“Must you be told everything, human? Does everything have to be stated explicitly for you to believe it?”
“Pretty much. Yeah. That’s how we work.”
He rounds on me, his scales flashing with intense emotion. “Then allow me to tell you what I would have thought was obvious before we are tortured, killed, or both. I love you. I had no desire to love you. When I met you, I could not distinguish you from any other human. But you have distinguished yourself time and time again, and now you command my affections and occupy my heart.”
My eyes are welling with tears as he speaks, every additional word making me feel even better about all the feelings I’ve had, the ones I thought I was stupid for having.
“That’s the sweetest, most jerkiest thing I’ve ever had someone say to me. I am glad I came. If I hadn’t, I might never have heard any of them.”
“If you hadn’t come, you might have survived long enough for them to matter.”
“They matter now. They matter to me more than I can explain.”
I throw myself into his arms and feel his strong body wrapped around me. I know we are in the deepest peril possible, but I can’t help but feel safe when I am this close to him. To me, Terrible is the most terrifying creature in the universe, and I have a feeling that these aliens who have captured us will regret having done so, soon enough.
He holds me tight, not saying another word, and not needing to. I will always remember his confession of affection. I will always carry those words in my mind, from one world to the next. Hell, from one life to the next, if need be. I feel so connected to him, it is as if he’s always been my lover, as if the two of us weren’t just destined to be together, but somehow manufactured for one another.
I am everything he is not, and he is everything I am not, and all those things fit together as perfectly as our bodies do. I want to feel his kiss, and to have him inside me, but before our romance can reach anything resembling a carnal joining, the aliens are coming for us.
Terrible pushes me away, gently, but firmly. I feel the sting of his rejection, but I know he has a reason for it. I can trust him now. I don’t have to constantly wonder if I matter or not. He told me I do.
Our captors enter the cell, and I get to see the EnD for the first time. They are a strange species, in the way all species are somewhat strange. They are humanoid, in the sense of two legs, but they have four arms. If I had to describe them in terms of human mythology, I’d have to say they’re orcs. Orcs with extra arms, and no real fangs, but lots of angry features, heavy brows, deep set eyes, a sort of general appearance of strength and aggression. They’re all sorts of colors. Some of them are blue. Others are green. One is red, and that one seems to be in charge.
“Terrible. First Aide to King Tyrant. Last of the true Essence Warriors.” Their leader addresses Tyrant with some measure of respect. That’s good, or at least, it’s a change. When they spoke to him from a distance, there was none of this. It was nothing but taunts. I guess now they have us, there’s no need to play games.
The red captain continues. “Your head will be the grandest trophy of recent times. Almost as impressive as your king’s head. The two of them will be displayed together for eternity on the war cabinet.”
Well. That took a turn for the worse. This, it would seem, is intended to be an execution. That’s why they’re speaking with respect. They want this occasion to be somber, and to mean something.
“What about my head?”
Suddenly, they notice I exist. By the way they react, it’s like one of the bits of dungeon furniture just started talking.
“What species is this thing?”
“She’s a human,” Terrible says, rather accommodatingly I think, given they’re talking about using his head as an ornament.
“What was she doing aboard your ship?”
“She sneaked aboard. She’s a stowaway.”
“Picked the wrong shuttle, didn’t she.”
“That is an understatement. She is a minor distraction. I secured her in the seat beside me so she would not fly about the ship and cause damage to the navigational systems.”
“So she is not your mascot, or perhaps your lover?”
Terrible gives them a blank-eyed stare which strongly implies that either of those options would be so unthinkable as to barely be able to process through his brain.
He’s denying that I mean anything to him. I know it’s so they don’t try to hurt me, or leverage me to get to him, but still. Ouch. Hearing him flatly preemptively deny any connection between us hurts all the more for having just finally heard the words I feel as though I’ve waited forever to hear.