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The Visitor smiled slightly to herself, and sipped the wine. She had allowed - just this once - her consort to pick the meal. She had to admit he had done quite well, avoiding his normal tendencies for the dramatic and instead treating her to a quiet dinner on one of the few planets that he still personally surveyed.

She mused to herself as he chatted pleasantly with their waiter. What with all of the other anniversaries coming up on the community, it made her wonder about her own relationship with Karakael. Ten years she had known the man - and she had to admit that she had yet to regret her decision regarding their relationship. It had been so long since she had allowed herself the pleasure of a consort. Her people rarely took lovers, especially among the less than sentient species that they oversaw. But the former Inquestor was different, though she found herself having difficulty explaining why. Perhaps because he was able to see the universe on the same scale that she herself saw. Few other humans lived long enough to even begin to come close to that level - and few would wish to see the universe in such a cold, rational light.

Not that their relationship was in any way similar to a 'normal' human marriage. The concept was as alien to her culture as it was to his. If one lived for centuries it simply made no sense to pledge eternal faithfulness to another - especially if that other had a significantly shorter lifespan. Beyond that, the Inquestor was unable to have children - a fact that she knew he did not regret, but did make marriage less of a necessity. She had yet to mention that his impotency would not matter if she herself desired a child but knew that - with both his fear of intimacy and terror of what he would do a child of his own - the fact would only hurt him more. She herself had little desire for more progeny. The three children she had early in her life were quite enough. By now they were raising planets of there own and even thinking of them brought her a certain amount of joy. Though her first daughter...well, she would not think of that.

Instead, she smiled as her lover served their food, having managed to steal their plates from the unwitting waiter. He played the part of a servant so well he sent her chuckling in to her coffee, almost irritated that he had forced her to loose her poise. The man was amazing at that. There were many things that could make her angry, but few could send her into almost human fit of giggles. Karakael had a tendency to find and exploit each and every one.

Part of her knew this was a virus. She had not even known Karakael for ten years, much less fallen so hard for him the first time they met. The that other, aloof and unaffected part of her could watch her current actions with a certain amount of scorn. The first time she had met him he had nearly died from the injuries she had given him. She could see the evil and guilt that were branded in his mind even now. But even the unaffected Visitor did not hate the Inquestor now. That first day she had seen none of the good within him, preferring to see only what her mind logically claimed he would have been - a mindless monster driven by pain and regret. The Karakael she knew now, and the man that she had rescued from his past, were quite different from that faceless monster. She did not know how he had managed it, but somewhere between his time as an Inquestor and his eventual downfall and resurrection he had gained bao - a soul. Within her own philosophy there was no explanation for this. One was born with bao or not, and one could loose it...but never gain it from nothing.

The Visitor would have loved to meet the woman who had managed to tease such an impossibility into reality. There was a certain amount of envy she held for the long dead Sirriss. The virus only made the sting worse, as he spoke with such love and respect for the younger woman. But both halves of her knew that his feelings for the Inquestrix were platonic, and nothing more. The pain he felt at her death were just as strong as the pain he felt for Ellorans - but for different reasons. He had loved Sirriss as a daughter, and that affection alone proved to her that he would have perhaps been a better father and leader, had he been given the chance.

She stopped his babble with a gesture, pressing her hand against his with a warm smile. He looked up, and caught her eye. His eyes were red, a fact she never could quite explain. His face still had the burn scars and faded cloth stitched together in a patchwork mask that could never be removed. To many others he would have seemed ugly, or frightening. To her, he was interesting, different, and completely unique. She did not flinch when she ran her fingertips against the rough surface of his face, and caught his chin when it dipped in shame at the contact. He had nothing to be ashamed of, not to her. He smiled at her wordless response, and gallantly kissed her hand.

The scornful, protected part of herself admitted that this really was quite enjoyable. Perhaps her feelings for Karakael were not quiet as intense normally, and she disliked being forced into any situation - but she would have to admit that there was no one else she would rather spend time with, virused or not.

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The Visitor

January 2011

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