Mid March, 112, Before the fall of Arzad
It had been a week since their first encounter. She had met with him almost every night since, doing her 'duty' and distracting him from the warfront as often as possible.
It was too easy of a task. Often she would forget that he was an assignment, that he was a war criminal. A terrorist. One of the leaders of the Tribal Liberation Force. A man who had fought diligently against her people, who had led campaigns in the capture of so many of their systems.
When they were together, he was just another man. One who was charming, fun, and playful. He made her laugh, played silly games with her, taught her how to tribal dance. They had talked, long drawn out discussions about any and everything. He even gave her tips for the battlefield, schooling her in dogfighting and close combat.
She had met him at the Soft River, an establishment he owned.
They had shared a bottle of wine and was in the middle of conversation when both of their comms started beeping at once.
Their eyes locked.
For a moment, neither said anything as they ignored the urgent messages from their respective militias. A military complex in the Arzad system had been scanned down, a system both sides have been fighting over for nearly a month. The Amarrian militia had to defend the complex, the Minmatar wanted to capture it. If they succeeded to capture enough military complexes, the system would become vunerable and allow them to claim it.
Every military complex mattered. Both sides were fighting around the clock for those plexes.
She held her breath, waiting to see what he would do. Would he stay or go?
"I've got to run....will...." He sighed with a sorrowful expression. "...will you still be here?"
She hid her look of disappointment as she scrambled to her feet, "I have to go too..." Bastard.
He kissed her forehead before rushing out the door, "Please don't be mad..."
Hours later she reentered the bar, this time wearing her Amarr militia flight suit. Her hair was damp from post-pod shower. She looked tired, her shoulders slumped with defeat.
A part of her wasn't sure what brought her back to him.
He sat on one of the pillows surrounding the low table in the corner.
His gaze anxiously met hers, waiting for her to say something.
She met him at the table and dropped to her knees on the opposite side, resting back on the heels of her boots. Instead of speaking, she poured herself a shot of whiskey and downed it quickly.
"Are you ma-..." he sighed, "....of course."
She held up her finger as if to say -one moment-. She refilled her glass and quickly did another shot.
"...M-more?" He offered to refill her glass.
She nodded, saying nothing. She did the next shot in one big gulp and sat there, waiting for the alcohol to numb it all, to lessen the sting of losing. She couldn't help but to think the one responsible for it was sitting there in front of her.
Eran shifted uncomfortably in the silence, looking at his glass for a minute then up at her, "....so....Lola...." A name she had used during a game of pretend with him. They had decided to be Lola and Tom, ordinary people who had nothing to do with the war, who were not sworn enemies. He stared at her, wincing a bit, hoping for any sign of relief.
She stood up suddenly, face flushed with anger. "I'm not Lola. I'm Shalee Lianne, a Legatus Commodore in the Amarrian Militia, Paladin of the Sword of the Knighthood. And I am your enemy."
Eran Mintor frowned, "No Shalee, you're not my enemy. I can't see you like that."
She threw her glass onto the floor, ignoring the glass as it shattered, her gaze locked with his. "You didn't have to go. You didn't have to leave. If it's going to be a choice between this goddamned war or me, youre going to choose the war. Every time."
He pulled his gaze away, staring off at the murals on the opposite wall, "Would you have not done the same? Would you choose me over your ideals?"
"I didn't leave until you did."
His face was full of regret, "Yes..you don't have to believe me, but you mean a lot to me Shalee....the time we've spent has been short but...."
She cut him off, "I can almost deal with meeting you like this, with it just being 'Lola and Tom'. But when you leave me to go kill my people? Then...what am I supposed to do?"
"I would choose..."
"No. You wont. Don't even say it."
He looked guilty and full of grief.
"And that's okay. I cannot ask you to leave the war when I will not leave it myself. I cannot ask you to switch sides when I wont do it." She couldn't stop trembling, "So here we are."
"I.." He looked to her hopelessly. "I love you though Shalee. I can't help it. I want this to end between us....I don't want us to marked as enemies, because I can't see you that way. I just can't. It doesn't matter what you do....I'm blind, maybe. At this point..." he waved his hand, "but what do these words matter? You're right. I chose my duty over being here with you tonight....not because I prefer it....but...." He stared at her, "I mean....what's my guarantee that if I were to leave this war behind me you wouldn't leave me behind soon enough? I don't know what the future brings. I only know I've been brought to you, and I don't want to break us apart. I want to be here, with you. I don't want to be out there."
"There are no guarantees to anything at all Eran."
"But you went anyhow."
"And it doesn't matter at all. Even if you quit. Even if you switched sides? Even if you joined Amarr? Nobody would trust you."
He chugged down the rest of his drink as if trying to drown out her words with the alcohol.
"And you'd be branded a traitor by your own people."
"It's a fucked up situation." she said in a low voice.
He sighed and stared at his empty glass, then over at the shattered glass on the floor. He looked back up to her as she towered over him still. "Where do we go from here? This isn't going to work, is it? I mean....I want to be with you but that doesn't mean I can."
Shalee stared at him, suddenly feeling if she couldn't breathe.
"Just kill me now..." He said in a very low voice as he withdrew an old Matari gun from his back holster and extended it to her. "Here....be done with it. I've killed more of your people than I care to count."
Simmering with anger, she stepped closer and took the gun from his hands. Did he think she would not do it? Could not? She curled her fingers around the hilt as her expression turned to misery. Her eyes watered and her hands trembled. Desperation hung on the air, heavy and thick. Emotions churned in her stomach. Hatered, pride, love, rage, duty.
"I don't want to continue...not like this." He lifted his gaze to her.
"And if I kill you I would save so many....one life sacrificed for how many I could save?
"Eran nodded slowly, "Exactly..." He took a deep breath and exhaled, closing his eyes as he prepared himself, "In sha' Allah," he whispered.
Hot angry tears dripped down her cheeks. "This isn't fair." She wrapped both of her hands around the hilt as she took a step back....and raised the gun slightly as if taking aim.
"Life isn't fair..."
She closed her eyes as her finger curled around the trigger. Seconds ticked away as a thousand thoughts ran through her mind.
"Do it..." He pleaded.
She blinked open her eyes and stepped closer, jutting the gun barrel against his chin. "I hate you."
He opened his eyes, as if to look at her one last time. His face softened and he seemed to relax. "I know."
"I hate you so much." She suddenly jerked the gun away and threw it across the floor. Dropping to her knees in front of him, she gasped a strangled little sound as tears blurred everything. "I could have killed you!" She sobbed, "I should have. This isn't fair."
He wrapped his arms around her and pulled in her close. "Oh Shalee, I'm so sorry for what I've done to you. This isn't fair to either of us." He rubbed her back gently holding her close, "Someday..."
"Don't." A muffled plea against the side of his neck. Tears dripped down her cheeks. "Don't make promises you wont keep." She sniffled, "And don't lie. I can't bear it."
"I just hope that someday this will be in the past, and we can move forward. I don't want to be stuck here....pretending....and you hating me." He stroked his fingers along her cheek, "I don't want to betray your trust. I can't....I feel like I already have. You're the biggest obstacle to me continuing on, and I'm afraid of losing you to this damn war." His voice dropped to a soft whisper, "Tell me what I should do. Tell me what you want me to do."
"I will not. Because you know what I will say. You know what I want." She clung to him helplessly.
"I never wanted to be in the war. I always felt like I had no choice, but the people needed my help." He brushed his lips against her forehead, "I don't want to betray anyone. Not you, nor my people who depend on me ...my family...friends...."
"No matter what you do you'll be betraying someone, Eran."
He burried his face in her hair, "I don't want to have to harm you... but I can't continue like this. You're the only thing I care for anymore."
Her mouth suddenly closed over his, smothering whatever else he intended to say. He might have had victory on the battlefield but this victory belonged to her.