My Month with the Gods
As the Rogues mingled, Wedge led me through the reception line, introducing me to the various dignitaries present. Numerous introductions and an hour or so later, I was startled to hear Tino's voice at my elbow asking me to dance.
We were standing in a semi-quiet corner so I chose to address him directly rather than make a scene. Besides if I didn't do or say something, I got the distinct impression from his expression that Wedge would. I gave Tino my best General Xen glare and said, "A few days ago notwithstanding, the last time we saw each other, I was trying to kill you. What makes you think I would want to dance with you?"
He stood in stunned silence for a moment before responding; "I was hoping to speak with you alone."
I straightened my shoulders and lifted my chin stubbornly. "Anything you have to say to me can be said in front of General Antilles."
His eyes flashed to Wedge who had wrapped a possessive arm around my waist, pulling me against him. I started to step away simply because I wanted room to maneuver if I decided to pull one of my knives. I changed my mind when I thought about how much this movement would hurt Wedgeís feelings not to mention we were at a State Dinner. Forced smiles and politeness was the name of the game here.
Hobbie and Wes joined us, standing close at my other side and I noticed Tycho and Winter approaching from across the room. When Tino didnít answer immediately, I replied, "Or would you prefer the taste of my blade?"
This caught his attention. He stiffened, looked around at the growing gathering, turned and headed toward an alcove off the far side of the room. I noted with some interest -- and Tycho did, too -- that he nodded to Winter as they passed and she returned his greeting with a genuine smile.
"Everything alright?" Tycho asked as they joined us.
"Yeah; he said he wanted to talk to me alone. Like that is really going to happen," I replied wryly.
Winter was watching the Rogues with a rather puzzled expression, "Why not?"
As I stared incredulously at her, Tycho answered, "That was Tino." Winter continued to stare blankly at him so he added, "Heís from Jovan. He used to be a Viper."
"Key word: used to be," she pointed out. "He joined Intel about three years ago. Brought a number of Imperials with him, too. Although I suspect they are more loyal to him than any government." Understanding began to dawn on her face and she turned to me, "Youíre his old girlfriend. Arenít you?"
I narrowed my eyes suspiciously, "What has he told you?"
She shrugged, "Just that he realized he was doing something wrong when his fiancť felt strongly enough to try to kill him instead of marry him." Her eyes softened as she finished, "He really has changed. Maybe you should talk to him."
My voice was ice-cold when I replied, "I watched him torture and kill my friend. Mitra was the closest thing Iíve ever had to a brother and he went to his grave believing I had betrayed him. And you have the nerve to tell me I should be nice to Tino because heís changed? Now I remember why I donít like Intel types."
As I moved to leave, Wedge grabbed my arm. I looked down at his hand and then back up to meet his eyes. He pulled his hand away as if he had been declared dinner by a sand panther, which wasnít that far from the truth. I then turned and headed in search of a good stiff drink.
I staked out a spot at the end of the bar, hoping to drown my memories in a bottle of Whyren's. I downed the first glass and buried my face in my hands as the bartender poured me a refill. I heard movement and looked over, expecting to see Wedge beside me only to find Tycho's concerned crystal-blue gaze.
I took a deep breath and let it out slowly. "Guess I should apologize to Winter."
He replied softly, "As a personal favor to me I would appreciate it if you did but that is not why I'm here." He watched as I downed another glass. "That doesn't help. Believe me, I tried it," he said softly.
I got the distinct impression he wanted to talk and was trying to figure out how to put everything into words. I had discovered that when he was in a thoughtful mood, it was usually worth my while to hear what he had to say so I sat quietly waiting.
"How much did you hear about my murder trial?" he finally asked.
I realized where he was going. Although we didnít get a lot of the details at the time, I had heard about the time he spent on the Lusankya. I remembered the rumors among the Vipers about some of the experiments that went on there and shuddered. "I know you were Isardís guest for a while. Iíve seen the reports from where we had to deal with a few of her time bombs. Not pretty."
He nodded and again struggled for words. "We both spent time in Imperial captivity."
"Except I really wasnít in captivity. I could have left at any time," I reminded him.
He looked me in the eye and I could see the sadness there, "But you didnít; you stayed because your people needed you to even though you really were never trained for that kind of assignment. So in many ways, you were a captive." He grinned wryly, "At least I didnít have to pretend I liked being with them."
I barked a laugh. "I guess you have a point there. I just wish I could forget sometimes," I told him sadly.
He waved toward my now-empty glass, "This isnít the way to go about it. I found spending time with friends is much better."
I nodded, "Yeah, youíre right."
He stood and smiled, "Come on, I think there are several Rogues who are waiting to ask you to dance. And besides, Wedge and Winter might get kind of upset that Iím monopolizing your time this way."
I stood to follow him but stopped as the bartender placed matching phosphorescent drinks in front of us and winked. "For the lady and her mate," he said.
Tycho smirked, "Guess I should bring this to Wedge; he could probably use it about now." We laughed as we picked up the drinks and headed back into the Reception Hall.
To be Continued...
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