AN: The saga of Kh'aan and Kayla continues. I thought to start this installment with a summary of the first story, but frankly that would take too long. So if you're popping in on this as a newbie, you'd do well to read 'A Fine Mess' first. For all you returning lovelies, strap in and hang on! Happy New Year!
Another Fine Mess
Chapter 1 - My Life for You
Humans - the weaker species, unpredictable, untrustworthy, and devious. Or so he thought. A valued prey - both for the challenge of killing and for their usefulness as hosts to the Yautja's ultimate prize. Or so he was raised to believe. The scourge of the known universe - taking anything they wanted without remorse and leeching every natural resource from any planet they inhabited, without a care for any other creature besides themselves. Or so he'd always been told.
You dare think that you can challenge me, ooman? I will eviscerate you with your own blades and then add your skull to my collection…right between the Jaiganga horns and Hard Meat hatchlings.
You should have killed it.
Kh'aan drummed his talons on the console while waiting for the ship to accept the new course. He had heard of Markedis, but never believed the stories to be anything other than legends. The ancient planet was rumored to be the original home of the Hish, his ancestors, before civil wars divided the tribes and the first Grand Matron united them again. He wondered if it even existed anymore.
"Estimated time to arrival: 10 days, 14 hours."
"Pauk! That is too long!" He felt a painful twinge in his chest, and hurried to the engineering deck to see if he could transfer any more power to the engines. He remembered the old configurations for his brother's ship, but Kh'val had made many changes over the years that Kh'aan knew nothing about. After several fruitless hours he finally gave up, concern driving him back to the med-lab.
The hunter entered the room slowly as though afraid to reach his destination. He'd held onto the fleeting hope that she would be awake when he returned, but he knew that it was not meant to be. The human's injuries were too extensive to allow for a quick recovery, no matter how much he wanted or pleaded for it. Kh'aan pulled a wheeled stool over to the exam bed, adjusting its height enough that he could easily rest his arms on the platform. His trembling hand reached forward to gently caress a claw down her cheek, and he winced at the bandages that covered the rest of her face. That she survived his brother's assault at all was testament to her strength, but he wondered…would they ever find peace, or were they doomed to die in each other's arms for eternity?
Unbelievable! Trapped on this stupid planet, with this infernal ooman…FEMALE ooman…and I cannot kill her! With her incessant warbling and the chattering of her blunt teeth…Pauk! Why can you not simply die, you annoying creature?
You still should have killed it.
"Estimated time to arrival: 8 days, 22 hours."
The hunter stormed through engineering venting his frustration on every available surface. He'd reduced every power source on the ship to minimal function and rerouted the reserves to propulsion, but still could not increase their speed. Kayla's condition grew worse with each passing hour, and he was ashamed that he could not heal her. Some High Elder I would have been. I should know how to tend to any injury; I have been trained in field medicine. Why can I not help her? It is unfair!
You whine too much, pup.
Kh'aan snarled, his head snapping up to locate the source of the voice. "Who said that? Show yourself!"
The engines hummed and rattled around him, but otherwise the deck remained silent. Kh'aan slammed a fist against a coolant tank and then made his way back to the main level. His mind returned to self-pity as he entered the med-lab, resuming his seat by her side. I cannot bear to watch you die. After all that we have been through, I cannot stand to feel so helpless.
The hunter huffed out a heavy breath and then crossed his arms on the exam bed, resting his head with his eyes fixed on the monitor. After a short while, the human's slow pulse eventually lulled him into fitful sleep.
I have ruined my life for you, ooman, all in the name of honor. My sire may not understand, but Cetanu will when I face him. I had no choice - leave you to please my clan, or save you to please my god. How is it that you still live? Such a resilient creature. Perhaps all oomans are not the same; you are certainly more hardy than I would have ever believed. May Paya witness my oath: I will spare your life, and return you to your people if it is your desire.
Such pointless sacrifice for prey. Pathetic.
"Estimated time to arrival: 6 days, 4 hours."
Kh'aan shuffled wearily into the infirmary and slumped onto the stool. After four days he had finally disposed of Kh'val's body, though 'disposed of' was a generous phrase. He'd spent an hour attempting to move him without touching him, only to result in ripping the carcass to shreds as rage overshadowed his disgust. He could not erase the image or silence the screams, but he could - and did - rend his brother's corpse into pieces no bigger than a hand. The resulting mess was one hundred times worse than the original condition of the armory, and the hunter simply secured all loose implements before venting the room into space. He'd watched from the control room as the remains drifted away, and then turned the ship to incinerate them in its wake.
He desperately needed to bathe, but the human called to him as clearly as if she'd been awake to use her voice. Immobilized and frail, she appeared less like the Kayla he knew and more like the weak and helpless creatures that human females were expected to be. Kh'aan reached forward to grasp her hand, bringing it up to draw his tusks across her knuckles. Must I beg for her life? Do not take her from me. She is my home now, without her I am lost.
Kh'aan lurched from the stool and spun in place. He assumed that his conscience had finally renewed its berating arguments, but the voice did not seem to be his own. A familiar chuckle echoed ominously through his head, and the hunter stormed back to the armory expecting Kh'val to be there. I have bested you, brother. You are dead because I KILLED YOU! Torment me no longer!
Silence met him above the hum of the ship but the presence lingered, drawing his eyes to the wall covered with knives. She defended herself. I saw the wounds on his body…she would never be taken without a fight. He stepped over to the display and removed a long thin dagger from its hook. Kh'val's blood still stained the blade, and the sight made Kh'aan smile for the first time in days. I will make this yours, Kayla, or it will bring me to you.
How many times have I nearly lost you? The planet, the vortex, the module…I had hoped to never see you harmed again, and yet now you are in pain that I cannot ease. I was a fool, blinded by instincts that I could not control. I will never forgive myself for putting you in danger. How can I help you when I know nothing of what ails you…
My fierce warrior, dry your eyes. I will never leave you alone, I swear it. Forgive me for frightening you. I should have remembered, I should have told you more about myself. I suppose we are even now, surprising each other with our strange conditions. No more secrets, I promise. It is alright now, my precious Kayla. Do not fear for me. I will always be with you…
"Estimated time to arrival: 3 days, 17 hours."
Three more days, Kayla. Only three more days. Kh'aan's vision wavered as he made his way from the control room. With no thought to his own well being, the hunter had not eaten since setting the course to save his companion. He had no desire for food, even though his stomach said otherwise, and the lack of nutrients was quickly taking its toll. His once enviable physique was a shadow of its former glory. His vibrant coloring had faded to become sallow and dull, and his bright intelligent eyes remained clouded with grief, frequently losing their focus. Each time he passed the meal chamber his feet tried to veer him in that direction, but nothing could keep him from her side. At one point he was certain that her eyes had opened, but upon closer inspection realized that he was imagining things. Her pulse was dangerously slow and frequently skipped, sending his already frazzled nerves into an uproar, and the hunter moved from his post only to check their course.
Kh'aan sank down to the stool with a weary huff, but in his delirium misjudged the distance. The small seat darted out from under his off-center plunge, and he abruptly found himself on the floor. His vision swam and the room flashed in sickening waves as his mind struggled to maintain some sort of focus. The hunter grasped the exam bed and squeezed his eyes shut until the vertigo passed. Once certain that he would not vomit, Kh'aan cracked open one blurry eye…to see the shadow of his brother sneering down at him.
The hunter heaved to his feet, abruptly careening into the counter from his lack of balance. Kh'val's rough laugh spiked through his skull like ice and Kh'aan spun around swinging. "You are dead! I killed you, filthy Bad Blood!"
The apparition sneered, blood and tissue dripping from its mangled skull to make wet splats on the floor. Ooman loving pup.
Kh'aan snarled and lunged for the vision, but it disappeared to leave him crashing into the wall. "You are not real! You are only in my mind!"He grasped at his throbbing skull and warily turned to face his nightmare. The ghostly form chuckled.
Remember this, traitor…
Kh'aan's vision swam again and he fell back against the exam bed. He raised his eyes to see his brother holding Kayla aloft by her throat. The arbitrator threw the human across the counter with his remaining eye locked on Kh'aan's face, and the hunter lunged forward before the vision could continue. Kh'val laughed once more and then vanished, leaving Kh'aan to slam into the counter. His skull crashed into one of the glass cabinets leaving a long gash along his crest, and he sank to the floor as blood ran into his eyes. Never again! You will never touch her again! You are dead! Never again! Warily he stole a glance at the exam bed, pleased and disheartened to see that she was still there, still unconscious…still dying.
The broken warrior reached down to the sheath on his calf and drew Kayla's blade. Its finish gleamed from repeated sharpening and polishing, and as he drew it across his palm it cut through the flesh with fluid ease. Kh'aan raised reluctant eyes to the monitor and her agonizingly slow pulse, and pulled the sharpening stone from a pouch on his belt.
Wait for me.
This is where I belong, Kayla, where we belong. If only for a moment, I can pretend that this nightmare does not exist and simply hold you close. I do not understand these feelings, but I know that I cannot fight them. No matter what we face, I know now that we are bound to each other. I cannot…I will not live without you. Sleep now, safe with me. I will never let you go.
The hunter's eyes snapped open to gloom. He blinked several times thinking that his vision was failing, but as he raised a hand to his face the motion activated the lights of the med-lab. How long has it been for the lighting shut off on its own? Kayla! Kh'aan shot to his feet, vertigo tipping him forward to bang his jaw on the exam bed before he landed on his knees. He nearly blacked out again, and tried to focus on the steady drone of the monitor. After several moments of straining and feeling that his hearing was also leaving him, the hunter suddenly realized that he could hear everything but the monitor. Unfocused eyes widened in fear as he lurched to his feet. His senses were not lying - the machine was silent.
The hunter's entire body shook as he dragged his gaze to Kayla's face and reached for her hand. Before she had only been slightly cool to the touch; now her skin was cold and lifeless. A howl caught in Kh'aan's throat as he bent forward to brush his forehead against hers. No…please! He crushed their faces together in an effort to feel her breath, but no air passed her lips and the human remained still…cold…
"No! Paya, I beg you! Cetanu, I offer my life! Please! NO!"
Kh'aan's strength left him and he fell to the floor in a defeated heap. I tried, Kayla. Forgive me, I tried. His hand unconsciously reached for the blade as his eyes rose to her pale face. We will never be separated again. Wait for me…I will find you. The point pressed against his chest, his pounding heart making the metal vibrate. I am ready, Black Warrior. The blade pierced his skin as his eyes ease shut.
"Approaching designated coordinates…deactivate automatic navigation. Approaching designated coordinates…deactivate automatic navigation."
Time stopped as bronze orbs opened in silent question.
"Approaching designated coordinates…deactivate automatic navigation."
All at once, the spark of hope renewed.