Year of the Scorpion
by Luna

Bridge: Jealousy
Jealousy, the jaundice of the soul.
-John Dryden

"Good morning, love."

Kirine opened her eyes to find Slade smiling down at her. She returned it. "Good morning."

"Last night was wonderful," he murmured.

Kirine's smile widened. "I know."

"Wherever did you get that delicious idea?"

Kirine tried not to laugh. "It just kind of popped into my head." She sighed and snuggled closer to him. "It's so good to be back," she murmured.

"It's good to have you back." He sighed. "I'm sorry for being jealous yesterday. That was stupid. I know you'd never do something like that."

"That's right," Kirine said. Then she laughed. "Besides, even if I had wanted to, he's got someone of his own to have sticky fun with." She turned a little red at the memory.

Slade froze. "What did you say?" he asked slowly.

Oh, crap, not again. Why can't I keep my big mouth shut? Kirine gulped. Think fast, she told herself. "Ah, well, you saw them that night. A bit underdressed. Seemed to me to be a couple. And who knows if they'll have the same idea I did? That's their business."

Slade frowned. "Kirine, I get the distinct feeling you're not telling me everything. What are you keeping from me?" He sounded a bit hurt.

Kirine braced herself, then let it out. "Wellll....okay. You remember earlier that night, when I went in the wrong door?"

He was confused. "The wrong....oh yeah." He nodded. "Yeah, I remember that. Why?"

She swallowed hard. "Well, when I opened it, I saw them....together. And they had....syrup on them. That's where I got the idea last night."

"How much did you see?" he asked quietly.

"Like I said that night - too much." She laughed nervously. "At least we got something good out of it, right?"

"Don't you mean you got something good out of it?" His voice was cold and harsh.

"What?" Kirine blinked. "What's that supposed to mean?"

"I'm sure it wasn't such a difficult thing to travel with him after what you saw."

"What?!" Kirine was furious. "How, how dare you?! First you apologize, and you're getting jealous again just cause I got an eyeful I didn't want of my traveling companion?! You, you, I can't think of a word strong enough!" She glared at him. "How could you even think something like that?!"

"I'll answer that when you tell me what you were thinking about him when you were off in Mandala!" he snapped.

He expected her to get angrier, but instead she looked stricken. "How can you say that?" she whispered, her eyes filling with tears. "All I could think about when I was there was whether you'd still love me when I got back. I couldn't think of almost anything else."

"Oh, really?" His voice was icy. "What else did you find time to think about?"

"Not the kinds of things you're accusing me of thinking." "You mean you never once gave any thought to what you saw? To...him?" Now she could hear pain in his voice.

"Yes, I did. I was completely embarrassed. And scared of him. He turned out to be nice, but that doesn't mean I was attracted to him." Actually, she briefly had been, but she knew better than to tell Slade that. It would only hurt him more, and she didn't want to do that. "Why are you so upset?"

"Well, I remember hearing a particularly lewd rumor some years back. I won't mention what it was about, you've probably heard it."

She nodded. "Yes."

"Combine that with what I now know you've seen, and I can only conclude that I don' know." He was very quiet.

Kirine softened. "Oh, Slade," she whispered. "That's not true. Not at all."

"You mean the rumor isn't true?"

Kirine blushed. "Well, I won't go that far...but I will say, and it's true, I'm not lying, that you are one human who doesn't fall short."

He looked at her. She smiled and kissed him, which he returned. "So all is forgiven?" she asked when they pulled apart. "Of course," he murmured. "There's just one more thing I have to do...."

It was snowing lightly outside the Imperial Palace. Inside, Sheex and Fanha were dealing with the consequences of the previous night.

"This stuff is so hard to get off," Sheex grumbled as they sat in the bathtub in Fanha's bathroom, right next to her room. They were trying to clean off the syrup they'd used the previous night.

"Here, let me help you then," Fanha giggled, scooting over closer to him.

Sheex grinned at her. "You are quite the helpful one, aren't you?" He kissed her.

Just then, the veedio phone rang. "I'll get it," Fanha sighed. She got up and reached over to turn it on.

"Turn the picture off," Sheex said.

"Why?" Fanha turned, a curious look on her face. Then she blushed. Nodding, she turned it off and picked up the receiver. "Hello?"

She winced and held it away from her ear. A very audible string of curses could be heard pouring out of the earpiece. "Sheex? I think it's for you."

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