That Which Divides
By Laura Schiller
Based on: Across the Universe/A Million Suns
Copyright: Beth Revis
Why is it, Orion asked himself as he watched Victria from across his desk, that every time this girl sets foot inside the Recorder Hall, she's even more beautiful than before?
He watched the way her hair shone, even in the cold light of the Recorder Hall; the way the strap on her shirt threatened to slide off her smooth shoulder until she reached up to adjust it; the spark in her eyes as she emphatically disagreed with him about the latest book he had lent her.
"Well, of course it's contrived and unrealistic! That's not the point. Jane and Rochester getting back together is indispensableto their character development – he needs her as his moral compass, she needs him to challenge her mentally, not to mention sexually. So if it takes a loony psychic message to get them both to see the light, why not?"
Why not, indeed? Orion found it annoyingly difficult to make an intelligent reply. His thirty-three years seemed to multiply the more he thought of her. She was only seventeen – young enough to be his daughter, for the stars' sake. Never mind that she already had the body of a woman, and those flashes of adult wisdom when they spoke sometimes. She had three whole years to go until her Season, and even then …
He jumped guitily as her voice shook him out of his throughts. Concentrate, you chutz.
"Do you think different ages are a drawback in choosing a mate?" she asked, her enthusiasm fading into a more quiet, thoughtful tone of voice.
He stared down at the wood grain of his antique desk to avoid her eyes. His palms were sweating. Were they still talking about a centuries-old novel from Sol-Earth? Had she guessed his thoughts?
"Ahem … sometimes. It depends."
"On whether the two people's minds are the same age, even if their bodies aren't. You know what I mean?"
He looked up just in time to see her hair swinging forward as she nodded.
"Thank the stars!" Her relieved giggle was the last thing he expected to hear; neither was the explanation that followed. "That's exactly how I feel, except I couldn't find the words. See, I think Elder has a crush on me, and it's driving me crazy. He's been following me for weeks."
The irony made Orion choke with suppressed laughter, which he disguised as a clearing of his throat. Of course his young clone had a crush on Victria. One too young, one too old; apparently neither of his selves could get it right.
"I take it you don't find him compatible?" he teased.
"He still sleeps with his security blanket." She rolled her eyes. "Also he and Harley know way too many fart jokes for my liking. Don't get me wrong, I like the kid, but I can't picture him ever leading the ship, let alone getting a girl."
"Who knows? In a few years' time, he may surprise you." Orion smiled, taking a bittersweet satisfaction in the secrets he knew. "Eldests tend to mature very quickly, from what I've been told. Responsibility for three thousand people will do that to a person."
Victria closed her eyes in brief sympathy. "I suppose it does … poor Elder. He should enjoy being young and carefree while he has the chance, instead of trying to act grown-up for me. The other day I heard him and Harley planning to try and steal some of the Shippers' drink. That stuff is nasty."
"Indeed." Especially as a disinfectant. Orion touched the scar where his wi-com had been, which ached at the memory. Victria's kind words about Elder, however, made him feel unexpectedly touched; it was as if she had sympathized with him, his own lonely teenage self, so long ago. If only they had been born the same age …
He picked up the battered paperback copy of Jane Eyre with careful hands. What had posessed him to lend her this, of all the books in the Hall? The story of a bitter, middle-aged man with a haunting past and a dreary present, a strong young woman both innocent and wise, and the way their love completed them. There could be no such happy ending for Orion; not if Victria were to remain innocent.
If he told her the truth, about himself and Godspeed, there would be no family on a distant moor for her to escape to. There would be no psychic connection to guide them back together. Life was not a novel; at his age, he really ought to have learned that by now.
"I'm glad you enjoyed it," he said, holding the book out to her. "You can keep it if you like."
"Oh no, I couldn't!" In spite of her refusal, her hands visibly itched to take it back. "I've already got half your fiction category hidden in my room! Why do you keep giving me books, Orion? Is it because you know I can't resist them?"
Her teasing was completely innocent – what else could it be? – and yet the phrase can't resist, with her soft laughter behind it, still gave him some very inappropriate thoughts.
"I like to see them go where they are properly appreciated," he said, retreating into the dignified formality he had learned from Eldest.
For a moment, something almost like sorrow, or disappointment, showed in Victria's dark eyes – but she blinked it away so quickly, he decided it must have been his imagination. Too many hours with no one but fictional characters for company might do that to a person.
"Thank you so much," she said, holding Jane Eyre close to her chest. "I … I'll take good care of it. I promise."
"You're very welcome."