Her mother's funeral was probably the loneliest experience of Fllay's young life. What with her father's political importance, it was a solemn state affair. Grown men and women in black drifted quietly around her. Occasionally, one would pat her on the head or murmur incomprehensible condolences. But they were always thinking about something else.

This didn't change until she ducked and dodged her way through the crowd to reach her father. Then she grabbed his hand--and suddenly, standing there next to him, she was the center of everyone's attention. They smiled gently at her, they made reassuring noises at her, they spoke to her father of her, all the while gazing regretfully down at her. It was the first flicker of comfort she'd had since her mother's death. But then she looked up and into her father's eyes, and she saw something sad and broken there.

Later, when the crowds were gone, she clutched her father's hands and drew him down to her level. "I won't leave you alone like she did," she said. "I promise, Daddy. I'll always be here for you."

He held her then, his chin on her shoulder, squeezing her reassuringly close to him. "Don't worry, Fllay. I won't leave you either."

On that day, she dedicated her heart to him, and she never looked back.

From then on, Fllay was what her father asked her to be--no more, no less. She was his princess, and he was her knight. She took in without questioning everything he taught her, everything his acquaintances spoke of to him, everything his political allies taught him to believe

(even that which a wiser and kinder girl might have questioned)

everything he wanted her to be.

She expected no less of the world around her. She was her father's princess, and so everyone else should make her their princess as well (although of course none would ever have the claim on her that her dear father did). This worked out surprisingly well. When someone as lovely, as remarkable, as perfect, as special as Fllay Allster asked something of the world, the world gave it to her.

This worked for quite some time, until the world decided to take her father away.

Fllay had never dreamed anything could hurt so much as her father's death did. But it took her some hours (some hours of nothing but tears) to realize that she had a bigger problem, as hard as that was to imagine.

There was nothing in her heart now. It was as lovely and shining as always (Fllay had always imagined that, being a princess of a sort, she would have a jewel for a heart), but where her perfect devotion to her father had been, there was nothing.

After some thought, she decided to fill the void with vengeance. It seemed as good a solution as any, and what's more, it would give her a useful goal: the eradication of all Coordinators. Starting with the one who had let her father die.

Kira fell to her manipulations almost too easily. She would have celebrated, but now was no time for frivolity: now she had a mission to accomplish. It was remarkable how good it felt to be so in control, to twist the threads on which her puppets danced.

But sometimes, when Kira looked at her, it wasn't enough. She felt there was something more, a way in which her heart was still empty.

She didn't understand what it was until she lay atop him, feeling him inside her, his skin smooth and warm beneath her hands, his hair wild against the pillows. She didn't know what she'd been missing until her own perfect hair fell over his face, locking the two of them away in a world of their own, and she met his lips with hers.

Vengeance wasn't enough to fill her heart. She needed someone to be there. How embarrassing. It was a good thing she'd picked a miserable Coordinator for this purpose, and one as pathetic as Kira at that--there was no risk of her growing too attached to him, too fond of the sense of him in her heart.

Still, she couldn't help wanting more of him--wanting to wrap her arms around him every chance she got, wanting to feel his mouth against hers, wanting that damned tomboy to stay away from her Kira

(he was hers and hers alone just like her father had been)

wanting, just the tiniest bit, to be with him and not just using him. She buried that shameful thought deepest of all.

Then he was trying to push her away, and before she could even begin to process the shock of that, he was gone. Just like her father had been.

She couldn't think, couldn't live without him. Everything was falling apart around her, like it had when her father died. Now even her plans of vengeance seemed weak and fragile. Pointless. They weren't enough to keep her heart whole.

Fllay would never have made it very far at all if not for the man with the cold smile and the voice of her father. She barely made a token effort of protest. She knew: she needed him.

In that moment, it didn't matter that he was Coordinator scum. She understood, bitterly, that he could take her heart as well as any of the others.

It was not until some time after he had taken her that she realized what a bad thing this was.

She sat in Klueze's office, and she watched him, and she began to understand that he was not like Kira, not even like her father. He was poison, and she'd let him into her heart all the same

(and it didn't matter that he was poison, she would love him until the end of time no matter what)

and anyone, Natural or Coordinator, could be the same. Perhaps--just perhaps--she should be opening her heart to others, not just the solitary shadows of her father she'd been using so far.

But there was so much poison in her heart now, not just from Klueze, but from her own bitterness and vengefulness. She wished she could open up the corrupt jewel that it was and spill out the little tablets of poison

(somehow she imagined them as being like the pills Klueze took)

so that they rolled all across the floor and away from her, leaving her cleaner than she'd been since she first pledged her whole being to the love of her father.

She didn't know how she could do that, here behind enemy lines, but she had started to perceive that Coordinators were more than simply the enemy. She looked at the bitter silver-haired soldier (who was not really a soldier but a boy the same age as her), and she thought that perhaps she could start by letting him into her heart. It would be a risk, but sometimes, when she looked at him, she thought that maybe they were the same in some ways, no matter their genes.

But then Klueze did her one last kindness--he sent her home. He sent her back where Kira could find her, Kira who she still loved for true and for real this time, Kira to whom she owed so many apologies.

But Kira did not find her. Fllay supposed that would have been more than she deserved.

But it didn't matter. Caught by the Dominion, pressed into service against the Coordinators once more--she vowed that she would change. She would spill the poison from her heart, and she would invite more people in. Perhaps she would not be her father's princess any longer, but she would be a better woman for it.

And all she needed was the time to create her new heart.