Warnings/notes: hints at Damien/Tarrant, near-drabble. Timed during the journey across the Novatlantis.
Disclaimer: The wondrous world of the ColdFire-trilogy was created by C. S. Friedman.
written at 6th february 2006, by Misura
Damien stared at the body that was lying at his feet, noticing the effect the first rays of sunlight were having on its too pale skin, and desperately wished he could give it a good kick. He thought he might be willing to settle for someone to comment to how they were better off without Tarrant anyway - the man was a self-confessed incarnation of evil, after all, and a vain, arrogant, insufferable bastard to boot, so Damien was sure he'd be able to make a pretty good case for this point of view.
Too bad he and Tarrant were the only humans around for several miles -or rather: they had been that, since Tarrant wasn't exactly going to be able to nod and agree with him, smiling that infuriating half-smile of his that made Damien feel like Tarrant knew something he didn't, and was actually amused by some private joke, instead of by Damien's words.
Damien wasn't entirely sure if 'human' was a term he should be using to describe someone like Tarrant, but the man was, without leaving any room for doubt or hope this time, dead, and it felt both petty and useless to argue about the validity of certain words, especially with himself.
One thing he -was- sure of was that standing around here wouldn't do him any good. Tarrant was dead (and it was a lot easier to say it the second time around, which had to be a good sign) but that didn't mean Damien had any excuse to give up. Their enemy wasn't going to do that either, just because Damien didn't feel like going through the contents of Tarrant's backpack to figure out which items could be left behind and which were too useful to for that.
If Damien felt a little worried about his chances, going up against someone who could take on Tarrant during a True Night, well, then that just meant it was high time to work on his faith a little, wasn't it? He'd been doing just fine before he ever met Tarrant; there was no reason to assume he couldn't do that again.
Damien kicked at a pebble, feeling absurdly relieved when it missed Tarrant's body by a good distance.
Whatever else Tarrant had been, he'd also been a powerful Adept, and someone who knew a lot more about demons than Damien hoped he'd ever need to. Damien knew -some- things that might be useful, but he'd always assumed Tarrant would be there to fill in the blanks (being obnoxiously smug about it) and point out any flaws in Damien's reasoning (with far too much pleasure).
There was such a thing as pessimism, and then there was realism. Damien knew he'd on occasion based his actions on optimism, but always in the rush of the moment, when winning had seemed worth any price. Right now, Damien didn't see much of a chance for victory, not when it'd just be him.
He could turn back, hope he'd find someone like Tarrant. Try to be optimistic, and assume that his and Tarrant's assumptions had been wrong, that their enemy wasn't as powerful (and about to become even more so) as it appeared. Surely, if all of humankind was in danger, it couldn't just be Damien who knew about it?
Damien stared at Tarrant's body again, forcing himself not to look away before his mind had fully taken in the meaning of what had happened a few hours before dawn. Tarrant was dead (wasn't there some sort of saying about third times being lucky?). Damien was about ready to collapse with exhaustion, and still completely clueless about too many things, like what their enemy was, how to fight him, and why Tarrant hadn't been able to put up more of a fight at a time of night that should, by rights, have seen him at his strongest.
He should be allowed to give up at this point, Damien thought. He should be allowed to step aside, take a brief vacation, go see some friends (not that he had any in Jaggonath, but there were always people happy to chat up to a stranger, show him around a bit, like Ciani had, the first time), let someone else do the job.
The last time he checked, saving the world hadn't been in his job-description, at least not the entire world, all at once. The Church didn't demand that much of anyone; the Prophet himself had written -
Damien started to shiver.
"It might," Tarrant commented, "be advisable for you to get an extra blanket, if the ones you currently use are not enough to keep you warm."
Damien considered getting close enough to him to at least fantasize about delivering a kick to those far too shiny boots, under the pretense of having bad night-vision. In the end, he settled for a dirty look and sat down close enough to see Tarrant's face, but not to do something he might regret, when they were hit by another storm, and Tarrant couldn't do anything about it because he was still recovering from Damien's temper getting the better of him. (An unlikely prospect, but strangely appealing at the same time.)
"Thanks for the concern." There. Positive proof that he could be perfectly polite at any time of day, even after a nightmare, and even when he was talking to the person responsible for that nightmare. His Matriarch would be proud of the amount of self-control he'd gained during his trip (although she might be a little less pleased with where his trip had taken him, and his choice of travel-companions).
"You're welcome." Tarrant smiled. Damien focused on the movements of the ship, until he was reasonably sure that he could look at Tarrant without losing his temper. (Which was a little strange; before, he'd been scared to death at the idea of Tarrant suddenly dropping dead, and now here he was, silently wishing the man would do precisely that.)
"What was up with that dream, anyway?" Damien usually tried not to linger on the contents of his nightmares too much, but he was reasonably sure Tarrant had never been in there before, let alone a dead Tarrant, with mud on his clothes and in his hairs. "It didn't seem like your usual style."
"My usual style?" Tarrant sounded amused. "Few things that are predictable can inspire real fear. Perhaps I simply decided to do something else, for a change."
"If you insist on something different, why don't you start giving me direct, no-nonsense answers when I ask you a question? At least that'd be useful." Damien grimaced. "It might even scare me, the first time you do it."
"I'll keep it in mind, then." Tarrant inclined his head slightly. "To return to your earlier question: it's as much a matter of me slowly running out of ideas and a certain kind of ... caution. Call it a warning, if you wish."
"A warning?" Damien raised one eyebrow. "Of what? Your suicidal tendencies which somehow escaped my notice during all the time we spent together?"
"A reminder of what I am, reverend Vryce." Tarrant's voice sounded cold, almost angry. "Something that you seem to be forgetting little by little. You may find it more convenient to think of me as human, to imagine I have human feelings and weaknesses, but that doesn't change what I am."
"Since when is it any concern of yours how I see you? If you think for even one second that I need someone like you to tell me what I can and can't think or feel, you've completely lost your mind." Damien ignored the muscles of his legs, protesting against being held in the same position for too long.
"Unfortunately for you, I am completely sane." Tarrant rose, graceful like a cat. "Think about it. Think about what it means that the idea of my death terrifies you. Think about what our enemy could do, were he to gain such knowledge."
Damien managed not to kick at Tarrant's shins as he passed Damien, vanishing belowdecks, probably headed for his cabin. Instead, he stared at the silver light of the stars, and imagined they didn't remind him of coldfire and the colour of someone's eyes.