Marilynn Byerly

 

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Hostages to Fortune

Part Four

 

"I have my means of death."

"You don't want death, you want certainty. You want to know that those you love won't leave you. Everyone's always left you, so you want to leave them first."

"That is untrue. I intend only to save Ari."

"All you will do is perpetuate the same mistake in Ari's life. You said that Ari's life has followed the same pattern as yours. Do you want Ari to reach this point of suicide as you have? Do you want him to remember that you deserted him too? Do you want him to copy you and kill himself?"

"I wish only to break the pattern of death."

"By dying you will perpetuate that pattern. By living you will save Ari that death."

"I do not know. I am confused. I seek only to save Ari."

"I know this, destruction is never the answer. To die to save another is good. To die to destroy is evil. You must decide where your choices lead." She wrapped her arms more tightly around his chest. "I’m sorry I can give you no better answer, my love. You must make this horrible decision yourself. Just remember something your friend Buck said. It takes courage to live and love in the face of death. You have such courage and an enormous capacity for love. All those in your life have been very lucky."

The wistfulness of her voice stabbed Hawk's heart. "I am sorry, my little Lark. I should have loved you."

"Would you please kiss me?"

Bending his head, he brushed and nudged his lips against hers, and when her lips softened and parted, he deepened the kiss.

As their lips parted, Tiber sighed happily. "Something to remember you by. I enjoyed that, but you taste like dirt."

"As do you, my dirty friend. Perhaps another?" he whispered kindly, his heart filled with tenderness, then kissed her again.

Tiber shyly caressed his mind with hers, allowing him to experience the love she bore him.

Blinking tears, he pulled away, and his voice broke with pain. "Forgive me."

"I do not regret a moment of loving you. Don’t damn yourself for my death or for not returning that love. You gave the ability to love back to me.

“When I lost my mate, I thought I had lost my soul as well. You gave my soul back. It is enough for me to know I have loved you and am capable of loving you."

Weakness touching her again, she sagged against him and burrowed her face against his chest and his silken tunic.

A moment of satisfaction filled Hawk as he saw Tiber's pleased smile of remembrance.

He had brought this outfit hoping for that response. When she had given him this matching tunic and pants, he had accepted them as casually as he had accepted all that she had given him. With nothing but the last ember of life in his charred body, he had come to her. She had given him his life and everything else, asking nothing in return.

And that was all he had returned, nothing.

Only after she had told him she loved him had Hawk realized how totally self-absorbed he had been. In every word and in every act, she had given more than kindness. She had surrounded him with the testimony of her love.

Until she had spoken of her love, he had not even seen the import of these garments. To him they were only of a special silken fabric that did not chaff his new, baby-tender skin. He had not recognized the unspoken love behind the becoming design or the enormous effort necessary in the dyeing of the fabric to match the chameleon vagaries of his hazel eyes. A gift of love, not a practical necessity from his physician.

If he had noticed, he could have saved her pride the humiliation of his rejection by speaking first of his friendship, but he had not. He could save her nothing, not even her life in return for his.

As he brought his hand to her face to brush her hair from her eyes, he stopped in mid-motion. Even now, he failed her.

Suddenly aware of the stiffness of his body and the formality of his embrace, he forced himself to relax against her. His practical action became a caress. He could not give her a mate's love, but he could give her the love that the humans called friendship.

Her life force ebbing now, Tiber lay unmoving in his arms. Only the faint beating of her two hearts against him told him she lived.

Whispering soft nonsense words of solace as much to himself as to her, he caressed her face and hair. The pain of her leaving was sharp and cruel even though he knew he would soon follow her.

A sob caught in his throat as unshed tears stung his eyes, and he bowed his head resting his face against hers. It was as if he held in spirit all those he had loved and lost. "Koori, Ari, Tiber."

"Do not grieve so. We wish only that you live and be happy. I love you, Hawk."

Hawk heard voices from the past.

Koori spoke like a knell of doom, "I will love you always, Hawk."

"I love you, big brother," Ari said.

As if he saw each one executed before his eyes because of that love, Hawk shuddered in horror.

"Do not leave me, Tiber. I need your wisdom. I do not know what to do. How can I save Ari?"

"My strength is gone."

Remembering those words, Hawk blinked in surprise. He had spoken them to Ari on the day they had met, the day Ari had risked his own life to save Hawk the same way he had saved Ari yesterday.

Buck spoke in memory, "'Sometimes children see things more clearly than their elders. Ask Ari. He won't thank you for the extra years if he has to spend them without you."

Hawk's own bitter voice spoke, "A man who loves gives hostages to fortune."

"And the children shall lead you." Did the human Bible say that?

Tormented by jumbled thoughts and memories, Hawk shook his head. What should he do?

Tiber's words to him rang in counterpoint to the ancient curse.

"You will live to see all you love die before you."

If he killed himself, would Ari kill himself? If he died, would Ari die?

"A man who loves gives hostages to fortune."

"I love you, big brother."

What should he do?

"You don't want death, you want certainty."

"I wish only to save Ari."

What should he do?

As Tiber's lips melded with his, Hawk jolted with surprise. Gone was the gentle propriety of their earlier kisses. She kissed him as she would her mate. Their minds slipped into the far deeper rapport shared only between bonded pairs.

Blushing, he started to pull away but stopped when he felt the supplication in her hands on his temples. She offered her love and the intimacy of her soul through a mate's kiss, and asked only that he let her give, understanding that he had no love of equal measure to return. In all their time together, this was the only thing she had ever asked of him.

He realized that she did not act lightly linking so intimately with him. Her people were as his. Each chose a mate for as long as they both lived and bound themselves in body, heart, and mind. No, what she gave was not casual.

He relaxed and returned the kiss.

Unlike the earlier, less intimate mental touch, her mind now opened completely to him revealing, not memory, but the essence of her spirit.

A golden bud of light, her love blossomed in his soul radiating through the darkest, coldest shadows of his innermost grief.

The tumult in his mind slowed.

Should he kill himself to save Ari, or by killing himself would he drive Ari to suicide? What should he do?

Again the voices returned to mock or question.

"A man who loves gives hostages to fortune."

"You will live to see all you love die before you."

If he killed himself, would Ari kill himself? If he did not die, would Ari die?

"You will live to see all you love die before you."

What should he do?

In the golden light of Tiber’s love, the words that had haunted him transformed and became both benediction and redemption. "A man who loves gives."

As their lips parted, Tiber laughed softly. "I'm a shameless hussy."

Moved by the intimacy of the love she had given so generously to him, Hawk caressed her face. "No, you are my friend. I thank you."

Awed, he looked at her seeing her enormous beauty, not only the beauty Buck had spoken of, but her inner beauty.

Even now, at the edge of her death, she used her last energy not to stay alive but to hide her pain from him. Only the trembling of her body against his betrayed her.

As if sensing his thoughts, Tiber blushed. "You are a fine person. It is my honor to be your friend."

"I have decided what I will do. I will sing the death song with you, little Lark."

"Hawk, no, please don't kill yourself."

"I will not." He picked her up, carried her to the nearby hovercraft, opened it, and sat down in the passenger seat with her in his lap. “I was so certain that you would die because you loved me that I did not even consider trying to save you, but what if I am wrong? I may be able to to save you the same way I saved Ari. As a telepath, you can help me establish the link."

"I'm dying. You will probably die with me."

"It does not matter. I wish to die to save Ari, but I cannot commit suicide. He would surmise the truth and follow me in this pattern. You said that only death to save another is good. I choose that means of death then, but it is not lightly chosen.

“I will fight to give you life with my whole being. I do not wish you to die. I care too deeply, my friend.

“In fighting for you, my own life will be balanced, too. Our fates will be tied together. I will not die because you would die. If I live, may it be for the best.

“And after, I will not try to destroy myself again. Let the universe do with me as it will. I will love Ari and my friends until they die or until I die. It matters not when death comes."

Tiber smiled up at him. "You've made a wise choice. Let Fortune decide, and let us have the courage to accept the outcome."

She turned to the ship's computer and gave it detailed instructions in another language then said to him, "In an hour's time, the hovercraft will leave here with us and go down to where Ari and your friends await you. By then, we will be dead or healing. We don't want Ari to risk himself trying to save us. This way they will know our fates, and they will have the hovercraft to get Ari to the medical attention he still requires."

"Good. I feared for Ari." Bending, he kissed her gently. "Farewell, my friend. May we meet in happier days." He placed his hands over her left heart and jaw line.

"For your sake, I wish this weren't necessary. I want you to live." She, in turn, placed her hands in the same positions on his body. "I will teach you the words and the dance, then you must lead." As death touched her, she shuddered. "We have the piper to pay."

"Not the piper, but fortune. We both have hostages to fortune, and we seek ransom."

In a wave of dizziness, Hawk felt himself spiraling down into darkness with Tiber in his arms.

#

A soft deep voice calling him back, Hawk regained consciousness. The Sickbay and a familiar face danced and swirled above him. "Ari?"

"Yes, it is me. How are you feeling?"

"Weak. Confused. Ari?"

Ari lifted Hawk's hands to his cheeks. "Ari in the flesh and feathers."

The room stopped spinning, and vague memories returned. "Hurt?" He lifted his brother's tunic and examined the wound on his right side. "You heal cleanly."

"Buck is right. You are the biggest Mother Hen in the known planets."

"How?"

"He and Wilma are fine. Buck's ankle heals. He says he will be dancing and singing in no time."

"Singing?" Trying to remember, Hawk shook his head. "Lark?"

"I do not understand. Do you hurt? Can I get Dr. Goodfellow?"

"Doctor. That is it. Where is Tiber?"

"She is gone."

Hawk covered his face with his arm to hide his grief. "I thought I had saved her."

"Hawk, no!" Ari pulled his arm away. "She has left Searcher. She is alive."

'"Alive!"

"Yes. I am sorry. I did not mean to frighten you so. Her ship, Helios, came for her, and she went away. Her legs are mended, and she has a little strength.

“She left you a present. Her ship and Leos were picking it up off planet. That is why Leos was not there to help her when she was hurt."

Uninterested in presents and Leos, Hawk frowned. "Why did she leave us?"

"She told me to tell you after the present and a message. She said a holograph of the present would do until you regained enough strength to see it in person." Ari grinned mischievously, pulled over a viewing screen, and flipped a switch. "She knew I could not wait to show you. It is beautiful."

Hawk stared curiously then felt a dull pain of recognition. "I do not understand. A picture of my ship before it was destroyed in the nova?"

"This is a new ship. She said that your ship's specs and computer were saved from the nova so she had a duplicate made. She added a few goodies, but it is essentially the same ship."

“Goodies?" Hawk tried to stifle a foolish grin but failed. "I cannot believe this."

"Buck said that the lady has style. I think she is nice. She likes us and wishes to be friends."

"I wish us to be friends, too," Hawk said with sadness. "What was her message?"

"She gave two. For the ship, she said that although the ship duplicates the past, it is a symbol of all the good our long future will hold. 'Remember the happiness of the past with the joy of the future.'"

"That is wise. It is Tiber. And the second message? Did it say why she left us?"

"I think so, but I do not understand it. She said she would see us in the future, but that 'the lark has sung too deeply from the heart for the present.' What does that mean?"

"She is embarrassed about what has happened between us. She could not face me so soon." Sensing his brother's question, Hawk added, "She is wrong. It is I who have been shamed by her generosity of spirit. What else did she say?"

"She said that she would always be our friend and that we should call her if we need her. Then she said something strange. She said that if you were ever ‘cured of the blindness of your heart and the deafness of your spirit, you should. . . .'”

"Should what?"

"She did not say. She said ‘if you do not know that, forget it.’"

Hawk lay back and roared with all the laughter that had been bottled inside of him for months.

Ari bent over him anxiously. "Hawk, are you all right?"

Still laughing, Hawk planted kisses on Ari's cheeks. "Yes, little brother, I am fine. Forgive me for these last months. I have been a damned fool. I love you, Ari. I love you." Drunken on those words, he repeated them over and over again.

"I am a man who loves. And to hell with dead philosophy and the rest of that quotation."

 

THE END

~*~

The character Hawk and the Buck Rogers series are under exclusive copyright by MCA-Universal Television.

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