Chapter Five: When a Man Love a Woman
Paige woke suddenly, her eyes snapping open, some auditable clue bringing her to wakefulness. She sat up slowly, a deep bass rumble startling her. Jerunds voice. “Smart girl. How are you feeling?” Paige took a breath and winced. “Okay I guess. A little tender, but that’s expected I suppose.” The general nodded and started to walk out. “What of Cien?” Paige demanded softly. Jerund stopped and sighed. “He’s alive and unhurt, as far as we can tell. He’s in a kind of catatonic state. Shellshock, as far as we can tell. We’re not exactly sure what caused it, and we’ve no luck getting a response out of him while you’ve been unconscious. Maybe….” The general turned finally, a curios look in his eyes. “Maybe if you worked with him.” Paige nodded. “I can try…” She replied softly. Jerund nodded. “I’ll put you as off duty on the injured list for now…He’s in the next room. See what you can do.” With that, he turned and walked out. Paige rose from her bed and walked through the door connecting her room to the small medical ward hall. The room next door was open and she could see Cien lying on the bed, hooked up to various monitors and an IV, unmoving except for the rise and fall of his chest. She swallowed at the lump that rose in her throat, walking into his room to his bedside. She reached out and stroked his cheek, almost expecting his flesh to be cold, but it was warm, just like always. “Cien…” She had to swallow again but noticed his eyes flutter. She sat down, hope rising through her, warming away the ice in her soul that had formed with Jerunds news. She said his name again. “Cien, love, it’s me.” His eyes fluttered open, but stared straight ahead. Paige stroked his cheek, hoping he would respond. She knew his healing would probably not be instantaneous, but she had hoped, when he opened his eyes… She waited in vain for several long minutes then sighed, overcome by weariness. She figured it was a combination of stress and whatever pain medication she had been given. She leaned forward, laying her head against Cien’s chest, listening to the comforting sound of his beating heart and fell into a deep sleep.

Paige woke as the door to Cien’s room opened. Michael poked his head in and smiled at her gently. “Come on, get off the poor man’s chest. I’ve orders to get you to eat.” Paige shook her head slightly. “I’m not really hungry, Michael.” Michael sighing slightly came and took her hand. “I can’t leave without you, orders from the general. He said you had to eat.” Paige nodded reluctantly and rose, turning to follow Michael out. Behind her, Cien make a small noise. Both she and Michael turned. Cien’s arm was up, outstretched toward Paige, trembling, his eyes wide open and pleading. Paige walked back to his side and touched his cheek. Cien relaxed and closed his eyes again, his arm falling back to the bed. “Paige looked at Michael.” He doesn’t want me to leave right now.” Michael nodded. “I’ll tell the general and bring you something here.” He turned and walked out.

Jester watched Paige as she sat in the mess hall, picking at her food. He was worried for her. In the week since she had come back from her mission with Cien she had hardly eaten. She knew his condition was wearing on her but it was hard for him to see her so pale and thin. He walked over to her, hesitating for a second before speaking. “How’s he doing today?” She glanced up from her plate with a slight smile. “We were about to get him up and walking for a bit, he’ll move when lead but…” She trailed off, shaking her head. Jester nodded, avoiding her eyes. Not knowing how to reply to her, he turned and retreated, admitting in his mind that that was what it was. He wondered to himself if he projected his pain as openly as she did. He shook his head. Little good all this thinking about emotions did him. He had missions to plan, and to alter since Paige was still on sick leave. He turned and headed back downstairs, toward his office.

Paige sat beside Cien, frustrated. Another week had passed and his progression had stopped. He acted as if everything around him were a dream. She leaned back in her seat, out of his field of vision. He whimpered, stirring slightly, his eyes rolling about, trying to catch sight of her. She stayed put. This was the most reaction he’d shown in days. His whimpering grew louder; almost words and he squirmed on the bed. Suddenly it seemed as if something broke inside him. “Paige! Why did you have to leave me? Why did you have to die!” He thrashed about on the bed and Paige jumped up and restrained him before he hurt himself. Her eyes caught his as she spoke. “I’m here love. I’m not dead at all. I’m right here.” Relief flooded his eyes and he sighed, laying back and calming suddenly. Paige was startled, but the slow and steady rising and falling of his chest showed that he was still alive. She sat down beside him, stroking his cheek until she fell asleep.

Paige woke to a gentle hand on her should and looked up to she Jerund. She started to rise to attention but a gentle shake of his head stopped her. “Don’t worry about it. I heard the commotion in here earlier but I figured he had just fallen down again or something, so I didn’t hurry to check. He’s…different though. Paige nodded. “I moved out of his line of sight…that’s always disturbed him. I stayed gone this time though and it was as if whatever was holding him back snapped. He was yelling, asking me why I had to die. I restrained him and told him I wasn’t dead. He…seemed relieved but fell into this state almost immediately.” Jerund nodded, studying the younger man. He took out his stethoscope and listened to his heart and his breathing. He stood back as sighed shaking his head. “As close as I can tell he’s deeply asleep. How long he’ll stay this way, I’m not sure. However, you did the right thing, Fardreamer.” Paige nodded, not really believing his words, but acknowledge he knew more about it than she did. “I’m going to have him moved to his room, you will still check up on him but I’m putting you back on active duty for now.” He looked up at her. “I want you to eat, that’s an order.” Paige nodded reluctantly. “He wouldn’t want you wasting away and if you don’t eat on your own I’ll assign an officer to be sure that you do.” Paige nodded again. “I’ll eat sir.” Jerund nodded and wrote down a few notes on a pad of paper and turned to her. “You go back on duty tomorrow at one. I want you to have eaten at least five times between now and then, good meals, if not large ones at first. Now, you go on and eat and rest. I’ll see that he gets safely to his room.” Paige nodded, knowing a dismissal when she heard it and turned, heading up to the mess hall.

Christina watched Paige from across the mess hall. She had been worried about her younger friend when she had quit eating. She appeared to be following Jerunds orders now though and, though the sadness still lurked behind her eyes, color was returning to her cheeks. Though back on active duty, Jester had refrained from taking her on missions, which also comforted Christina and made her rethink some of her opinions about her CO. Of course, if she asked him he would probably give her some lame excuse about Paige being to emotionally disturbed or something about possible chemical imbalances from not eating. Christina knew those were merely excuses for protecting Paige. She watched Paige get up and put her tray back in the slot on the meal computer. Christina glanced at her watch. She had to go on her shift in the medical ward soon. She rose with a sigh and headed off in that direction.

Paige typed in the lock code for Cien’s room. She had checked on him earlier in the day and he had still been asleep. She was tired as last night she had been up and down, checking on him but she was not about to go take a nap without checking on him first. She stepped through his door, stopping cold as she looked at his bed. It was empty. She started to look around but an arm grabbed her, pinning her arms to her side, the persons using their hand to silence her. They lead her to the computer chair and set her down, then came around front smiling, blue-violet eyes full of relief and happiness. Paige’s fear evaporated and tears sprang into her eyes. “Cien…!” She managed to choke out softly. Cien nodded and stroked her hair. “Shh, love, I’m sorry I scared you.” Paige shook her head. “Not scared….happy.” She spoke between sobs. Cien pulled her close, comforting her until she had cried herself out. “There now love, I’m fine now, see? I just kind of shut down when I thought I had lost you…mostly because I didn’t do something I should have done before we even left for that mission.” He knelt and held up his hand, showing a ring. Paige gasped in surprise but before she could say anything Cien spoke  again. “Paige Fardreamer, I’ve fallen in love with you and more than anything I want to spend the rest of my life with you. Will you marry me?” Paige nodded, wordlessly, tearing up again as he slipped the ring onto her hand. He stood,  pulling her gently to her feet and into his embrace. He held her until she calmed again, then gave her a half smile. “Come on love. We need to go let them check me out at the medical ward.” Paige nodded and smiled and the walked out, his arm still holding her close against his side.

Jester looked up at the sound of quiet laughter and gave a slight half smile at Cien and Paige as they walked by. He had noticed the ring on Paige’s left hand and he was happy for them. Still, he had begun avoiding them recently. He didn’t do it out of spite. He bore no grudge against Cien. Paige was a wonderful woman, but she was more like a younger sister to him and he had never thought about her romantically. No, it was not their relationship that hurt him, but their love for one another. Whenever he saw them together the pain, deep inside his chest started again. Tris…he remembered her looking at him the same way Paige looked at Cien. The quiet laughter, the lingering glances, they all brought him more torture than they could ever know. He knew they didn’t do it out of spite, it was in neither of their natures, but they could not help the fact that they were in love. He sighed, looking back down at his papers and knowing he was done with them now that his mind had wandered off to other subjects. He gathered them together with a sigh and headed over to the meal computer, dialing up a bottle of his favorite Irish whiskey and heading down to his office.