Nico (vilakins) wrote,

Ficlet: Tactics

This week's b7friday challenge is 'missing scene'. This is from 'City at the Edge of the World, 500 words, cut for length.


Yes, he did lie badly, but it was rather sweet in a way that he'd made the attempt to spare her feelings even after she'd done her best to goad him into insulting her again. It would have been easier if he had; then she could pretend he was like the others.

But he wasn't, was he?

His eyes weren't cold and dead yet, quite the reverse. Fear mixed with defiance, humour, vulnerability, fascination with an interesting puzzle, and just now, something novel: kindness. Hell, she knew she smelled. It was quite deliberate--unwashed leather lived in for weeks on end and raw garlic chewed several times a day--and it kept those bastards away from her though she'd have to watch out for Sherm now.

Kerril found herself out by the stockade where they had corralled the Kezarni hostages. Cattle, Sherm and the others called them, laughing when they shot them, but Kerril refused to take part, even be there after the first time. She'd caught Vila's eyes just after she'd objected to Bayban's order to kill two more of them, and she'd seen the look in them. And when she'd gone to see how he was getting on with the vault, he'd talked to her as if he liked her.

Liked her. A wave of loneliness threatened to swamp her. It had been so long.

The Kezarni stood, as silent as ever, behind the fence, two of them waiting in front of the others. Kerril shivered. Whenever Bayban gave the order to kill some of them, the right number were always there, ready. Didn't they care? Was life so cheap to them? Or was whatever was behind that door or force field so important they were prepared to die for it? Perhaps even honoured? Chosen? Kerril turned away from their shuttered opaque eyes, then stopped. She didn't want Vila to be polite. She wanted him to see her as a woman. Who knew when she'd meet a man she didn't despise again? She approached the fence, and the two aliens standing just behind it.

"Listen, d'you have a dress? Like that one?"

The natives looked at her, then away, as if she was of no more importance than a rock or a tree. Kerril pointed at the green hand-woven clothes they wore, then plucked at her own leather tunic. The two did not even appear to see her any more, but behind them, too far away to have heard, an older woman emerged from a hut with a folded bundle of cloth in her arms. She handed it to Kerril and turned away without a word.

"Thank you," Kerril said uselessly. She headed for her quarters. A bath still wouldn't make her feel clean, but it might make Vila notice her. Playing the helpless female might also bring out the protectiveness in him. She'd read about that. She'd never tried it and Vila mightn't believe it, but it was worth a shot. Just another weapon in her arsenal.

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