"Siha, are you sure you wish to go down there alone?"

She turned toward him, her hair a shadow streaked with deep blue. She closed her eyes, clenched them, perhaps in pain. He'd learned that simple and bright human eyes could speak as many volumes as those sunset eyes that had once met his in his scope. He'd thought them tiny and almost bland and expressionless at first, with no inner lids to speak the heart. Closed, they were night, all light banished. He wanted to smooth away the tightness in those brows, but he didn't dare.

"I have to do this." She reached for his hand, and once again, her flame warmed him, spreading from those soft velvet hands to the heart of him. He wondered if he dared to hold her that her heat would scorch him to ash.

"Is that truly what you wish?"

Those eyes popped open and, far from the sunset that had once entranced him through the scope, noonday sky greeted him. How strange, in the sunset of his own life, that he found daylight awaiting him. "I just wish this was over with!"

Her voice twisted. She gripped his hand, her many fingers tight bands about his. He let her breathe, deep and unlabored, unlike the clenched breaths he drew here in the shuttle bay. "Siha…"

"I know, but I have to do this alone. I have to." She didn't sound convinced, and her usual certainty had vanished to nothing.

"You know you have but to ask."

"I…" Her eyes hardened, the harsh glare of late afternoon. "No."

"I don't wish to be a burden but I don't like seeing you suffer."

Then the fire turned to an inferno as her earthen skin turned as indistinct as her hair. One finger, the second finger, jabbed its way deep into his chest. It scorched him just as he feared.

"Don't you dare say you're a burden! Don't even fucking think that!" He'd seen the same sort of indignation in those sunset eyes that met him now in her narrowed eyes. And then it faded to the softness she usually kept only for him. "I'm sorry, querido. It's this damned mission… I thought I was through with the Alliance. I… I'll see you later."

"I will pray to Kalahira for the lost. Be safe, Siha."

She clutched at his hand for what he wished was an eternity, but passed in the single blink of her lids. "It's just a crashed ship; there's nothing to worry about. EDI's scans are negative." She pressed her blazing forehead against his, and managed a wan smile. "But, thank you for the prayers. God knows they need them."

Back in Life Support, he settled into his chair and folded his hands before him. Normally, the thrum of the vents and the cycling systems soothed him and eased his transition back into his soul. This time, though, the flashes kept intruding on his chant. Hair, a mass of shadow, but lit with lightning flashes in the sparse white light. Widened eyes, deepened in the lingering shadows. Lush lips pursed in deep earthen skin. A challenge to his skeptical target. A taut body leans back and lips lengthen to a smirk. He stood and pressed a few buttons.

"EDI, if I might ask a favor…"

"I'll let you know when the shuttle is in docking range, Mr. Krios."

"Many thanks." Lips curved faintly up at the corners until they rose out of sight. She seemed to find it amusing whenever he bowed to the ship's AI. Awareness must be honored in all its forms, Siha.

Amonkira, let her hunt be successful. Kalahira, may your waves guide those souls to their release.