"Bingo!" the not-Pixel cackled. "You're good at this game."
"How are you able to do so much magic on Ordin? This is an outer rim planet." Score asked, more than a little curious.
"It's not that much. Body-snatching comes naturally to me as breathing, and I've only cast an illusion on the witch."
Aha. So that was how Helaine was hidden inside the soldier. Once Score knew it was an illusion, he was able to clear his sight and see right through it. There she was, gagged and bound – no wonder she stood so stiffly! – but looking, altogether, none the worse for the wear. Score smiled at her quickly. Don't worry he thought to her privately I have a plan
Helaine gave no indication of having heard him. "Is she under some kind of magic dampening spell?" Score asked. Fake-Pixel beamed.
"Rather ingenious, if I do say so myself. Hide her in plain sight, but keep her from her witchery."
"Uh huh. Anyway. If you could just give my buddy Pixel back control of his body…" Score readied himself with his emerald. This was the part of the plan that could go the most wrong. If he had read this crazy magician right, then instead of going for Helaine, he would attempt to take Score – obviously, the guy didn't have a favorable opinion of women and would prefer to have Score as a host. But Score would be waiting for him. It would be a difficult spell, here on Ordin, but he had to make this work or else he would lose himself to this nameless foe.
Pixel started to shake a little, then suddenly collapsed on the floor. Hoping that was the signal that the wizard had left his body, Score used his emerald to transform the emerald in Pixel's hand into one of the soul-sucking gems from the diadem. He wasn't entirely sure how such a jewel worked, but he hoped his will would be strong enough to shift the properties of the gem.
It must have worked, because the stone flashed brightly, and Score didn't feel invaded. Pixel still looked relatively unconscious – and pretty beat up. Score turned to the-guard-that-was-Helaine. He wasn't entirely sure how to undo the illusion, so he simply untied her hands and hoped she could figure out the rest.
Helaine spat out her gag. She stared at Score so intently, he felt the heat behind her gaze. Funny enough, he didn't feel relieved or proud that he had defeated the wizard all by himself. He was only aware that Helaine looked like she was about to –
"I'll be in my room. I've got to get out of this horrid dress." She stated simply and walked – head held high as always – away.
Score looked down at Pixel, who seemed to be awake now. He gave him a hand up. "How're you feeling?"
"Like my body has been possessed for weeks and my best friend just used me as a punching bag. Geeze, Score. You broke my nose, split my lip, and I'm going to have two black eyes. How did you not notice that I was acting a little – excuse me – a LOT weird lately?"
Score grimaced. "I was too shocked…and…um…"
"…jealous?" Lord Votrin spoke this word with a smile.
"Whatever" Score said "anyway, solving mysteries and being all analytical and crap is your thing, Pix. I'm just glad I figured it out when I did."
"Yeah. Rukas – the wizard – his plan was to keep me as his body, and separate you from Helaine – he knew he couldn't defeat the two of you united - so he could kill you both and rule the Diadem unopposed blah blah blah same old story. He used my memories to try to figure out what would drive you furthest apart."
"And he picked marriage? Interesting memories you've got there."
"Oh please, Score. After that whole alpha-male 'the girl is mine' act, nobody is going to buy that anymore."
Score didn't really know how to respond to that. "How did Rukas get you, anyway?"
Pixel winced. "Computer virus. You really have to watch what you download. Anyway, don't get me wrong, Score. I'm extremely thankful you saved me. It's pretty awful being a slave to an evil wizard." Pixel arched his eyebrow as best he could with a swollen face. "And just so you'd know, I'd never marry Helaine."
Score felt remarkably perceptive – he actually understood what Pixel meant him to understand! Without another word, he trotted off down the hall to find Helaine.
Lord Votrin looked at Pixel. "I liked him better as a son-in-law than you, anyway." Pixel just rolled his eyes.
For the second time that day, Score didn't knock as he entered Helaine's room, mostly because he expected her to be all girly and refuse to speak to him. She was standing as she had been earlier – her back was towards him, and she was looking at her reflection.
"Getting a little vain, are we?" Score asked playfully, unsure how else to break the ice between them.
"I'm not in the mood Score." Helaine snapped without passion. "I feel so stupid."
"Hey, he fooled me too." Score stood shoulder to shoulder with her now.
"Well, you weren't the one getting ready to marry him, now were you?"
Score took Helaine by the shoulders and looked into her eyes earnestly. "But your heart wasn't in that marriage."
"And what do you know about where my heart lies?" Score expected Helaine to pull back but instead she seemed unexplainably closer than before – a whisper away.
"You know. I feel like I was the one who got body snatched. First, I was acting like Pixel, solving the whodunit and playing Scooby Doo." Score allowed himself to touch her cheek. Helaine didn't break the gaze. "Then, I was being you, and tried to beat the answers out of Pixel because I was angry. And maybe scared." Helaine smiled at this – was she proud? – and Score's heart leapt. "But I think I'm going to try figuring things out my way, for now."
"And what way is that?" Helaine asked, as coy as he'd ever seen her.
Score grinned at her beautiful blue eyes, at her freckled cheeks, her curved smile.
"I'm a pretty big fan of hands-on learning." The words came out in a tumble, as though he had to hurry to empty his mouth before such a dizzying kiss. Forget jitters. He meant this kiss. He almost growled when Helaine pushed him away slightly.
"First of all, I am NOT your 'girl'-nor" she began but Score had other plans.
"Fine. But you can't be anyone else's either." He kissed her angry beautiful mouth again, judging from the desperate way she clung to him that she's wasn't actually mad.
The second time Helaine pulled her lips back Score really did growl. "Second – second" she took a moment to catch her breath. "Second, we are going to tell Pixel as gently as possible."
Score tightened his hold on Helaine. "He'll get over it" he mumbled, somewhere in the vicinity of her mouth. He felt her hands in his hair – pulling his hair "OUCH!" he yelped. Helaine grinned. "And third – do not get any improper ideas Sir-hands-on-learning!" she yanked his hair again, playfully, as a warning. "I need your help with some buttons."
Hahahah I finally finish the story! yay me!