by BlackRose, 2001
It is late, in the still time between the darkest hours of night and the rise of the dawn. Those who can are asleep as the pilot of the craft guides our way through the night.
I should be asleep. What we face will not be pleasant, and the body requires rest to work its best. But I can not.
I am not alone. O'Connel stands at the bow of the ship, silent and motionless, as though he would be a figurehead carved of wood. He stirs only briefly as I approach, glancing back, then turns his gaze outward again. The moonlight has turned the misty clouds ahead of us into a foreign landscape of sweeping valleys and high dunes.
"Quite a sight, eh?" He tries to maintain the careless tone he uses, but there is an edge of tension beneath it and if I glance sideways I can see the tiny lines of worry around his eyes.
I lean my elbows against the railing, trying not to look down at the vast open spaces beneath us. I do not like these airborn forms of travel and I doubt I ever shall - to trust a vast balloon of invisible gasses to keep us afloat is one of the worst follies it has ever been my fortune to not conceive of. "It seems a night for visions."
He says nothing but his mouth speaks without words, the edges twisting and drawing down. He is a strong man but he fears, as all reasoning men do; less for himself than for those around him and Evelyn's near tumble in the grips of her vision earlier had blanched the color from his face. He does not look at me but keeps his gaze turned ahead and we stand for a time in silence.
"So," O'connel says at last, careless above that undercurrent edge within his voice. "A princess, a priest, some legendary warrior figure... what were you?" He says it in jest, trying to make light of it and banish the tendrils of belief that have lodged in his heart.
"Med-jai," I answer at once, to his surprise. He turns to look at me, frowning. "But in those days, we served the Pharoh."
He opens his mouth, then closes it again without a sound. Only on the second attempt does he find his voice. "You really believe that," he says and it is not quite an accusation.
"I know it," I reply. "As your wife knows it and as the woman who trails after the creature knows it." A pause and then I can not help but add, "As you would know it if you let yourself believe."
He makes a scoffing noise, sharp and disdainful. He will have none of it, this brash westerner, nothing of visions or past lives or fate or destiny. The ancient knowledge and magics of my land fall on deaf ears, made willfully so. He does not wish to know and he will not embrace the truth.
"Think what you like," I counsel him quietly. "But what you are meant to be will seek you out, even if you do not seek it."
O'Connel turns to me, almost angrily. "And what's that?" he demands. "Some great warrior? Some mythic legendary guardian? I'm not. I'm nothing of the sort. And all I want," he lowers his voice, mindful of the way it carries in the still night air, his whisper hissed and urgent, "is to get my son *back*."
He begins to step away but my own voice halts him. "You aren't. But you could be. And at one time..." my eyes meet his, holding him, "you were."
It is a night of visions. The still time before the dawn, when spirits stir in the darkness. For one moment, his eyes on mine, I see the spark light deep in his gaze. The dusty weight of the ages peel back the interveening centuries and I see, in his eyes, the white hot brightness of the best and strongest of us all.
I see, and I remember.
Bright and burning in battle, like a star fallen to the earth below. His strength was legions, his spirit undaunted. We were the guardians but he shone among us like the mid-day sun. He could walk where others dared not tread and return victorious.
And after battle, when the fever of it burns hot in veins and the relief of life is almost too great to be contained - after, in the dark -
I remember the shape of his face beneath my palms and the breathless, deep sounds of his passion. I can recall the shift of muscle beneath flesh and the hard pound of my own heartbeat beneath my breast and the way his fingers moved across my scalp. Heat and hardness, fierce and fast, bleeding away the tension of unspoken need and fear and the lingering scent of an enemy's blood.
He looks at me, those eyes I recall so clearly within the mask of flesh that he wears in this lifetime and I wonder if he, too, can recall those distant memories of the soul. If he did, would he remember the press of my thighs or the feel of my body as I gave to him, willingly, what I would have killed another man for even suggesting? Would he remember the touch of my fingertips, in the darkness, as our breathing slowed and the sweat upon our bodies cooled in the night breeze?
But it is another time, another place, and lives which are no longer ours. He blinks and the moment is gone, the spirits draw back, and the window through time closes. We are our present and he is whom he wills himself to be - Rick O'Connel, westerner, husband to a woman to be proud of, father to a precious son.
And yet he hesitates. "Do you really believe that?" he says again, and this time there is nothing but the sober need to know within his voice. I meet his gaze and it is only the eyes of the man he is now - and yet, within that voice, I wonder if, perhaps, for just a moment, he truly did recall.
"Ask of me what you will," I tell him softly. "But don't ask me the things you don't wish to know."
He has no reply. I look away and when I look back again he is gone, his footsteps fading as he treads his way back to the rear of the craft. He will believe what he will, for as long as he can, secure in his own reluctance.
But for that one moment... I can not help but wonder what he saw.