Author: Elliott Silver
Author's Note: I wrote this for those who asked, and for Elanor. When you don't think you can change the world, remember that you just did.
Summary: Miss Parker saw the whole world fall not because of hate, but because of love, and it was a terribly, horrifyingly beautiful thing.
Title: Fedayee --- Part 1
Author: Elliott Silver
Wind lashed over the Delaware coast, blowing up white-ruffed waves on the Atlantic in spumes of surf. Hurricane season had raged in, and although Miss Parker didn't know this storm's name - the second in two weeks - she knew between the gnashing water and howling wind, she couldn't even hear her own breathing.
Rain blew at odd angles, huge fat drops that had clattered over the windshield of her convertible and she had pulled over into the blue and yellow Sunoco station - old enough to not have a mini-mart or credit card slides on their gas tanks - as much as to get gas as to get out of the downpour. It wasnít her own driving skills that Miss Parker ever questioned - there had once been a time when she had been invincible and never questioned herself, though that wasn't now - but others' ability to keep their car out of trouble, and she had enough trouble without being swept up in the headlights and scraped twisted metal of others.
It had to be well after ten o'clock and she had had more than enough of the Centre; it was seething out of her fingernails, throttling through her jugular and femoral veins, bursting from her head. Her father was gone, her brother was in charge, and Raines hovered like poison gas in the atmosphere. And as if that wasn't bad enough, Sydney was philosophizing about her anger, Broots was cowering, and the lab-rat was still on the loose.
There was so much between them, she didn't think it could ever be sorted out. Sometimes she wasn't so sure she wanted it to - life was simpler when they thought they hated each other and one winning meant the other losing. All the hide and seek, cat and mouse, you run and I chase games had started the way every good stories did: once upon a time. It had started when they were children, broken, healed, worsened, lessened, raged, receded, and then he escaped and she had been so young still, back when it had been enough for her to carry a big gun and wear Dolce and Gabbana stilettos as if her feet never hurt. It had been enough to paint her lips that deep blood ruby color that only Chanel made and stained lips for day afterwards and stretch her lithe stride so that the world stopped. It had been so easy to be cruel and hate him, because it was too hard to be happy for his freedom in her own chains.
She cracked the ice cubes of her single malt between her molars simply because she knew it made men cringe and wince. She blew smoke because she liked to see them struggle to breathe. She pulled her skirt up to her thighs so that the snaps of her garter showed, just because she liked to see them trip and fall.
They had called her a bitch and she smiled that dark predatory smile because it was a compliment in a male chauvinist world for a woman who threatened the masculine tin-toy power games. Being a "bitch" was just their interpretation of her determination to get what she wanted, when she wanted it, and just how she liked it.
Now after five years, it wasn't nearly enough.
She had been falling apart for half a decade, never knowing truly how badly until even her denials had worn thin like the diluted rim of Glenmorangie and melted ice in her tumbler come morning. She was almost forty now and she had become a joke, a once proud woman, now a fallen woman. She wore her clothes desperately tight and short, drove her car outrageously reckless, and applied her makeup with more foundation and concealer and less eyeliner and dark sweeping shadow. She was an annoyance, a failure, and worst of all, a dangerous liability.
She should have been worried for herself, but strangely she wasn't. And that was how far it had gone.
It was a strange storm, she thought as the rain soaked her shivering cold so that all she wanted was a tall glass of Scotch and a scalding shower hot enough to crack her skin dry and make her itch for days. These tailwinds of hurricanes blew up the Atlantic coasts and scared weathermen who dressed in cheap suits and disgusting ties tried vainly to predict their course. There was no lightning in the darkness, and even though Miss Parker knew the Atlantic was directly to her left no more than a quarter mile, she couldn't see anything but a deep sweet blackness and the sounds of the sky ripping itself apart, the chant of rain that lufted up off the macadam and drenched her skin-through even as she stood under the Sunoco roofs.
The gas meter clicked and the gauge smashed down into her hand. She was too tired to even curse as blood welled bubble-like on her knuckle. Rain was hurling down in windy gusts and over the ocean, she could hear the fury of the sky unlocking in thunderclaps.
It was why she didn't hear anything until she felt the mosquito-bite sting of a needle in the back of her neck, until the numbness overwhelmed her and it was too late.
When she finally peeled open her eyes, Miss Parker thought she was still asleep, still dreaming in a Salvador Dali world of dancing horses, bent clocks, and that storm-indigo never-ending horizon.
It took her breath away - the space, the light, the silence.
The view was nothing but sand and ocean thought the tinted window high up from the earth - wild deserted white sand and tides so peaceful they didn't look dangerous. Everything was calm and cerulean, from the earth to the sky to the dripping shadows - even the water was dead and dark as if it had never drown anyone. But the calm was forced, like muscles twitching under sleek skin, the instinct to pounce, and the urge to wait another second.
She blinked - nothing seemed to have changed, as if it never did.
Behind her, the sun fell carelessly, splashing azure rays across the rippling waves like Kandinsky's canvases. When the sun set like that, the world seemed to fall down. Only the terns and wide-winged cormorants strolled over the shoreline jauntily, beach bathers primping and on parade, barely moving dots from so far away, white feathers and flapping wings. Only they were unaware of the coming armageddon; only they still believed in simple things like the world spinning and the tides ebbing and the sun always rising. The sand was peppered only by their winding tracks and the tides' kisses; there wasn't a footprint, hoofprint, or pawprint in sight.
Miss Parker watched, dazedly, as a wind or phantom or some other menace stirred, and the covey of birds - thousands or tens of thousands - broke into flight.
She wanted to put her hand on the unstreaked glass just to see her own handprint like a broken wing, to follow the birds who believed in flight, just to assure herself she was alive, but her wrists had been flex-cuffed behind her back - tied with the disposable plastic strips that looked more like garbage ties than restraints.
She was suddenly startlingly shooting awake - her heart pounded so hard in her chest that her body actually shook. She thought she was going to throw up as ether-sweet blackness descended over her eyes and her head rocketed crazily. When she opened her eyes again - seconds or hours later - the birds were gone and her hands were still tied so that her vertebrae snapped and rubbed against each other like concrete blocks. She inhaled deeply and took stock of her pitiful situation with a cagey clarity she hadn't felt in the longest while. Her ankles were bound in the same manner as her hands, and both ties had gouged deeply into her flesh, leaving raw burns that had bled and crusted. Her neck was so stiff she couldn't even turn her head and she knew there was a swollen lump at the nape where the needle that had knocked her out had been jammed into her flesh. She felt bruises all over and her one ankle snarled like she had twisted it somehow, although she had no recollection how since she had practiced ballet as a child and her ankles were flexible enough to twist while running in stilettos and she always still kept going. But the worst nuisance of all was that her bottom lip was split wide open and she hissed in angry pain when she touched her tongue to it and it stung.
She wasn't scared, and that surprised her.
The unadorned white room was perhaps as large as the tower office in the Centre, with its floor-to-ceiling bulletproof glass window two stories above the red ground. She could tell it was bulletproof by the light tint. Below her, the ocean rolled as if it was crushing sapphires into liquid.
She felt him coming before she heard his footsteps.
The sound was a relief and the pain in her chest eased as she breathed again.
Before she ever saw him, she knew he walked with a lithe stride, too softly, and he seemed to have to remind himself to press firmly on the ground and make a sound when his feet touched. Otherwise he would have walked with no sound at all.
He entered the room with a click that swung a white panel inwards as if he could blend into it, despite the fact that he was wearing a dark suit and his skin was the deepest black she had ever seen. And instead of walking towards the corner where she lay crumpled still because she hadn't found the will to pull herself up, the man walked to the window and stared out with his hands held alertly behind his back, his black hands laced as if in prayer. He wanted her to know that the ocean was infinitely more interesting and valuable than she was. Even as he watched the ocean through the bulletproof glass, Parker instinctively knew he was a man when he looked at you, that you wished he never had.
It had been so long since she hadnít been wrong.
His eyes were the color of unrefined oil and when he wore suits, they were the only thing still rough about him. When she saw him later in khaki field clothes, his eyes were much too beautiful for his face. They were dark eyes that swallowed things whole.
"I am Schahriar Ali Sheik," he said when he saw she wasn't going to ask and in her silence, she felt more power as the captive at Triumvirate Station in the wilds of South Africa than she had ever held as the captor at the Centre.
The world called him the Sheik and no intelligence agency had an accurate picture of him on file, though he had taken over the most powerful forcefield and sponsor of terrorist activities in the world - Triumvirate Station.
He was a man of sand and myrrh.
He was used to deserts and the way sand shifted under his feet, blew into his face so that he breathed it in without choking, and simply by looking at him, Miss Parker knew there was sand stuffing the bottom of his lungs and that he loved it when he coughed and the grains of rock mica ricocheted off his alveoli.
No one knew where he'd been born - some doubted even he knew - but he had grown up in Beirut as an orphan and then somehow fled to Egypt where he went to school in Cairo and under some international scholarship went to England, to Cambridge, where he'd been a Rhodes Scholar in international affairs.
He was not handsome - his face was small and round and his cheekbones under his dark skin were too prominent, giving him an over-chiseled look of stonework. He stood no more than 5'7" but he wore his suits carefully and few people ever stopped to notice his slight build. Most people noticed his eyes instead - black, the color of slick Iraqi oil - but Miss Parker noticed his hands, callused and coarse, the palms twice as light as the backs, and saw he was an expert marksman, whether with old Cold War Soviet arms or smuggled American laser-guided technologics. His favorite was an HK Heckler and Koch SOCOM .45 with its civilian-illegal 12 round magazine - his least was the Israeli-crafted Desert Eagle .44 Magnum, almost the same gun, except that someone had once tried to kill him with it. He wasnít a man who bothered with slick little 9 mm's.
If he hadn't been born with a gun in his hand, he'd scraped one off a bloody Beirut street and knew how to load, lock, and kill someone before he could write, even before he knew his own name. He was a man who liked the flash and the bang. He liked the way killing sat so easy in his palms. He was thrilled how good he was at it - and he was so very very good.
The mockingly well-done manners and well-cut suits were only a façade for this man who called himself the Sheik and who preferred street fights and gunfire and bleeding bodies who stayed down when they lost. He didn't believe well-mannered back-stabbing diplomacy solved anything; and in his life, in his world, it never had and probably never would. And as she thought about it, Miss Parker found her hoarse voice, as raspy with dehydration and thick sleep as after a night of rough sex - this was no different.
"Why do you want me?"
"There is a word," the Sheik began without turning towards her, as he looked out over the blued earth, the color of Spanish steel and bruised welts, and the ocean. "Fedayee, it comes from Arabic."
He said it as if she should have known, and his voice was the rush and beat of sand and sea. The sound was seductive, beautiful, and Miss Parker could have closed her eyes.
"It means 'commando,' one who goes on a suicide mission. It comes from the Arabic 'fida' and literally, it means one who sacrifices themselves. But it also has a second meaning."
And then the Sheik was looking at her and she felt the stabbing weight of his black eyes, the color of hell.
Miss Parker kept his gaze as the Sheik went and knelt down in front of her. She didn't move, not because bound like she was there wasn't far for her to go, but because she understood this man as she had once understood herself when she too had been dark and dangerous and a cruelly accurate shot. And because in these last years, she had become afraid of too many things, but death was certainly the last thing she would ever fear, especially at the hands of a man as experienced as he, because she had been waiting for death these last five years and those years had been agonizing The Sheik smiled without showing his teeth and she knew he read her thoughts as he ran his fingers over her split lips, lingering on the wound so that his salt burned through her flesh and reminded her she was not dead. Tears welled in her eyes at the sting, but she blinked them back.
The flash of her lashes was like midnight on terns' wings as they took flight.
He always came when she least expected, when she was watching the terns crack open brine-cured snails on the beach rocks, or listlessly watching the sun rise yellow and set red. The guards brought her food and bottled Evian and then the Sheik himself came in six days later and towered over her until she rose to her feet on her own, because that was what he wanted her to do and he would sooner shoot her than help her. Then he escorted her through the panel door and into his office.
The room was white also, with no decoration except for the same floor-to-ceiling window looking out over the crescent bay of blue water and white sand.
"It's done," he said as he clicked buttons and film suddenly played on the blank wall. He was a man who read time in the space it took from trigger finger to target - he never missed and life was counted in those milliseconds too small for even breath. In his stride, she saw he was aggravated at the wait of so many days, so many lost shots.
The film that played out on the wall was grainy and black and white, the way all security feeds were, but it was the Centre, the tower office, and there were two people arguing heatedly, rising out of their chairs and gesturing grandly inches from each other's faces. One of them was her brother, and the other was the man she could never catch.
"Yes," the Sheik answered after several minutes and his voice sounded drowsy as he watched Jarod and Lyle arguing, the dizzy sensation of power more explosive than any drug.
Abruptly he clicked off the screen.
"That is the trade," he explained patiently. And only then did she truly know how brilliant this man they called the Sheik really was. She meant nothing to the Centre, less than that, but to the boy she had kissed, she was still his world - she was still more, because he was giving up everything he had ever wanted for her.
It was fedayee.
The Sheik had learned well in Beirut, learned all about sacrifice, about the way bullets looked when they went through bodies and he picked their flattened forms out of brick walls and studied the bent slugs. He had learned about just what people would do for what they held most dear. And Jarod would pay her ransom's price.
The Sheik controlled Triumvirate Station in this heart-wrenching beautiful backwater of South Africa, but he also controlled the world from his view of the ocean and the sand and the flying birds. He controlled terrorism and drug cartels and splinter groups and arms sales that skyrocketed not into the millions, but the billions. He laughed at presidents and prime ministers and nuclear proliferation from the dark underbelly of the earth with his oil eyes and chapped hands whose cracked skin was soused with gun oil.
He was what kept war and evil alive and gleaming. He wasn't the devil - because no human ever could be - but he was the one who handed the cocaine swords and nuclear scythes to the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse and even sometimes rode roughshod with them.
With a pretender, his control would be limitless.
And the boy she had kissed as a child loved her more than dark anarchy and armageddon, of tortured hell and world chaos, because his conscience could bear millions of needless deaths, as long as she wasn't one of them.
The Sheik knew them both too well, knew the Centre and South Africa, knew the world and unbelievably, knew love, because he never had and that made everything evilly simple. He simply called Lyle, told him where his sister was, and waited for Jarod to go back to the last place he swore he would never go again when she didn't answer her cell phone and Sydney couldn't answer his questions and Broots couldn't locate her through traces and tactics and clicks on a mouse.
It had taken Jarod six days of her and the Sheik watching the tides and the birds and the way sand shifted like power, watching the same things from two white rooms separated by a single wall where they could feel each other breathing.
Miss Parker saw the world fall not because of hate, but because of love, and it was a terribly, horrifyingly beautiful thing.
A starvation-thin guard came through the door, his footsteps like rhino hooves on the slick marble floor of the Sheik's grand office, snatching at a new AK-47 and a sickeningly long hypodermic needle. Just before he reached her, the Sheik told him to stop, in his own foreign tongue, the Afrikaans so rough it never should have been as melodic as he made it sound. He had never even turned from the window's view to see what was happening behind his own back - he simply always knew.
Parker and the guard looked at each other, trying to determine who was more surprised.
Then the Sheik had turned around and stalked to them, two predators staring into each other, his footsteps almost silent. He was wearing an expensive French cologne that made her dizzy and had a triangle of a gold silk handkerchief in his Italian suit. He took a needle from the uncluttered surface of his desk and shot a thin stream of the liquid into the air to make sure there were no air bubbles at the tip.
Beside her, she knew the guard shivered because she felt the tremors in slipstreams of air on her skin. Parker was too sick and tired of trembling; it was time the world starting shaking and she stood still.
Without ever taking his eyes from hers, the Sheik jammed the needle into the vein in her neck. From the corner of her eye, she defiantly watched his nail-filed thumb as he pressed the plunger all the way to the bottom.
She felt the narcotic hit, but she never looked away from the Sheik, even as he smiled and this time she saw teeth. Slowly he slid the needle all the way to its plastic hilt into her vein, just to see whether she would scream.
It felt like the blue-black burn of serrated metal and if she moved, even breathed, the needle would tear out chunks of her vein.
Miss Parker didn't make a sound.
Then just as slowly the Sheik had pulled the metal sliver from her skin and just before the world had gone blurry, she knew no one would ever kiss her the way this man just had, so much pain that it became a sweet pleasure of its own. Miss Parker wanted to say she hated him, but the Sheik's voice only echoed as if it was the end of the world and before the ocean and the birds and the red sun swam in, she knew it really was.
Title: Fedayee --- Part 2
Author: Elliott Silver
Sun shone through the sprouting rows of Loire Valley grapevines so lush that everything glittered a yellow-green, even the shadows. The air smelled green and sweet, like mown hay and cucumber vines. Everything was still and quiet, but not lazy - the countryside was old and it had seen death and destruction many times before, knew with battered wisdom and grace that this end of the world was not the first, nor the last and so slept on.
They stood on one side of an ancient stone bridge, wide enough for only one horse and cart to pass and there were scattered piles of meadowgrass all over the footway, still bleeding from a sun-hot scythe and its fall from a farmer's wagon. The bridge was unbelievably old; its first stones had been laid before Charlemagne rode through the country. In the succeeding centuries, it had been washed away and rebuilt several times until in the late 1400s, the stones had stayed. Lines of French kings could not say the same.
All around them vineyards sloped down in never-ending rows of green leaves and puffed fruit. There was the echo of laughter from the town a quarter-mile away, from the men easing away their calluses a glass at a time and under her feet she heard the bawdy chuckle of the creek as it slid under the stone bridge.
And once again, they waited.
He had woken her from the Rover they parked in the quaint little town with its pink and purple windowboxes and trilling voices whose lilt was somehow less melodic than the Sheik's language from the heart of darkness. His hand had been on her arm and he hadn't given her the choice of waking up - either she rise to her feet or fall to the ground as she came out of the car and she had stayed on her feet.
His eyes were too dark, like the Bastille.
His hand never left her arm as they followed a dirt road to Charlemagne's bridge, past stacked townhouses and the medieval village cathedral with its stained glass and open doors.
He stopped just where the dirt met the stonework of the bridge and the Sheik's grip tightened in her flesh as if he were pulling a trigger.
Ten minutes later, Lyle, Raines, and Jarod had appeared on the other side. Beside her, the Sheik still had his gun-oil hand on her arm, holding her still if not upright. They too had come on foot, the dusty wine trails leaving smudges of dust along the sweepers' black trousers and the guards' Diesel pants. Raines' oxygen tank left swirling tracks in the red dirt that looked like two swerving snakes.
The word for them was 'twitchy.'
Across the twenty feet of stones and swirling waters and arches of architecture that crossed spans and space, Jarod's eyes met hers.
Miss Parker looked over at the Sheik, standing beside her and for once showing his height disadvantage, and he turned slowly to look at her and she saw what she could have been in his eyes, in his stance, in his place. It could just as easily have been her standing there, all ice and burn and red lipstick like blood. And as he looked over at her, he saw in her eyes that she might have stayed if he had only asked her.
Across the bridge, Lyle and Raines flocked their pretender in, guarding him with two burly sweepers and their powerful Berettas that never would have gotten through customs. Behind the Sheik, his two guards shifted their compact HK MP5 submachine guns a hair tighter. She could smell the reek of sweat from their palms, could feel the way their skin slipped wetly against the metal in the way the Sheik let go of her.
"Go," the Sheik told her. And for a man whose level gaze no one ever wanted to fall upon them, Miss Parker didn't want to look away.
She walked across the bridge, limping very slightly on her right leg, her head spinning and her heart pounding, staying on her feet simply because she willed herself to, as if she still was the woman she had once been, unsure if she was going to get shot in the back or by her sickly impulsive brother, and so she did the only thing she could - she moved forward. Her gaze never wavered from Jarod's as she did and she had never truly realized what beautiful eyes he had - such light brown - until she saw them from twenty steps away.
She had never loved him more than now, as Lyle shoved him forward and he didn't even glare back at her brother simply for the reason he was that much closer to her. Jarod walked towards her with the full intention of sacrificing his life for hers, to save the woman who had tried to ensnare, entangle, and entrap him for five death-defying years.
On the stone bridge, they were five steps from each other.
He had hated so much about her. He hated that she was so good with a gun, he hated that she wore lipstick that red and that it looked so good on her, he hated that he had never once - not ever - seen her falter wearing Dolce and Gabbana or Jimmy Choo stilettos. He had hated loving her because too many men fell in love with her and he hated what it did to her. He had hated being so close to her, hearing her footsteps echo a sublevel above him, feeling her walk outside his door; he hated not being able to touch her. He had hated it so much that he had run away.
He was three steps from her.
It was only after he found himself thirteen states and a thousand miles away from her, that he realized he didn't hate her. He hated that he had suddenly realized that she didn't hate him. He hated that it had taken them almost five years to realize that they loved each other the way people had been meant to love each other. He hated that they had realized it only at the point of blood and bruises, terror, and most certainly, what would be death, for one, both, any, all, the world. He hated that they had realized they loved each other only when they couldn't love each other.
They were but one step apart.
He loved her. He always had, and as she kept her head up and kept walking past him, he always would. Of all things, he would never hate loving her, because that made even death worthwhile.
She was so close he could smell her, old sweat and the rankling coppery scent of blood that had dried like oil on her clothes. Her eyes were still on his and they were so blue that he almost reached out and touched her, forgetting that he had to keep walking, forgetting everything except that he loved her and that was why he didn't touch her, didn't speak to her, and finally looked away from her and kept walking away from her.
They passed shoulder to shoulder and the slipstreams thrown off by their closeness were more intense than any touch could ever have been.
Jarod crossed the span and stopped before the Sheik. The shorter man stared him up and down and then barely perceptible, gave a slight nod. The guards behind him drew their weapons and fired.
The sound of bullets ricocheted through Jarod's head like howling screams; behind him, he hear the hollow thump of bodies falling to the ground and the squeaking crackle of Raines' oxygen tank as it too collapsed.
A breeze scoured through the vineyards, and the grape leaves whistled against each other. From the town, there was a burst of bright laughter.
"I wanted a pretender, yes," the Sheik said and he was talking past Jarod. "But what made you think I ever wanted him, not you?"
And for a second, the woman behind him was breathless.
"I can run the world without Jarod," he continued, even thought Jarod was standing right in front of her. "I cannot without you."
"And this was your plan?"
"Yes," the Sheik said and she had to admire his brilliance. "You will take him back to the Centre and we will communicate, of course."
And then the Sheik left. His two guards followed him, their steps short and mincing so as not to overtake him. And she and Jarod were left alone with four dead bodies bleeding into the soil of the old road that had certainly seen blood before, for the bridge was named after Charlemagne.
They stood there together, alone, as the afternoon sun glared over them. The faint sweat on their skins looked like kiln-fired glaze. The vineyard blew sweet fumes around them, overscented and warm like the overflowing windowboxes of pink and purple flowers in the town.
She was waiting, waiting for him to speak and when he finally breathed and had the three words on his lips, it was too late.
From down the hill, a massive explosion rocked the air. Even from half a mile away, a huge spouting plume like an angry dragon ripped up into the sky. The blast sent shock waves rocketing over the valley; several of the grape rows collapsed in heaps of tattered greens and crushed fruit. Parker stumbled with the force, and even Jarod barely kept himself from falling. It was only by hanging onto the other that they too stayed on their feet.
When Miss Parker looked up, they could barely see the flames through the old houses and the spired cathedral. She smiled grimly, knowing that had been Lyle's last little touch because he had always loved car bombs and plastique explosive the way he liked other dark dangerous things. She had known her brother well enough to know he would think he could solve everything just by blowing things up - the ironic part was, he had.
Miss Parker didn't need to go back down into the French village to see the mangled bodies and twisted Rover. The Sheik had been brilliant, but he'd also been willfully prideful - he had underestimated her, forgetting that she had once been more powerful perhaps than even he - instead of Italian suits, French lingerie - instead of an HK .45, a silver 9mm Glock - instead of oil-black eyes that you wished had never looked at you, blue eyes like tidal storms that you wished would never look anywhere else. He hadn't forgotten that love was more powerful than even all the force and might and firepower in the world - he had never known that at all. And now he was gone and the idea of Triumvirate Station had gone up in smoke. The Centre ruled supreme - the way her mother had always dreamed - but at what price, her daughter wondered, what kind of awful, exorbitant price?
Miss Parker whispered under her breath and Jarod's head shot up as he asked her what she had said, his voice the treble of broken vine stakes and split fruit.
"Fedayee," Miss Parker said and Jarod shivered though her voice was startlingly sweet as blood alcohol. "It means to redeem, as well."
The boy she had once kissed looked at her; he had wanted to tell her he loved her, but the words didn't fit with hers and so she simply took his hand and they started walking through the rows of grapes towards Sainte Chapelle. The tilled soil between the stakes of vines was soft as sand and the grape leaves were velvet against their bare arms. The world was nothing but the yellow-green brilliance of new growth and the honey-like scent of hope.
Title: Fedayee ---Part 3
Author: Elliott Silver
She felt him coming long before she saw the sleek Rover brake to a halt in billowing dunes of red dust - R27 out of the town of Darling in the West Coast of South Africa was a graveled road and then twenty-two miles from the coast, it turned into a vaguely tarred road.
Ten miles from the hulking structure of Triumvirate Station, the road went completely dirt and it was only by following yesterday's tire tracks that you didn't end up on a game trail or washed-out rain gully. And that was why they had the Rovers; it was the price she paid for desolation and wild, the sight of waves and unmarked shores, the ocean she loved, had once hated, and still pounded in her veins.
She watched him get out of the car from the floor-to-ceiling glass window of what had once been the Sheik's office. The ocean rolled up along the white shoreline lazily, the tides sending adventurous terns skittering back onto the drier sand. It was spring on the Western coast of South Africa and the usually monochrome landscape had exploded in a flurried riot of color - achingly blue heliophilas, whose name meant sun-loving; the fluorescent orange 'parachute daisies'; blisteringly purple and yellow wildflowers with Afrikaans names and ancient medicinal uses.
He looked up at her from the ground, and although she knew he couldn't see through the tinted glass, she knew he knew she was there.
They had left each other in Sainte Chapelle five months ago. They had collapsed in a cozy little inn where the innkeeper's wife brought them Chevre and steaming-fresh rosemary bread that had stuck in their dry throats despite the bottle of Loire red she had left with a knowing eye.
Parker remembered Jarod asking her jumbled questions as she sat on the quilted bed and tended to her. He was kneeling on the scarred wooden floor and she could hear the air popping under his kneecaps as he fidgeted around. He touched her neck and although it was sore, it hurt far less than other things, and he had told her she had a bruise there and she told him it was nothing.
When he kissed her, his mouth was harder than she expected, his fingers on her cheeks soft as grape leaves. And she had pulled him back with her to the bed and he had been so careful about his weight crushing her as their bodies stapled together and they healed. And then she had left to go to Africa and he had left for Blue Cove.
She watched him walk towards the doors and disappear from her view, and there was a rumble of butterflies in her belly. It had only been five months ago, but she couldn't remember if they had said anything that night, or whether they had looked at each other and left soundlessly.
She waited for him when she wasn't a woman who waited for anything.
When he entered the office, she heard him breathe, a long drawn-out breath and she knew they had spoken that night in Saint Chapelle. She remembered the beautiful crash of two bodies and then the healing quiet when all she had said was, "I have to go," and he knew she was talking about Africa, and all Jarod had said, his arms around her and their bodies warm together, was "I know."
If she hadn't said it, he would have, that was the way they were.
She could feel him from across the room and the space between them reminded her of the cobbled stones of Charlemagne's bridge. Two stories below, the waves sloughed up against the coast leaving surf-white ripples on the sand. The reflection of spring in South Africa - the sky, the flowers, the air - made the water look like a molten palette of oil paints, jeweled and brilliant like stained glass.
They didn't bother saying hello or saying each other's names.
They had spoken only twice in the last five months, once when he had called her two weeks after Sainte Chapelle, and the second, when she had called him two days ago when she had finally been certain, been sure. It had taken him six days the first time - Jarod was getting faster, and the thought had made her unexpectantly laugh. They had spoken for barely five minutes - it had been 3 am Eastern Standard Time for him and he was still busily working on the Centre as they had dreamed - a children's home, full of light and color and laughter. There were 56 children there now, and a capable staff Jarod had hand-selected - and the sublevels now bore scribbled and scrawled murals in rainbows of colors, as if the cobwebs and steel lies of the old Centre had never existed.
Outside the terns danced up and down the coastline and they were still both silent and her back was still to him.
She was wearing a striking white suit, the jacket cut militarily short around her waist and the skirt falling long to her still tall heels. A blue shirt the color of heliophilas peeked out in a perfectly pressed collar. Her hair was breathtakingly short, chin-length, and undyed so that it shimmered the color of the sand here, red-brown-gold. She wore very little make-up anymore and she wasn't comfortable in the expensive clothes the way she once had been. But she still wore a gun, only now the gun was larger and bore a different maker's mark on its black barrel and she had it loaded with hollowpoint bullets.
Strength wasn't about force, or money, or power; it was about patience and understanding and enduring pain when the room was empty. It was about fighting for what was right even when you thought you were going to lose.
After five years and five months, she refused to wait any longer. She turned around very slowly and faced him and she watched Jarod's eyes change from across the room the way they had across a bridge in France.
He inhaled as if swallowing the sky, put his hand across his mouth, and dropped it just as quickly.
He crossed the space between them in three large steps when it should have taken five. And then he stopped before her and she felt them both reeling without touching each other. She had never imagined he would react this way.
"Jarod," she said and her voice wasn't as steady as she wanted and for the first time in a long time, Parker felt fear creep into her like slime or ice. "Jarod."
He didnít meet her eyes, and stood before her with his long arms straight at his sides, his chin tilted down and she couldn't hear him breathe.
"Jarod," and then she touched his shoulder, curled her fingers around the ball joint tighter than she should have.
He dragged his gaze up to hers and his eyes were brimming with tears.
"Are you --- is it --- when did you --- " and then his voice broke as their eyes locked, two tears slipped down his stubbled cheeks, and then unsurprisingly, she had to blink back her own emotions. She raised her other hand to his face and with the pads of her fingers, wiped away the wet tracks on his skin.
He inhaled in clutches as he reached between them and his hand was shaking as his fingers hovered and then finally came to rest on her five-months pregnant belly. He was shaking, shivering as his palm rested over their sleeping child.
And then he fell to his knees before her, put his forehead on her convex belly, and she felt him crying more than she heard him. Twice, her assistant came in only to be waved out again because Miss Parker knew that there were times when the fate of the world was less important than loving someone.
She took him to her modest bungalow in Darling, and after her shower, she found him out on the open terrace, sprawled on one of the chaise loungers staring up at the stars popping out all over the night sky. The sweet scent of heliophilas swam blue over them, and the darkness was filled with the warm fragrance of spring, of red dirt and rain showers they could hear but not see.
She sat down on the lounger beside him, waving off his over-solicitous help and tucking the blue-orange-and-black sarong around her trim legs. The black tank top didn't quite cover her protruding stomach.
Together they watched the constellations spin across the heavens.
When he finally spoke, the stars that had been on the horizon when she sat down were directly over her head.
"I never thought we would live through it," Jarod told her quietly and she looked at him shaded in the shadows of night and the scent of range flowers with strange names in Afrikaans, glorious names.
"If the Triumvirate didn't kill you, Lyle would have had me and that would have been worse than death."
He sat forward, not looking at her but at his folded hands as if he was intrigued with the way his fingers meshed together.
"When you came to me that night in New Orleans, I knew three things. I knew that you could have caught me anytime you wanted. I knew that you didn't because you loved me. And I knew you were desperate."
"I also thought you were crazy."
Parker remembered that night, when she had been waiting for him in his room in the French Quarter and they had sat into the early morning hours, watching Bourbon Street as she told him that she had had enough, and in her eyes, she knew he had seen that she was one breath short of irreparably broken. He had called her crazy, among other things, and he had paced the tiny wrought iron balcony when she had quietly asked him if death wasn't preferable to the way they were both living.
She had outlined the plan very simply. She knew a new player had taken over in South Africa and she knew they wanted a pretender because she had been scanning Lyle's conversations, because her brother was an inept idiot one rung from falling off the evolutionary scale and contrary to how she looked and what everyone thought, there was some part of her that wasn't totally broken and she was still one chip in the game. It wasn't hard to see how it would play out - she meant nothing to the Centre, but she meant everything to him. And she had left him on the balcony, his last words that he wouldn't come for her, as she closed the door behind him and told him she was going anyway. Three days later, the Africans had stabbed her in the neck at a Sunoco station, and six days after that, Jarod had gone to Lyle. She had known he would the way she knew the tides kept falling.
"It worked," she told him carefully. "We're both free now."
And then he raised his eyes to hers and she knew there was still so much distance between them, five years and five months. But they had a lifetime before them, and maybe, just maybe that would be long enough.
"And in a year, or two years, so will she," Parker told him as she rested her own hand on her curved stomach that she still couldnít believe was real - it had taken five months and two doctors to confirm it was. "And so will the world."
There had been a power vacuum when the Sheik had died and if no one had filled his place, the instability would have sent dozens of splinter groups and terrorist cells that the Triumvirate had sponsored rocketing off violently and uncontrollably. And so she had gone to Africa, a place she hated and feared, where the even the tide was dangerous, although it looked smooth and calm.
In five months, she had managed several of the cells and had broken down fourteen small coalitions and two of the key players, one in Israel and the other in China. It was a game of dominos and five months later, they were all falling.
"It's over," Parker said quietly, the breeze toying with the fringe on her sarong, all the colors of the heliophilas and parachute daisies and the night. Jarod knew she meant their pasts, the separation, the Centre. The Triumvirate was far from over, and indeed it would take her two more years to finish in South Africa, to insure the world was calm as the waves outside her glass window. But that was all a long time coming, and as he looked at Parker, he knew eternity would have been worth the wait for her. Of all the things he knew, that was the one of which he was most certain, because she was the Darling gunfighter and he had loved her forever.
"No," Jarod said and across the space, he took her hand and her fingers laced through his and their flesh became a link as strong as the child growing within her. "It's just beginning."
Continue toFedayee: Epilogue