Down With The Marked
Deslea R. Judd
DISCLAIMER: Characters not mine. Interpretation mine.
ARCHIVE: Sure, just keep my name and headers.
RATING: PG. Pretty harmless.
SPOILERS/TIMEFRAME: NIHT II post-ep.
CATEGORY/KEYWORDS: Knowle/Shannon, Knowle POV.
SUMMARY: "He doesn't love her - not the way the humans mean it. But he's marked with her, and she with him."
MORE FIC: http://fiction.deslea.com
FEEDBACK: Love the stuff. firstname.lastname@example.org
AWARDS/RECOMMENDATIONS: Spooky Awards 2003 eligible. Recommended at The Other Side and Bright Shiny Objects.
He wakes with a stiff wrist.
He has heard of the phenomenon before. Pins and needles, the weaklings call it. The flow of blood to the hand, impeded by pressure from the weight of the body in sleep. He has never experienced it before (after all, it takes a lot more pressure with him) and he can't say that he likes it.
Of course, he doesn't really like to sleep, either. Shannon does, he knows. She regards it as an odd sort of recreational pursuit. "Come on, Knowle, it's fun!" she said once. "The dreams the weaklings talk about are amazing. The colours are more vibrant, and things get distorted..." and then she trailed off. Eyes wistful.
That was when she still called them weaklings. In fact, more than once, he has wondered if her odd sympathies with them began with her sharing their dreams. Occasionally he wonders what life would be like if he'd embraced them like she did. He doubts he ever could.
Not that he eschews all normal human pleasures. He likes to eat. He likes sex. But sleep - willing or otherwise - is so pointless. He dislikes his rare moments of unconsciousness. He comprehends that they are needed in order for him to regenerate after injury, but what a waste of perfectly good time. And his disorientation when he wakes annoys him.
Rather like now.
He's in water, he grasps that much. He can feel the odd heaviness of water in his lungs. It's a different kind of breathing, breathing in water. Not unpleasant, but...heavier.
What was he doing?
He has a vague memory of falling. Shannon in his arms. He couldn't see her, but he could feel her. Struggling, a bit like a skewered fish. Why were they falling? Why was she fighting him? Why couldn't he see?
Nerves heal. Synapses form. Slowly, sight returns, and hearing, and then higher thought. Linking the randomness of memory with deduction and induction. Bringing order to them all. He waits patiently for each thought, each memory, each connection, and slots them into place to form a picture. Rather like a computer analysing packets of data. His irritation is gone. This is productive. A task. He understands this.
So he and Shannon were on opposite sides, yet again. They fought to the death, yet again. This is no big deal between them, for death is only an interlude. The concept of resentment - true resentment - is alien to them both. How can there really be resentment, when every consequence can be negated? When every death ends with life? He understands the process of resentment in the weaklings, but in truth, it puzzles him when he encounters it. He recognises it in Doggett, and he grasps why that is, but it irritates and bewilders him.
By now, he has identified the pressure on his wrist as her rib. He turns his hand experimentally. Feels her organs shifting to accommodate his movement. He tugs. Something rips when he works his hand free of her body - her stomach, maybe? - it ruptures and heals as he slips his fingers free.
Shannon turns to face him as he washes the blood from his hands.
"You win," she says. The words are lost in the water, but he can read the vibrations in her larynx, just the same. "This time."
He shrugs. It doesn't really matter. None of it matters. Just one more set of tasks, that's all it was. He does them because he likes tasks. He likes to be productive. That's all. It isn't personal. Not like it is for her. Her profile is filled with odd praise for her evolving identification with her mission, and discussion of ways in which it can be harnessed and controlled. It's very strange. Only humans could work to eradicate humanity from their soldier, and then be happy when she learns it back.
"Does it matter?" he wonders. "Sooner or later, they'll all manage to kill each other, and we'll be the only ones left. Adam and Eve, all over again."
"And then what will you do?" she says. Features lightly mocking. "There won't be any tasks left."
"We'll rebuild. That's a task."
Bitterness colours her expression. "You only know how to destroy."
He shakes his head. "You know that isn't true." He takes a tendril of her hair between his fingers. It's a long time since he's been with her under water. "Face it, Shan. You're stuck with me. Because I'm the only one who'll always be there." He reaches around her neck and touches the ridges there. "You're marked with me. And I'm marked with you."
This seems to amuse her.
"You're more human than you like to think, Knowle. You don't want to be alone any more than I do."
"Bullshit," he says. "I like to be alone." And he does, as long as it's with her. He doesn't love her - not the way the humans mean it - but things feel more right when she's with him. More complete. Being with her is like that feeling he gets when he figures something out or finishes off a task. Something falls into place.
He likes that feeling very much.
"Sure you do," she says.
She doesn't protest when he draws her closer. Doesn't argue when he kisses her.
There are more tasks. There always will be. But just for a while, down under the world, they mark each other all over again, and the darkness is kind.