Year of the Scorpion
by Luna

Chapter Two : Stolen Love
Autumn nights, it seems,
are long by repute alone :
scarcely had we met
when morning's first light appeared,
leaving everything unsaid.
-Ono no Komachi

"Slade?" Kirine whispered, her eyes wide with disbelief. "What are you doing in here?"

"I'd ask you the same thing, but it appears to be pretty obvious," he replied, sounding amused. "Seems to me you've kept yourself quite busy in the past thirteen years."

"Seven," she hissed. Then she realized what she'd just said. "Oops."

Slade laughed. "Much as I would love to hear the whole story now," he began.

"You have one of your own to tell," Kirine finished. "You're in here for the same reason I am, I presume?"

"I am," Slade confirmed. "But that's not what I was going to say. I was going to say we'd better get out of here before we're caught. We'll go together."

"No, we won't." Kirine darted over to the window. Opening it, she started to climb out. "It'll arouse too much suspicion if we go together. Besides, you have a date."

"About that, Kirine," Slade began, starting towards her. "I-"

"No time," she cut him off. "I have to go."

"We have to talk," Slade said.

"Tomorrow, I promise," Kirine said as she climbed out. "Tonight I have to get away and go sleep." With that, she dropped out of sight.

The next day, she kept her promise. She went to Slade's house in mid-morning to talk.

"Do you want to start or should I?" she asked as she settled onto the couch.

"You can go first, if you want to."

"I don't - oh all right. Better to just get it over with, since I have to tell you anyway." She took a deep breath. "Where should I start? Well, I suppose it all started when my family moved to Gold Isle."

"That long ago?"

She nodded. "Yes. My parents had come into extraordinary wealth. And it went to their heads. Every time it turned around, it seemed, they'd bought something new. A mansion, a summer home, a winter home, a new yacht, and on and on. They started to love their money more than Dorian and I."

She sighed. "I was so lonely. I started more and more to just withdraw into myself. The friends I had started to make left me because of how weird I was becoming. I soon had no one to talk to, not even a pet. I wanted one, but my parents were never available so I could ask them. I got so lonely I started talking to myself. I still do."

"What about Dorian?" Slade inquired. "Couldn't you talk to him?"

"I tried, but he just didn't have time, what with his studies, and his friends, and dating. When I was fifteen, he moved out and joined the Imperial Army. I saw him even less. I thought my life couldn't get worse. But I was wrong. Two years later, it did."

Kirine hesitated, then went on. "My seventeenth birthday I spent alone. Dorian was away on assignment, and couldn't be there. My parents decided to spend it alone together on their brand-new yacht. They were on sort of a second honeymoon, and couldn't be bothered with their teenage daughter's birthday." She laughed bitterly. "They didn't even tell me to my face what they were doing. Just left a note for me to find when I got up, all excited about spending my birthday with my family."

Kirine swallowed. Even after all these years, it still hurt to talk of her parents neglect. "A few hours later, a storm kicked up. A really nasty storm. Several hours later, early the next morning, actually, someone came and informed me that their boat had capsized in the storm and both were dead."

"I'm so sorry." Slade took her hand. Kirine nodded and continued.

"Afterwards, I was informed that their spending had depleted most of the family fortune. My inheritance was a pile of colossal debts. Debts I could never hope to pay off. All the money was gone, and I had these debts to pay off. It seemed hopeless. Dorian was a high-ranking officer by then, and a favorite of Thanatos, but his salary still wasn't enough to really make a difference. He contributed what he could, while I tried to figure out a way to pay the debts and keep a roof over my head and food in my mouth at the same time. One day it hit me, what I needed to do."


Kirine nodded. "In one night, two weeks after my birthday, I made more than what Dorian usually made in one month. A lot more. I figured it wouldn't be too much longer before it was all paid off. And it wasn't. But then my entire world crashed around me - again."

Kirine paused, composing herself before she told the final part of her story. "A full month, to the day, after my birthday, Dorian was off on yet another assignment. That was his last. He died, in the line of duty they told me. I still don't know the details. That was all they would tell me. When I asked to see him, they told me he'd already been cremated. They delivered his ashes to me in an urn. I lost it when they handed it to me. I just couldn't take any more. So, I've been all alone all these years, and a thief for the past seven. That's my story." She looked up at him. "Now for yours."

Slade nodded. "As I said before, one day seven years ago, the same day as the day you lost Dorian, I was out, and when I walked in the front door, I found my parents murdered. Afterwards, I was informed that my father had racked up quite a bit of gambling debts. It took all of the family fortune to pay them off, and then some. So, like you, I turned to stealing to pay off the rest and make back the money it had taken. I've kept it up, even after I accomplished my goal, simply because I enjoyed it."

Kirine nodded. "So did I." She studied him. "Why didn't you tell me this before?"

"Why didn't you?"

Kirine looked down. "I was afraid of what you would think of me," she admitted.

"So was I."

She was surprised to hear that. "What? You actually cared what I thought of you?"

"Of course I do," Slade replied. "I always have. I always will." He moved closer to her. "You know, don't you? That I always had a crush on you when we were younger?"

"What?" Kirine blushed. "On me? The silly younger girl?"

"You were never silly. You still aren't." He stared at her with an odd look in his deep blue eyes. "Kirine, I-" he began. He never finished it, because he decided to kiss her.

For a few moments she returned it. Then she got a hold of herself and pulled away. "Just what do you think you're doing?!" she gasped.

Slade was clearly confused by her response. "Huh? What you mean?"

"What do I mean? You just go and kiss me while you're still with Sharlene? Why, just two months ago she told me that her chances of marrying you looked good!"

"She told you what?!" Slade was shocked. "Marry her? She's nuts!"

"Yeah - about you!" Kirine shot back. "If you two aren't serious, then why are you together?"

"We were serious," Slade answered. "Until a couple weeks before you and I met again. That's when I began to lose interest. And ever since you came back into my life, I've been trying to figure out how to let her down easy."

"You don't have to do that anymore." Kirine and Slade whirled to see Sharlene standing in the doorway, her face contorted with rage and beginning to redden. "Because I heard you loud and clear."

"How much?" They didn't want her knowing their secret profession.

"Enough. I walked in just in time to see you kiss her." Sharlene shook with fury. "You, you little witch!" she shrieked at Kirine. She turned on Slade. "And you! You insensitive jerk!"

"Now there I'll have to agree with you," Kirine said.

"Whose side are you on?!" Slade exclaimed.

"Mine!" Kirine snapped. "I hate to agree with her, but she's right. First you string her along while your minuscule mind struggles to think up an easy way to blow her off, which is there is no such thing as, then you go and kiss me and think it's okay. You're even surprised when I tell you it's not. What kind of a louse are you, anyway?"

"A louse who loves you!" he shot back. Then he froze. He hadn't meant to admit that, not yet.

Upon hearing that, Kirine went extremely still. It was the last thing she'd expected to hear.

Sharlene reacted first. "What?!" she shrieked. "You what? How, how could you feel that way about her and not me?! No, no, no!" Starting to sob, she ran from the room. A few seconds later, the mansion vibrated as she slammed the front doors.

For a moment they just stood there. Then Slade spoke. "Kirine?"

Kirine was very quiet. "I-I need to be alone," she managed and started to leave. But Slade caught her arm.

"Wait," he said. She was silent. "I'm sorry."

"For what?" she said quietly.

"You were right. I have been behaving like a jerk. There's no excuse for that. I'm sorry. Can you forgive me?"

Kirine was silent. Then she looked up at him. "Do you really love me?" she asked quietly.

"More than anything," he said softly.

She was very quiet. Then she said, "Kiss me again."

He did, gently, though with underlying passion. She returned it.

"Slade?" she whispered as they pulled apart.


"I love you, too."

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