So much had changed in the last six months… since the discovery of the bomb on the Leader’s shuttle. He and Elizabeth had barely escaped with their lives, and with Diana back in control, the war had taken a turn for the worse. But it was Elizabeth who was on his mind this morning, not Diana, not the war… It was Elizabeth who was always on his mind, had always been on his mind since the day he met her. I love her, he thought. I *do* love her. And realized he was trying to convince himself.
Putting his hands in the pockets of his leather jacket, he shrugged against the cold breeze that blew up in the hills. He quickly withdrew his hands and pulled up the collar of his jacket, pulling his hair out from under it. His hair had grown quite a bit in the last six months too… not exactly a good barber around here, he thought. Hell, I used to go to a ‘stylist’. He allowed himself a half-smile as he reached the top of the foothill. At this height, he could see the full length of the canyon below him. The view was stunning. With a sigh he turned away and moved towards the crop of trees nestled in the center of the hill.
The trees were grouped together in a semi-circle, enclosing a brilliant meadow of flowers. Elizabeth called it a ‘ring of power’. He didn’t sense any more power here than anywhere else… but he’d learned to trust Elizabeth. They all had. So, it had seemed natural to come here to contemplate his problem. Maybe here he could come up with a solution.
He walked slowly through the closely-grown stand of trees to reach their inner circle. Head down, deep in thought, he had moved halfway across the clearing before he realized he was not alone. Sitting in the middle of the meadow, face upturned to catch the first rays of the newly-risen sun, was Elizabeth.
He stopped. He just stopped. It felt like *time* stopped as his mind raced desperately. Should he try to sneak away before she saw him? Approach her? I need time, damn it, that’s why I came here! he thought frantically. He was saved having to make any decision when Elizabeth turned her head slowly towards him, and her face lit up with a radiant smile.
“Kyle… I didn’t expect to see you this morning.” She looked quickly down at the soft grass, then up again at him, shielding her eyes against the glare from the sun.
Kyle put his hands in his pockets, then took them out again. He felt nervous, nervous with Elizabeth, he wondered. Now that doesn’t make *any* sense. He smiled at the pretty girl. OK Bates, it’s now or never, he thought. He took a deep breath. “I need… I think we need to talk, Elizabeth.”
She smiled again. God, she’s beautiful, he thought. Elizabeth looked at him quizzically and said, “Talk?”
“Yeah.” He took a seat next to her on the carpet of fresh grass, and looked out over the grove of trees. Hands clasped around his knees, he turned his face to look at the lovely girl beside him. “You know I would never hurt you, Elizabeth,” he said tenderly.
“Of course, Kyle,” she replied. “You love me.”
Oh God, this is going to be harder than I thought, he thought and groaned inwardly. Turning again to face the copse of trees, he started over. “Elizabeth… so much has changed… when you were going to go with the Leader to the homeworld I thought I’d die without you. You were under his control… nothing seemed real.” She made a motion to interrupt and Kyle silenced her with his hand. “No, please… hear me out.” He swallowed nervously and continued, “I’ve always wanted to be there for you, to protect you…”
“… to keep you safe. To make sure that you knew that us, all of us, who loved you…”
“… wouldn’t ever let anything happen to you, would never let Diana get to you again…”
“Kyle.” Elizabeth took her hand and placed it on his cheek, turning him to face her. The look of despair on Kyle’s face would have been almost comical in any other circumstance. She looked deeply into his eyes and smiled softly. “Kyle, I understand.”
Kyle turned to her, plainly perplexed. “You do?”
This time it was Elizabeth’s turn to look across at the thicket of trees and at the flowers dancing lightly in the cold breeze. Her glance turned inward as she spoke, “We’ve gone through so much together, and we’ll always have that. But we’ve both changed. I’ve gone from a frightened little girl who didn’t know who she was, to a woman who knows where her future lies. In finding a peace, a lasting peace, for both my worlds.” Her gaze grew fierce as she spoke. “We’ll always love each other, Kyle. Our love has just changed, that’s all,” she said gently.
Kyle gazed in wonder at the woman before him. All the agonizing that he had done, and she had known all along. She had understood. Leaning back on one hand, he lightly cupped her chin and softly kissed her lips. “A part of me will *always* love you, Elizabeth,” he whispered.
She sighed and placed her head on his shoulder. “And a part of me will always love you,” she answered quietly.
Rising, Kyle took her hand in his and they
walked back to the camp in companionable silence.
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