with annoyment. "Damn, I'm going to have to get the door."
"They're just going to keep bothering us," she said, and got up to answer the door.
She wasn't surprised to find Jade standing there with her gym bag slung over her shoulder.
"I waited at the bakery and guess what? No one showed up. You scared me; I thought something bad happened to you again. Did you forget to set your alarm clock or something?"
"Well, nevermind that. I smell coffee in there, would you mind if I grab a cup?"
Jade peeked over Vida's shoulder, trying to see inside her suite. "You don't have company, do you? Oh my god," she said, knowingly, "you do have company. It's that cute wanderer guy, isn't it?"
Vida blushed. "I'll tell you all about it later, I promise."
"You'd better," she said excitedly. "I can't wait to hear about it. Well, I'll be on my way, then. Meet me for lunch?"
"You got it," she agreed, and shut the door. She sat back down on the couch and said, "Now, where were we?"
"I think we were right about here," he said, bringing her lips to his.
When Vida met Jade for lunch, her usually pale face had a healthy glow and her infectious smile spread her radiance throughout the room.
"Now that's the look of an incredibly satisfied woman," Jade said as Vida sat down at the table.
"Hmmm..." she crooned dreamily.
"I take it he's as good as he looks."
"Well," she stammered impatiently, "don't just leave me hanging here! Tell me more about this fabulous guy."
"Well, he came to my apartment late last night after I finished work, and--"
"What work?" she interrupted.
"Oh, that's right," she exlaimed, "you don't know about my new job. Allyson offered me a job as a nurse."
"That's great! But don't you need special training for that?"
"Jade, look around you. Do you see any place where I can get special training? Allyson's short on help as it is, and besides, she can train me as good as anyone can."
"Hey, this is great news. It'll good for you to start working, even if you don't need the money."
"I'm definately not in it for the money, I'm just happy that I have something to do with myself. I was feeling a bit left out with you and Seth working so much."
Jade listened carefully to Vida as she eyed the menu and finally decided on a plate of escargot.
"Eeew," Vida said in disgust, "you're having snails?"
"What's wrong with that? It's a french delicacy," Jade declared.
"Maybe so, but I think I'll stick with the poutine."
She shook her head, saying, "honestly, you have no sense of adventure when it comes to food."
"Better to be safe than nauseated."
"Enough about food, let's talk about Tristan. So you were saying he came over to your place?"
"Yeah, he left the infirmary in the middle of the night. Can you believe that? I tried to drag him back there, but he wouldn't go."
Vida told her what he'd said to her and watched Jade's expression as she described their night together.
"You're so lucky," she said enviously. "I wish my first time had been that good."
"Come on, it couldn't have been that bad."
"I don't know, I was too drunk to remember."
"Oh," Vida said, sorry she ever asked. "That's too bad."
"Vida, honey, I'm glad I don't remember it. The guy was a real slimeball and just the thought of me sleeping with him gives me the creeps," she told her, then decided she had said enough about that particular topic. "Anyhow, I want to hear more about Tristan. What happened in the morning?"
"Um," she started, trying to suppress a giggle at the memory of Tristan's broken nose. "I broke his nose."
Jade laughed hysterically, causing a few people to turn their heads and look. "You did? How did that happen?"
Vida explained the incident, and Jade laughed some more. "Then you came," she recounted, "and after you left, we had a shower together. Then he made me breakfast. I was going to make it for him, but he insisted."
"Sounds wonderful," she said, thinking it was all a little too wonderful.
"Well, I had to work, so he came with me to the infirmary. Allyson's running a few more tests on him before offically releasing him. He's probably still there."
Their food finally arrived, and they ate heartily, discussing Seth and Nova's wedding preparations.
"We need to order flowers from Elysia. I just hope they'll get here. Seth was mentioning the other day that the goods from the last shipment were confiscated by Andromedans again."
"That's the problem when you import. Why don't we use the flowers from the greenhouse here?"
"I guess we could," Jade said unenthusiastically, "but Elysian flowers are so much nicer.
Just then, a man approached the table and stopped behind Vida's chair. Jade'swide eyes fixed on the raven-haired man with stunning blue eyes.
"What's the matter?" Vida inquired, not realizing there was anyone behind her.
"Hi," he said, touching her shoulder.
Vida jumped and swung around to see who it was. "Hey," she said when she saw it was Tristan.
"Hey," he said with a smile, "I came to tell you that Dr. Winters needs you. She's swamped down there."
"I better go, then," she said. "Oh, this is Jade, Seth's sister," she motioned in Jade's direction. "And Jade, this is Tristan."
"Nice to finally officially meet you," Jade told him, holding out her hand.
He shook it politely.
"Okay, I'm off," Vida announced, getting up from her seat. "Sorry I couldn't stay longer."
"Yeah, I should go, too," Jade said. "I have a million things to do this morning."
"See you later, then."
"It was nice meeting you, Jade," Tristan said politely.
They both walked away, hand in hand.
Jade stood for a moment, watching them enviously. Then, she started walking, hoping to catch Seth before he went to work.
"I know, I can't believe it either! Oh, she's so lucky. Tristan is so perfect for her, and he's very easy on the eyes, if you know what I mean."
"Oh, I think I get your meaning. You mean to tell me that Vida has fallen head-over-heals for that rotten wanderer who got her thrown in jail? He is bad news, Jade, and I don't know why you think he's so wonderful."
"Calm down, Seth. Someone might think you're jealous."
"That's not true and you know it."
"We both know that you've had it bad for her ever since she came here."
"I marrying Nova."
"That's only because Vida never returned your affection. If she had, you would never be marrying Nova."
"I've had enough of this. This isn't about me, it's about Vida and this Tristan guy. He's only going to hurt her."
"Whatever you say," Jade said dubiously. "I thought you'd be happy for her, but I guess I was wrong. You're just being a jealous jerk about this."
"I think you should leave."
"Oh, I'm leaving alright," she replied, heading straight for the door and closing it swiftly behind her.
Seth sighed angrily. Someone needed to talk some sense into Vida. Jade wasn't being any help; she had fallen for Tristan's charms just as Vida had. Now it was up to him to talk to Vida and straighten this mess out. He walked across the hall to Vida's door and rang the doorbell. He waited, gathering together all of his persuasive arguments in his head. He had to say things just right, so Vida would see this wanderer for what he really was.
"Can I help you with something?" Tristan said when he opened the door.
Seth stood for a moment, a little taken back. He had expected to see Vida, but maybe it would be even better to go right to the source of the problem.
"Tristan," Seth said in a civil voice. "What are you doing here?"
"Hey, Seth, right? I was just dropping off Vida's gym bag for her. She had to rush to work right after boxing and didn't have a chance to stop here."
"That's kind of you," Seth said with a hint of malice in his voice.
"Would you like me to tell her you stopped by?"
"No, that's okay. Actually, I'd like to talk to you if I could."
"Sure," Tristan agreed, a little uneasily. "Did you want to come in?"
"How about we go out? We can talk over a cup of coffee. Does that sound fine to you?"
Tristan locked up Vida's place and went with Seth to a cafe nearby. He didn't know exactly what Seth wanted to talk about, but he knew it wasn't going to be a nice friendly chat.
"So," Seth started once they got their coffee, "what are your intentions?"
"Yeah, I suspect you know that she's rich. Is that the only reason you're so interested in her?"
"No, of course not."
"Look, I don't mean to be rude or anything, it's just that I care a lot about Vida and the last thing I want is for her to get hurt."
"I can see that," he said, pausing to sip his coffee, "and I'm telling you that I would never do anything to hurt her."
"How can I be sure of that? I know that you're a thief, you stole those jewels and you tried to blame Vida for it."
"That's not how it happened."
"I don't care. The point is that you're a con man. How do I know you're not going to steal from her and break her heart?"
"I guess you just have to trust me," he said, becoming agitated with her questions. "I understand your concern, but really, it's not necessary."
"Like hell it isn't," he mumbled harshly.
He slammed his fist against the table. Seth smoothly covered his startlement, and met his fierce stare. Tristan composed himself and answered calmly, "I don't expect you to understand me, or even like me, but keep it to yourself. I don't appreciate you insulting me."
"Maybe you deserve to be insulted. You're probably preying on women like Vida all the time, fooling them with your charm and then bolting out on them after you take their money."
"I've had enough of this shit, so I'm going to leave now before I do something I'll regret."
"Like what? Hit me? Go right ahead."
"You don't want to make me do that," he growled, "I could snap you like a twig if I wanted to! The only thing stopping me is the fact that you're a friend of Vida's."
He left with his fists clenched at his sides and his teeth clenched, resisting the urge to turn around and show him what he was up against.
Tristan turned around slowly, his rage on the verge of overpowering his will. Walking toward him with long, steady steps, he could feel his restraint giving way. Seth looked at him with contempt. He was ready for a fight, but was unprepared for the strength Tristan unleashed in a single shove. He tumbled to the ground shamefully.
"Don't provoke me again or you'll get more than a simple push," he threatened in a low and sinister voice.
Seth could only watch him walk away, too stunned and humiliated to move.
Allyson took a quick break and retreated to the comfort of her office for a cup of coffee. She left the infirmary in the care of Vida and Booker, and for once was able to really relax for the first time since she had arrived at Borderport. She was confident that the infirmary was in capable hands. She peeked out the slit in her new blinds and watched Booker showing Vida how to draw blood. The young woman caught on quickly and soon she was able to do it on her own. Booker was looking at her in wonder. Whether it was her intellegence or her beauty he was admiring, Allyson couldn't be sure. She walked away from the window and returned to her desk to look at some paper work while she had her coffee. She still couldn't believe that she was on a break, and actually had to fight the urge to rush back into the infirmary and attend to her patients. Luckily, today, there seemed to be a lull to the daily madness, and most of the patients were resting comfortably. The Andromedans must be taking a break, too, she thought wryly.
"Is that enough?" Vida asked, showing him the vial of blood she'd extracted.
"Perfect," he replied with a nod. "Now you just have to label it and put it over there with those other vials so it can be scanned later."
Vida did what he told her and then waited for his next instructions.
"You're pretty good at this stuff," he complemented.
"Thanks, I've always found medicine really fascinating, haven't you?"
Booker shrugged. "To tell you the truth, I couldn't care less about medicine. I just need the money."
Vida suddenly felt guilty. There were so many people who needed this job more than her. She had plently of money and had only taken the position for her own enjoyment. How easy it was to forget others when she was so wrapped up in herself.
"Sorry, I shouldn't have said that," he apologized when he saw her expression. "I guess it's not a very good reason to be a nurse, but it's the only reason I have."
"No, it's a good reason."
"Vida," Allyson called as she came out of her office, "it's calmed down around here; why don't you and Booker grab some dinner?"
"All right. Did you want us to bring you back something?"
"Sure, bring me back some chinese food if you can."
They left the infirmary and took the shuttle lift to the main floor where most of the restaurants were. They talked little along the way; Vida was too deep in thought to engage in trivial conversation. Tristan hadn't left her thoughts all day. She couldn't stop from thinking about his unbelievably blue eyes and the tenderness in his touch when he made love to her. Never had she felt more like a woman than she had in his embrace. She couldn't stop imagining him kissing her again and again. She looked over to see that Booker had said something to her.
"I'm sorry, what did you say?"
"I asked what you wanted for supper."
"Oh, um, let's go to that Chinese place since we have to go there to get Dr. Winters something anyway. Unless you don't want Chinese."
"Nope, that's fine with me."
"Good," she said.
She noticed a group had gathered in the middle of the foyer and struggled to see what was causing the commotion. A shudder ran through her when she realized what it was. There, hung from the railing above them, were three bodies, dangling like ornaments for all to see. Their faces were blue, and blood ran in tiny streams where it finally dripped off their fingertips and onto the floor below, gathering in a puddle at the feet of the shocked observers. Their throats had been cut only minutes beforehand. It was blatant that this spectacle was the work of the Andromedans; another sign to ensure their power over Humans. All who disobeyed were put to death. These three must have severely defied them, to have their bodies displayed in public in this manner. Vida's heart pounded with rage and fear.
"Let's get out of here," Booker urged, feeling rather sick from the smell of death.
She nodded, and they diverged from the crowd, turning their backs on the horrid scene. Suddenly Vida wasn't hungry anymore.
End of chapter 11. Click here for Chapter 12!