Readers -

Sorry it's taking me so long to update. Life is interfering. Nothing good, I assure you. Anyway, I've been debating posting this... I'm sorry that it's such a short chapter, but it was a really hard one to write. I don't do this lightly, I assure you dear reader. Keep reading and commenting! Your words help make it all worth it!


Chapter 17

You know... I do not think I wish them to leave me... Making it a command, I reinforced my grandfather and my Dilectissima's minds with my own. It was frighteningly easy. I saw their faces clear at the same time and both moved to stand next to me. I could feel my great grandmother's pride and I felt my anger respond: Do not think I discount what I have seen here. .. Someone once said that if you want to know what a man's like, take a good look at how he treats his inferiors, not his equals. Your treatment of your sons is lacking. I am now their Queen as I am the Queen of your lines. Do not fear; I will unite the Wraith. You will watch and be silent.

The lack of crickets on the planet hit me as utter silence greeted my declamation. Taking my Dilectissima's hand in mine, I felt my heart swell as he managed to hold my hand and stroke a finger down my palm at the same time. Even though he kept his pride in check, he didn't hide is love. It was like a physical presence in the room with us. It energized me as much as it excited me. Boldly, I continued: This is my Dilectissima. This is my choice. This is my command.

Thought it was silent technically, I was sure that my perception was wrong. It was odd: the more I used my powers, the more I fought them, the more powerful I became. I'd felt like this was on my hive of course, but not to this level. It was a puzzle for another time through. With my weird powers, I was sure that the Queen Mothers were talking to each other again. I still couldn't hear them but I was able to tell that their conversations were furiously taking place silently.

Minutes ticked by with nobody moving. I didn't look back at my grandfather or my love; I remained head held high staring at the two women that moments before I'd feared most in the universe. This is me. I'd realized the one lesson that was the hardest to learn: The only thing to fear was my fear. My hive believes in me not because of what Lal had said but because of what I could do. Sure, they had to listen to my grandfather and sure they would give their lives up for any Queen, but that wasn't the important thing. They were my family. My grandfather and grandmother's Hive was my home but that wasn't where I needed to be now. A picture of Kenny flashed into my mind, with it the original feeling of familiarity surged, but I pushed that to the side.

My grandfather's mother smiled: Do not discount your thoughts, my dear. My sister's son's son... you do recognize him don't you?

He is here.

The heart that moments ago hadn't seemed to exist started to beat again. The blackness that filled my vision faded to a gray. I could hear my grandfather murmuring in my ear that I needed to open my eyes. I didn't. I could feel him stroking my cheek. I knew he'd know that I was awake but I didn't intend to move. I could feel my grandfather's love for me. He didn't blame me for my reaction. His mind wasn't dwelling on my reacting and its repercussions; as always, he needed me to stop hiding and start questioning. The strong Wraith Queen is gone and in her place was a weak human girl. Leave me alone.

"You are never alone, my Queen."

With my eyes, ears, and heart closed, I laid in the dark of my own dark thoughts. He was older than me, more experienced. It shouldn't be that much of a shock, after all. In my mind, I could even hear Ronan's mocking my stupidity. Kenny had always felt familiar. He was Todd's son. No one had stunned me with a stunner; I had not been hit with a culling beam. Yet either of those options seemed a million times better than what had happened: My Dilectissima had lied to me. He had a child by another woman. I could feel my temple throb at the thought of another touching him and I realized that this nameless wraith must remain namely as I had the strongest urge to take my hive to hers and destroy them all. The darkness of this desire was so strong that I could feel it in my blood, gathering my strength and power. I welcomed it. It was so fitting. It was so Wraith. I am Queen. He is mine.

I am and always have been yours, my Queen. My Love. You and no other. Only you command my happiness, my body, and all that belongs to me as I swore. My Second...

Todd's voice had always been a source of happiness before, but now it fed my anger. My blood sung for revenge on his son for his birth even as my head rebelled against the idea. The line from Prisoner of Azkaban echoed in my mind: The world isn't split into, good people and Death Eaters, we've all got both light and dark inside us ... what matters is the part we choose to act on...

Your second... My tone was accusatory, yet even I silently had to acknowledge that it seemed too convenient. I couldn't see inside the Queen mother's heads but both their sons were united against the accusation. Blood pounding in my ears, I opened my eyes. My Dilectissima was on bended knee while my grandfather sat on the corner of my bed. Looking around only long enough to confirm I really was back on my grandfather's hive, I mentally ordered my grandfather to leave us alone. Neither my Dilectissima nor I watched him leave us. Instead, my Dilectissima raised his eyes to mine. I saw so much in his eyes: his love for me, his hurt at my lack of faith; his fear that he'd lose everything. The fear helped to dissipate some of my dark desires, but not enough. Murder was still an option I felt comfortable with and I didn't hide that fact from him. My grandfather had shown me where a blade was hidden on the Queen's bed, a weapon in case she needed it. I fingered it, testing it's balance. I asked the question most likely to lead to bloodshed: Tell me why your mother called Kenny your son.

Instead of responding, pictures and flashed through his mind: A baby boy wraith, Kenny, looking up at him, only a few hours old; his affection for the child as he became a man, his pleasure as Kenny moved up the ranks on his hive; his pride at Kenny's accomplishment of earning the title of Second; his love of Kenny's devotion to me...

Tell me why your mother called Kenny your son!

To hurt you Dilectissima. To cause your refusal of me. To...

Damn it Todd! I could feel the blade, calling to me.

He is my son, Heather... chosen...

Turning away from him, I felt each beat of my heart. I'd never really understood the concept of heart break until this moment. I could feel each beat drawing life out of the muscle. It seemed like it was racing to a finish line and I welcomed the end. Oh god.

Spinning me back to face him, he stressed: Hear me Dilectissima! He is my chosen son, Heather. A child through fate, not action. One of my youngest sister's offspring, she died when he was newly born.

You...you adopted him? If it was that, why was my grandfather so silent? I could feel that the other shoe had yet to drop. Yet as the ultimate betrayal and my equal anger was replaced by my complete confusion, I asked myself what I was missing.

Yes.

So... Where is his father?

He is dead.

There was no hesitation. No grief and not even any bit of remorse. You killed him. It was not a question.

Of course. He was not worthy of being my sister's commander. There is no shame in that, Heather.

So I've been told.

I am sorry that it troubles you Dilectissima. This is the way of things. It is what keeps a hive strong.

I'd want you as my commander, regardless of what was best for the hive... Your sister was entitled...

My sister loved a male who could not lead. It did not mean that she loved him any less but she knew her duty to the Hive as did he. They made a choice, Heather. One I've thanked them for daily since my Second's Aging Ceremony. Though I love our children before they have even been conceived, that does not mean I do not love him as well.

I don't want you to not love him... I just...

You just are thinking like a human. I know and that is okay, but you must remember your rules are not our rules. Neither is less valid than the other...

What if your rules say that our children aren't worthy of the hive... What if my being human is what keeps our children weak as it did to my great, great, god-knows-how-many-greats grandfather? I could see his understanding of my greatest fear dawning in his eyes. I'd thought of this hundreds of times and I could see that he hadn't. What if our child is more human than Wraith...

Heather. The quiet rumble of his voice saying my name stopped my fears on my lips. Tilting my head up, he looked deeply into my eyes and assured me: I have not thought of it because what you fear can never come to pass. Our children will never be turned away from any hive. Through our two bloods they are royalty regardless of their appearance. They will grow up in our ways, so even if they are not physically equal to Wraith, they will have many Wraith bound to them to protect them.

But, what if we have a son and not a daughter?

You want me to say that I would love our child regardless of the sex and that is true, but obviously daughters are more valued to Wraith. Lal's son was turned away because of his sex far more than because of his physical limitations. Bending his head down towards my ear, he huskily continued: But, my Queen, I value our children to come. Would I rather you bore a Queen before a commander... Yes, but neither will be welcomed any less. I promise you.

Turning my head towards him, he slanted his lips towards mine and pulled me closer to him. I submitted, needing to feel his lips on mine, to think about something else other than my fears. There were too many fears to manage anymore: I didn't want to deal with the Queen Mothers' anymore; I didn't want to deal with the very real fear that I'd be damning my children with my love to this man, this Wraith; I didn't want to deal with my Reign right now. Losing myself in his kiss had never been hard for me. Yet, I still marveled that kissing was such a pleasure with him. It wasn't like kissing a human. With him, I could hear and feel his pleasure as well as my own. It was intoxicating.

His pleasure at my pleasure awakened strong desires in me. His answering desire almost convinced me that we should start on our quest to have children. Though I knew I would rush headlong into trying to conceive children if he tried, he held himself back. Turning the thought over and over in my mind, I became aware that my grandfather stood outside my door requesting re-entrance. Kenny was with him.

Pulling away from my Dilectissima, I put the blade in the built-in holder in my dress and then busied my hands with the task of taking imaginary wrinkles out of my dress. Taking a steadying breath, I wordlessly looked up at my Dilectissima. He smiled; then taking my hand in his, he solemnly kissed my palm, and moved a short distance away. Sighing, I sent the order for Kenny and my Grandfather to enter.

Kenny's nervousness and fear seemed to echo throughout the ship. At first, I attributed it to his fear that I would kill him. But, as he entered the room, I realized my error. He feared that he would be the cause of my Dilectissima loss of me and his position. I had become used to my Hive's devotion to me. Their desire to die for me barely seemed abnormal to me anymore. My dislike of the idea hadn't changed. I still never wanted them to have the opportunity to go through with it, but it seemed I'd come to terms with its existence. To see his Hive care for their commander in the same way comforted me. I'd trusted Kenny before and now it seemed I loved him for loving my Dilectissima.

Still, I do have an image to keep up. Once Kenny had cleared the door, he prostrated himself on the floor. I ignored him. Turning towards, my grandfather I greeted him and asked: What is our current position to the Queen Mothers' home world?

We are still in orbit, my Queen. My mother saw us back to the shuttle and suggested you rest for a time.

And what is our status?

All is well and await your orders, my Queen.

And what of my other Hives?

They too await you.

Excellent. Summon them.

Summon them? My grandfather's eyes seemed to twinkle as my Dilectissima's question hung in the air.

Like Kenny's obeisance, I allowed the action to remain unanswered. Instead, I continued speaking to my grandfather: I should not have allowed myself to react so strongly to any test they gave me.

He shrugged. You have always been over reactive to the idea of sex Heather. I would say it is a human failing, but most of Earth has grown out it in the last hundred years... You are the exception.

There are plenty of people who are still... proper.

As were you until recently...

Cousin, do not speak of my Dilectissima in such a manner. Todd's fury at the joking slight to my virtue lit an answering passion in me that could negate his statement. My arousal was dampened as he rounded on me to ask: What are you planning to do Dilectissima?

Looking him in the eye, I knew I could not answer him. My grandfather hadn't inquired about my plan and his lack of mental prodding seemed to silently confirm that I had to do this all on my own. From what I knew, I could see the benefit: the Queen had to show her cunning to win the Queen Mothers' over. My plans must be my own Dilectissima.

Heather...

No. Your Queen shall keep her own council in this matter, Dilectissima.I could see the war going on in my Dilectissima's head and I remained silent as he conquered his own traitorous desire to rule. He always respected me, but with this more Wraith-like silence, it would be an adjustment for him... really for us both. I silently allowed.

Several minutes seemed to pass as he fought his own instincts to protect and dominate me. In the end, bowing, he repeated: You command my happiness, my body, and all that belongs to me, Dilectissima.

Yes, I do. Wary of calling another Wraith by the same title/names that I'd learned for my family Hive, I thought: Rise, son of my Dilectissima. I felt his rush of pleasure at my acceptance as he obeyed. I am sure your commander's value of you will be justified given time. At any rate, you command my Dilectissima's Hive in his absence?

I do, my Queen.

I see no reason to change that for now... Return to your hive and advise them that your commander will be remaining here on my ancestral Hive. You may command there in my name.

Bowing again, my Dilectissima intoned: My Queen, it is right and proper for your rule to be conducted from your strongest Hive. This Hive has not had advancement for ten thousand years, it is best...

Best? I decide what is best and we will remain here.

My Queen... I could hear the pain in his voice as he mentally prepared himself to be utterly blunt: I am your commander. Only one commander can govern a Hive at a time. Do you wish me to kill your grandfather then?

Instead of answering, I looked him in the eyes and I laughed. It was that laugh that moviegoers are used to. It was the laugh of the evil villain right before the hero's death. At my laugh, my second and our men swarmed in, and I felt Kenny's mental request for Todd's orders. My grandfather moved to stand between me and my Dilectissima. Standing, Todd looked me in the eye. His love for me shined in his eyes and I looked back at him and answered: If any Wraith is to die, it would be you. Today... I am kind. Commander, escort my Dilectissima to my quarters. My Second take this... Young one... to his Hive. And if they move to harm us: destroy them.

Yes, My Queen. It felt odd but all three minds - my Second, my grandfather, and Todd's second - all accepted my death order so easily.

As my Dilectissima was led away from me by my grandfather, I felt a strong desire to stop this. I wanted to ask them to help me to figure out my next move. I wanted to beg them to work together, to work with me. Instead, I silently watched them go. Each beat of my heart begged me to stop. I could feel the blood surging through my veins, singing for my Dilectissima nearness. Yet, I didn't stop them. Everything is transpiring according to my design... The Emperor's words echoed throughout my mind. I was him now. I'm always going to be alone here... really. Swallowing hard, I allowed my head to fall between my legs and the tears to fall. My breath wasn't coming easily; there wasn't any air to breath. It's a panic attack. Knowing what was happening, didn't make it go away of course. I could feel my grandfather reaching out to me, wanting to calm me. I blocked him. I didn't want to hear his sage advice. I didn't want his comfort. I'd leaned on him for far too long. Echoing the most important thought through the hive with my full mental power behind it, I answered my Dilectissima, my grandfather, and the rest of the hive's concern with one thought: I am Queen. Alone, I rule.

My Queen?

Raising my eyes to find my grandfather crouching down next to me, I was glad that I'd cleaned up my face an hour ago. I am fine, Grandfather.

May I talk to my granddaughter, my dear, and not the wraith Queen for a second?

No.

Ah. So, you are truly not okay then. Taking my hand in his, he kissed my palm and said: It is just us. You don't have to pretend here... nor should you... Out of all here, I know how important it is important for you to have someone to confide in, Heather. You must have that level of love and trust in your life... I know...

You know the old me, Grandfather. I can't be that girl anymore. We both know that. Here, I must be Queen. Wraith do not need such things.

Of course we do.

Liar.

Liar? No, Heather... never to you.

Then who is the one you confide in Grandfather? I didn't bother hiding my scorn or my anger.

I confide in my Queen.

His answer rang both truthfully and dishonestly in my ears. Forcefully entering his mind, I didn't bother to be gentle. Something didn't ring true and I needed to understand what I was sensing. He didn't stop me as I burrowed into his memories. After Lal's death, he'd spoken to the air to his dead queen. He'd asked, and then begged, for a daughter prior to every human generations being born, only to be disappointed... over and over again. That's not what I want to know. He'd forbidden any wraith on his hive to be cloned as it would only serve to give additional Wraith to feed. Show me what I want to know... Lal's silence for 10,000 years was defying but he never stopped speaking to her. He never stopped feeling that she was his queen. She was still HIS Queen. The realization stopped my searching. It was the truth. Lal was my grandfather's Queen. I was Queen because she was his Queen., but if Lal was to appear to him now and give an order counter to mine, he'd obey her.

Yes, grand daughter... But that does not diminish you...

Of course not, Grandfather.

It is not a problem Heather.

My eyes seemed to have a mind of their own and tears seemed to be the order of the day. It is not.

Heather... You are my heart: Mine and my Queens. Forever.

I love you grandfather. A blade flashed.

My Grandfather smiled. My perfect girl...