When she opened her eyes again, Vida found herself huddled in Tristan's arms. She moved her face from the shelter of his chest to the stinging cold of the Andromedan elements. They were now outside of the underground pathway. She looked up at Tristan's unflinching face. He looked down at her and smiled as he saw her wide, golden eyes staring up at him.
"Are you okay?" he asked with concern.
She nodded, but she wasn't so sure. She couldn't feel anything but the throbbing of her ankle.
"Good. We're almost there."
"Almost where?" she wanted to say, but the words stuck in her throat.
She nestled her head back into the warmth of his chest, wondering how he could be so hot in the fierce frigidity while she was dying of cold.
"Hey," Tristan said sharply, seeing her eyes beginning to close, "Just a little longer, Vida. Come on!" He shook her hard.
She forced her weighty eyelids open with the last of her strength to look at Tristan's face, memorizing each exquisite line. She wanted to wipe away the worry from his blue eyes and tell him that everything was going to be okay, but she could barely stop her own fears from devouring her.
"I'm sorry," she whimpered with a final breath, then closed her eyes at last.
"No!" he howled. "Open your eyes, just open your eyes, Vida, please!"
Tristan placed his hand on Vida's cold forehead and said softly, "come back, Vida, don't leave me. You're still in there, I know you are. Just like I was when you found me when I was almost dead. Do you remember? You saved me that day. You saved me in so many ways."
He buried his tearful eyes in the softness of her coat, wanting to give up now rather than go on without her. He held his head up, pulling himself together. The ship was just visible through the fat snowflakes that fell wildly around him.
With a newly restored strength, he said to her, "now it's my turn to save you."
Tristan began pumping on her chest and breathing into her mouth. He would check to see if she was breathing after every attempt, thinking how futile this was. She was dead, and nothing he did would bring her back. Nonetheless, he continued trying to breath life into her, hanging on to the last morsel of hope that remained inside him. He approached her blue lips that remained half open, as if time had stopped at the utterance of her final words. If only he could have stopped time. There was a soft tickle on his cheek that made him jump. Was it only the wind? He felt it again, realizing in excitement that it was too warm, too soft to have come from the harshness of the planet. He kissed her mouth, thawing the iciness of death from them.
He gathered her into his arms and ran through the snow that grabbed at his feet, trying to slow him. Nothing could stop him from reaching that ship. With strength and speed, he approached the doors which opened its mouth to greet him. Allyson stood at the foot of the ship, waiting there to help Tristan carry Vida out of the cold. Quickly, but ever so carefully, they brought her into one of the cabins and placed her on a bed. Allyson thought she must be dead when she saw her blue-tinged skin and unmoving eyes. It wasn't until she checked her pulse that she discoved with triumphant surprise that there was a faint beating in her viens. She noticed blood on her own hands, and looked over Vida's body in search of a wound. It didn't take her long to find the exposed bone that was pierced through her skin.
"We've got to get her warm before I start fixing this bone," Allyson said, heating up an intravenous. "Get some blankets, quickly," she told Tristan as she hooked Vida up to the heated IV. "It's going to be okay, Vida," she murmured gently, "hang in there."
Tristan returned carrying a heap of neatly stacked blankets which were quickly disheveled and wrapped around Vida. She looked like a caterpillar nestled in a cacoon, awaiting the moment when she would become a butterfly.
Allyson wished they were back on the spaceport with all her medical equipment. She hadn't been prepared for this. She had never thought of the possibility that Vida would succumb to the cold, not with her Andromedan blood, but she had forgotten that she was still very human as well. What would have happened if she hadn't insisted on coming along with Tristan, Seth, and Jade? Vida could have died of hypothermia. She had grown so fond of the girl that the thought of her death shook her with more emotion than she had ever felt for any other patient faced with death. Vida was more than a patient, even more than a friend. She was like a daughter to her. How could she feel such a powerful bond with a girl she had known for such a short time? Vida just seemed to have the power to attatch people to her very quickly without even trying. She looked over at the young man who was kneeling by Vida's side now, holding her hand and whispering to her. He, too, had been sucked into the rapid waters of her life. Then there was Jade and Seth, who were now navigating the ship to bring this woman back safely. They had all risked their lives to save her, and they would all do it again, because they knew that she would do the same for each of them.
"Doctor, I think she's warming up," Tristan said.
Allyson saw that Vida's lips were beginning to lose their bluish tinge and the frost had melted from the tips of her eyelashes and hair, sending tiny streams across her skin.
"Good," she said, "now I need to repair her ankle. Why don't you go see Seth and Jade and tell them what's going on."
"Sure," he agreed, and left the room.
He got outside the door and had to stifle a cry. Everything that had happened was beginning to hit him. He had been so close to losing her forever and it frightened him more than anything had ever frightened him before. He considered himself a fairly brave person, but the thought of losing Vida made him feel like a lost child.
"Tristan, what is it?" Jade said, seeing his distressed expression as he walked in. "Is Vida okay?"
He rubbed his eyes and said with considerable exhaustion in his voice, "she made it, but she's hypothermic and her leg is badly broken."
Seth turned away from the navigation controls to hear what Tristan was saying. "What does the doctor say?"
"I don't think she knows any more than we do. It's hard to tell at this point." Tristan looked down at the blood on his coat. "How could I let this happen?" he shouted with frustration.
"It's not your fault," Jade consoled him.
"I shouldn't have let her go through with this. I knew it was dangerous and I let her do it anyway."
"You couldn't have stopped her if you tried. Isn't that right, Seth?" she looked over at her brother who was clenching his jaw silently at his seat.
He glared prudently at Tristan for a moment, then he said, "Vida's used to being in danger; she thrives on it. You did everything you could."
Surprised by Seth's kind words, Tristan nodded in appreciation. "Let's hope that it was enough," he said solemnly.
It made the corners of Jade's mouth curve upward in satisfaction to see that the two men had put aside their differences if only for a brief moment.
Tristan pondered what Seth had said. "But what do you mean that she thrives on danger? What kind of dangerous situations could a rich girl get into?"
Seth and Jade looked at one another and then at Tristan.
"What is it?"
"You don't know?" Seth asked with amazement.
"Vida's a wanderer," Jade blurted out. "She never told you that?"
Tristan stared at the floor for a moment, thoroughly bewildered by this secret that Vida had kept from him. "No, she never told me that."
"Well, I'm sure she was planning to," Jade defended her. "She just had a lot on her mind."
Tristan wasn't so sure about that. "Where did she get all that money from?"
"Oh, on some big expedition to Earth with a friend of hers," Jade explained. "They found some pretty hot stuff over there, I gather."
"And all this time I thought she'd been rich all her life."
"Not at all. She came into that money recently. Before that she had a pretty hard life. You should get her to tell you about it sometime. She's got some great stories."
"Yeah, I'll have to get her to do that," he said with a solemn tone to his voice. It wasn't so much the fact that he had been deceived that bothered him, but that she felt that she couldn't tell him about her life. She clearly didn't trust him enough to do that because he had not earned her trust, and that was what hurt him the most.
"So when can we see her?" Jade asked expectantly, changing the subject.
"I don't know, I guess the doctor will tell us when she's done with her leg," Tristan speculated.
There was a silence while each of them tried to think of something brilliant to say, but nothing seemed appropriate.
"How much longer until we get home?" Jade asked at last.
"If all goes well, we should be back in less than a day."
"Just don't wreck this ship or I'm dead," Tristan warned. "My friend doesn't lend his ship out to just anyone."
"Don't worry, your precious ship will be fine," Seth replied curtly, "as long as we follow this trajectory."
"But how do we know that this stranger from the Homeworld isn't just leading us into a giant trap?" Jade worried.
Seth wasn't so bothered. "Why would someone go to all the trouble of sending us an encoded message with Vida's exact location and a detailed trajectory to follow just to capture a few minor Humans? Obviously whoever it is, they're trying to help us
"I agree, I don't think that we're in any danger," Tristan concurred.
Jade still didn't seem convinced, but she said nothing more about it, knowing that she'd been overruled.
Allyson appeared in the doorway of the cockpit where the three of them were sitting. They all turned around and held their breath in expectation.
"She's doing better."
The tension in the room eased.
"It's a good thing she's got Andromedan in her. She's bouncing back incredibly quickly."
"Can we see her?" Jade asked.
"Well, you can, but she won't be awake until her body's finished healing itself."
Jade rushed out of the cockpit, barely letting Allyson complete her sentence. The others followed her into the room where Vida lay. Jade kneeled by the bunk and peered at Vida's slumbering face. Her pale skin glistened with melted ice and strand of wet hair clung to her cheeks. Her body made no detectable movement, not even to breathe. She was in limbo, waiting for life to find her again, or death to take her away. Jade kissed Vida's forehead.
"We're going to get you home," she whispered. "Just get better okay?"
Seth came up behind her and looked down at Vida. "She looks so peaceful doesn't she?"
Jade turned her head up at Seth. "Like sleeping beauty," she said with a smile to hide her fear. "Now she just needs a prince to wake her up."
She looked over where Tristan had been standing, but he was gone.
"Where did he go? What's wrong with him?"
"He's scared," Seth replied.
Jade nodded her head in understanding. "We all are."
The hours passed sluggishly as they waited for a sign of life from Vida. Jade and Seth returned to the cockpit to give Tristan some time alone with her, while Allyson slept in the neighbouring room. He sat by her side silently, unable to find the words that hid in his heart, even though those words would most likely fall on unhearing ears. He remembered how she had stayed by his side when he was facing death. He could finally truly appreciate what she had done for him. Now he understood the helplessness of watching a loved one struggle to survive without being able to do anything but wait. He wished he could take her place and fight for her, even if it meant dying for her. He loved her. If she ever did wake up, he knew what he had to do.
After more than a day of waiting, Tristan was startled by a flinch of Vida's eyelids. He had been watching her face so closely, imagining it to be stone. Dead, solid, perfect stone. When she moved, the spell was broken and the statue became living flesh once more.
The eyelids moved again.
"Vida," he repeated with more urgency. "Vida, can you hear me?"
The eyelids opened slightly at the sound of his voice. Tristan had never been so relieved to see those golden eyes staring back at him.
He was overwhelmed with a joy that made him laugh and cry simultaneously. "Oh Vida, I was so scared. You have no idea how frightened I was. I don't know what I would have done if I lost you."
A faint smile found her lips. She opened her mouth to speak, but Tristan stopped her.
"Don't try to speak now, just listen. I love you, Vida. I never thought I could love anyone until I met you. I couldn't be bothered with things like love, because I thought it would make me weak. But I was wrong, I'm stronger than I ever was before. You showed me how to love, and you make me want to be a better person. When I look in your eyes, I can see my future. Our future. I don't want to wander around aimlessly anymore, Vida, and I know you don't want to either. That's why you stayed at Borderport so long. Why didn't you tell me you were a wanderer?"
Vida looked at him regretfully. She knew she should have told him, but she never found the right moment.
"You don't have to answer, I think I understand. I misjudged you. I thought you would never understand why I stole and bartered, but you understand me better than anyone. I don't want to be a wanderer anymore. It used to be my whole life, but now I see that there's so much that I've been missing. We could stay together on Borderport and build a life for ourselves there. What do you say? Oh wait, I almost forgot."
Tristan searched through his pockets and pulled out a diamond ring. He took Vida's hand and placed the ring in her palm. She stared at it with disbelief.
"I went to see Griffin the other day and he helped me pick it out. He also offered me job. I don't think I've ever had a job before. Vida, this could be the start of a new life, for both of us. Will you make me the luckiest man alive? Will you marry me?"
Tears brimmed in Vida's eyes as she looked at the man she loved. She looked down at the ring in her hand. That's where he was on the last day she saw him. He was buying her a ring.
"Yes, of course I'll marry you. I was meant to marry you."
With trembling hands, he took the ring out of her palm and placed it on her finger. He kissed her and hugged her, never wanting to let her go.
"Oh you guys, I'm so happy for you!"
The voice surprised them, and they turned around to see Jade, Seth and Allyson watching them in the doorway.
"Let me see your hand," Jade spouted, rushing over to Vida's bedside. She examined the ring closely. "It's gorgeous! I just have one request."
"Can I be your maid of honour?"
Vida laughed. "Sure, I think I can handle that."
"We're almost home," Seth announced. "Come and see."
Tristan picked Vida up and carried her to the cockpit. The others followed behind. They all sat down to watch out the window as the spaceport grew closer. Tristan and Vida smiled at one another. This was the place where their lives would begin. This was where their dreams would come true. As they approached the spaceport, the troubles of the universe seemed to fade away and they knew that there was hope for them all. Hope grew in Vida's womb, with the beginnings of a new species, both Andromedan and human. It was a link between two enemies that would bind them together forever.