Nine Cycles later...

Crais sat on the end of his bed, numb. Unable to fully process the events of the day, now that he no longer had the adrenaline rush to keep him moving. His Captain, his mentor, the man who had changed his life so much without him realising it, was dead. And Crais now led the resistance. He'd dreamed of this day for so long, he'd never questioned before if he was truly ready for it.

The door chimes rang.

Crais pulled himself up and walked slowly to the door. He pressed the controls and it slid open. And he saw Laynie.

"Are you all right?" she asked, brow furrowed in concern.

How many times had she asked him that over the cycles? Yet, he never ceased to be glad to see her.

"I am a little..." Crais tried to answer, and then gave up because he couldn't find a word.

"That's what I thought," Laynie said softly, coming in as Crais moved back from the door. It slid shut behind them. Crais locked it, barely realising he was doing it and not questioning why.

"I thought you might need to talk it out," she said, settling herself next to where Crais had been sitting. "And I've given up imagining that you'll come to me."

Crais returned to the bed and sat down beside her. He didn't even bother to think about how much he wanted to pull her to him right then. After all this time, he'd somehow adjusted to the permanent state of longing.

"I do not know...what will happen now," he admitted. "Although I have been waiting for this since I came here...it is still sudden. And, for the first time, I...doubt my own suitability for the position."

There was no one else in the universe he would have admitted that to.

"I don't," Laynie said. She was looking right at him, although Crais had his head bowed and was looking at his clasped hands. "You were born for this and you're ready. Marvio knew it, he never had the slightest doubt."

Crais smiled to himself. "This is the man who chose Commander Crichton to be my second-in-command," he said wryly.

"Commander Crichton is Head of Intelligence and has been for three cycles," Laynie softly rebuked him. "He is more competent than you give him credit for."

Crais chuckled quietly. "I have still not succeeded in making myself believe that," he said.

"Or that Kinsella appointed him to it," Laynie said. Crais knew she was grinning. "One microt she was throwing info-pads at his head, the next she's gone and we find she wants him to take over."

"Unbelievable," Crais said.

"Completely," Laynie replied.


"But it worked," Laynie said. "Kinsella had the same vision as Marvio did. She knew where to put her attention. I wouldn't be surprised if the resistance flourishes even more with you two in command."

"I thank you for your confidence," Crais said quietly.

"After nine cycles," Laynie said. "It can't be misplaced."

And then she leaned across to kiss him on the cheek.

For the rest of his life, Crais wondered if he had realised what she was doing and turned his head deliberately. He could never decide the question.

Their lips met and, for possibly the first time in nine cycles, Crais forgot how to think. One of his hands wound itself in her hair, the other slid round her back. He felt Laynie's hands on him as their lips caressed each other's, their mouths opening instinctively as the kiss deepened. Nine cycles of longing bubbling to the surface.

They pulled back at the same time, eyes locking, their breathing heavy.

"Bialar...this will change everything," Laynie whispered. Her voice was rough, her eyes bright with desire.

"Everything has already changed," Crais replied.

They stared at each other for a few microts.

And then they leapt on each other.