‘Give him time,’ they had said.
Her father had counseled her not to press the Prince; that his sufferings had been very real and had left him low. He told her that he had seen it often
enough before with men wounded in battle for the first time – the dawning of the realization that even the young are not immortal. “And we do not know what
he underwent during his quest to save He-Man – nor how it will have affected him. It was a very stern test for the boy: little wonder then if he is
somewhat – damaged – by it.” He had paused then, his mind clearly elsewhere – and sighed. “And if it has changed him. Well; he will tell us of it if and
when he feels ready to do so. I have not asked him to do so – nor will I.” He had fixed his daughter with a stern eye as he continued. “Nor do I think that
he would thank you for delving into what – for the present – he chooses to conceal.” It would take Adam time to mend, he had said – and that he should be
allowed it. “And there has been a great deal of fuss made over him – and he is understandably shy of it all. Give him time.” Even the Queen, who had always
treated Teela as a daughter, had been firm in preventing her from seeing Adam until he was released from his sick-bed confinement. And Teela, who had gone
along there every single day – in her very best day-dress and all – had fumed inwardly as she made her bow. She wanted to see Adam, to speak with him –
blast it all, she needed to speak with him! And surely he would want to see her too; well of course he would! What harm did they
think that she would do to him, after all? But the healers and the Queen alike were adamant; Adam was to be left to rest in quietness.
‘Give him time’, they had said.
But time he had now had – plenty of time – and Teela was becoming increasingly impatient and angry with the way he was plainly still avoiding her, some
days after his eventual discharge from the hands of the healers. It was inexplicable and – though she did not care to admit it to herself
– its wrongness hurt her. How could he act like this towards her – treat her with such coldness and contempt? For all his faults
– and Adam surely had those – he had never been one to stand on his royal rank; if anything he had always mocked his status far more than she had. He had
done his duty – for the most part willingly enough – and yet, as she had to admit – he had never allowed his being Crown Prince of Eternos to intervene in
their friendship; he was not a prideful or stand-offish kind of boy. And yet that was exactly how he was now acting – hiding behind his rank to avoid her.
It was – inexplicable – and she resented it hugely. Especially now that Adam had proved himself – was at long last the prince Eternos had need of;
especially now that, against all the odds, he was returned – and to a hero’s welcome. And to think that she had even undergone visions about him while he was held captive; she had not had those since being a child – and now they had suddenly returned. Of
course she had experienced the same about He-Man – but, then, the Guardian of Grayskull was – special: larger than life in every sense – and so it was no
wonder that he also loomed large in her thoughts. And yet Adam was in some ways special, too – or at least so she had thought. Surely the onset of those
vivid visions meant that the two of them were – close, if she could see him with her inner sight – sense even how he felt? It was more than the simple
familiarity of having grown up together – of that she was sure – even if she had not taken his flirting with her, the hints he made to her seriously. For
how could she? He had been only a boy, after all – and nothing like her match in maturity. And Adam jested about so many things that it was hard to know
when he really meant something – and that could be very irritating indeed. Yet something had most certainly changed within her: she acknowledged to herself
that she felt differently about him now – since the true valor he had shown in rescuing He-Man. Nor could she forget how she had felt, knowing that he was
in such dire danger – and sensing his suffering and his pain. And that his thoughts, even in the extremity of his anguish, had been of her –
And, looking back, perhaps Adam had not merely been flirting after all. When matters stood at their worst – and it had seemed unlikely that she would ever
set eyes on him again – Uncle Malcolm had told her – and her father had concurred – that Adam cared for her; he had even been bold to use the word ‘love.’
But if Adam did care – cared still – then he had a very strange way of showing it. Surely he couldn’t be that changed – could he? So why was he shunning her company – hiding from her even when she sought him out? No; there were far
too many unanswered questions and she, for one, had had enough! It was high time he explained himself. She would not be put off any longer: it was most
definitely time to have this thing out with Adam.
He couldn’t hide forever. And she knew where he would be. And there he was.
He looked up as she came bearing down on him – and at once his eyes, his head fell: his entire body sagged limp with dejected resignation.
Because she was concerned – very – and thus angry with him, intent on hurting him for hurting her – she at once challenged him – demanding to know what was
wrong, laying into him with a force born of her pent-up fury and lack of understanding. Few attacks are as savage as those of frustrated good-intent, and
he shrank and withered before it. She did not stop to question his pinched and haggard look, to ask why his eyes were rimmed so red – or to think what she
would have done to anyone else she caught treating Adam in this way, for she was far too high-flown.
“ – You barely eat, scarcely speak – run away from me whenever I come within hail and skulk in your chamber all day long! But it certainly doesn’t appear
as if you sleep much, either – you look like your own ghost! I’m told that you don’t read any books or write verses any more – or even play your lute. I
just don’t understand!” She shook her fiery red head and frowned at him, hands on hips, foot tapping the gravel of the walkway in long-pent exasperation.
“And the healers say that you won’t take their medicaments – and that you’re putting up with needless pain – but that there’s nothing much else the matter
with you any more. You know what I think? I think they’re wrong! But whatever’s amiss with you is inside of your head!”
“Teela, please – I just need –”
“Time? Oh, but I’m heartily sick of hearing it, how you ‘need time.’ Why? What is the matter with you? You’ve never been like this – we’ve known each other all our lives, and now you look at me like I just landed from another world
entirely – Yes; with three heads!”
“I – I don’t want to discuss it.”
“Well that’s just your ill luck, then, isn’t it? Because I do!”
“I really don’t want to quarrel.”
“Then at least tell me why you’re avoiding me! I thought we were friends.”
“We are – but – things are changed and – and – and now isn’t the right time.”
“What ‘things’ are changed? And in what way? And when, exactly, will be a good time for your highness? You just tell me that!”
“I – I really must go.” But his attempt to leave was barred by her blocking his way. When he tried again she backed him against a tree and held him there,
bracketing his body with her arms and swearing that she’d not let him go until he told her the truth.
And he looked at her – and felt his savage spurt of anger swallowed up in confusion – and the now-familiar sense of shame. Held fast in place his whole
body slumped hopelessly back against the trunk. The truth, she had said: the truth. And the truth was that he no longer knew what the truth actually was.
What should he – could he – tell her? One lie followed on from another – a whole year of them, piling up one atop the other like
a tottering edifice of deceit. And the terrible tension he felt now was the culmination of that double life, that of being two people at once – and of
being torn slowly apart by it, as surely as on Lyn’s torture rack – He swallowed hard, his heart suddenly pounding and sweat springing clammily from his
body. He must not let himself think of that – he must not. Her voice came from far away and he homed in on it; she was shaking
his shoulders, still demanding that he tell her. And that was horribly familiar as well – being made to tell what you had sworn to keep silent; he knew all
about that – and how much it could hurt. It had all-but broken his spirit – and even the echo of it was unbearable, overcoming the frailty of the present
with the dark potency of the past. The two parts of his life – each just as real – were converging here and now – and alarmingly. And here he was – ashamed
and changed – and afraid, too. Nothing now would ever be – could ever be, as it was before. And as for Teela – his ears burned
and toes curled just to look at her, thinking of what he had done, the betrayals he had committed, the sheer will-sapping shamefulness of it. And here she was, demanding his explanation. Yet what could he say to her – even without giving away the great secret that wasn’t his to
“Adam, for the last time –!”
What would she think, this brave, upright and clean-limbed girl, if she knew the sordid truth? Of the lewd and unclean urges which haunted his nights – the
stain of guilt that soiled him; the burden of guilt which he would never now shed? And what if she were told of his cowardice, his treachery, his
feebleness of will against the shining strength and certainty of Lyn – of how he had – had – And after this a part of me will always be with you,
said her voice inside his head. No; the dark rite he had undergone was not going to go away – he knew that now; nor yet the swamping sense of shame at his
own reaction to it. But he must protect Teela from that degradation; now and always. She must never be tainted by association with his failings. Now, that
he could do – by keeping his distance from her; but – explain? No; that he could never do. There was no way at all in which to do
so without betraying a sacred trust: and that irreversible step he had already all-but taken. Never again, he told himself sternly – and shuddered within
at the very thought. But Teela’s eyes were piercingly intent upon him – and he dared not meet their seeing green gaze lest the horrid truth be read in his
own. And, though she did not – and never could – love him, and though he had forfeited all right to love her, the tragic truth was that he loved her still
– and always would. And did he, then, love her enough to drive her away, to set her free of the taint of him? Well; he had failed so very many of the tests
set him: this one he must pass – for her sake. Better by far to break his own heart than hers.
So, finding his voice at last, he parried, evaded, ducked her barrage of insistent questions – and, when she angrily seized the lapels of his jerkin,
shrugged himself out of it and set off walking resolutely away from the unbearable scene. And then he found himself abruptly knocked off his feet – again –
by her launching herself low at his legs and bringing him down hard to the grass with that same neatly-executed tackle. Half-winded, he attempted to turn –
and found her atop of him, holding him down, her emerald eyes fiercely ablaze. He tried again to rise – but she seized his wrists and leaned her full
weight forward to pin him to the sweet-smelling evening grass. A third and stronger effort to lever her off resulted in a threatening knee poised ready in
his groin – so he ceased struggling and sighed, looking up at her with dark-rimmed, weary eyes.
“So what is it that you want from me, Teela? Tell me that.”
“That you be honest with me, Adam – as you always used to be!”
“And did I used to be? Are you so sure? And, anyway, now I am being honest – or trying to be. But
no-one seems to want that.”
“What are you talking about?”
“I only wish I knew.”
“And why are you acting like this? People are starting to talk, Adam – about why you’ve changed so much, why you behave so oddly. Did you really think that
no one would notice – or care? They mean well by it – but they don’t understand – and it’s starting to worry them. You’re the Crown Prince of Eternos and
must live life under the eyes of all; you can’t hide yourself away forever – especially since your deeds at Snake Mountain. No matter how much you seem to
want to shun all those who care for you, it can’t be done. So: just tell me what’s wrong with you since you rescued He-Man –” She broke off as his pallid
face turned away from her into the grass. “You were a hero that day – Yes you were! I saw it for myself. The boy I always knew
you could be, if only you’d let yourself. Not the feckless young prince that everyone likes so well but no-one much admires. Remember how I told you that
respect had to be earned, not just given?” He lay silent, passive under her, his head turned aside. “Adam – don’t you see – this changes everything –!”
“You’re right there,” came the sidelong reply – but his tone was wry, dejected.
“And just what do you mean by that? I don’t follow you.”
“Oh – I – No; no I can’t explain – not in any way you’ll understand. Something – happened – to me out there. When I – fell. It changed – things. I don’t
understand it myself; how could I ever explain it to you?”
“Try me.” Teela was implacable, holding him fast.
“No. No – I can’t; there are no words.”
“No words? Why aren’t there words? Words are the one thing you are good at!”
He did not even wince at her dismissive tone; it was no more than he deserved. Truth to tell it was far, far less. He sighed and shook his head.
“Teela – I really don’t know how to express it. But – well – the boy you knew isn’t here any more.”
“So what happened to him?”
“He – fell.”
“Yes; from a gallery, into a fiery abyss: only by some miracle he didn’t; and he didn’t die.”
“Didn’t he? A part of him did.”
“It’s true – though I wish it weren’t. You see, there’s more than one way to fall.” He glanced up at her briefly, then again turned his head aside. She
could feel a tremor pass through his entire body as he sighed – but her pity was still swallowed up in righteous indignation and she was far from done with
“I don’t understand you! Not at all!”
“I don’t understand myself; not any more.”
“Just tell me what’s caused you to change like this!”
“I – can’t. It’s like I said; the boy I was is – gone.”
“I don’t much like what’s taken his place, then!”
He looked up at her then, and a spasm passed over his face.
“Nor – nor do I. Not at all. I feel – old, Teela – like my youth is fled from me. And that I won’t ever get it back –”
“But – that’s ridiculous! You’re seventeen – and that just barely! How can you possibly feel old?”
“I do, though; agèd and worn and – and that nothing seems to matter any more.”
“What? Nothing matters? But – but you’re a hero now – everyone’s talking of it – they’re even making up songs about you! Uncle Malcolm says they’re drinking your health in every last tavern across the land!”
Unwittingly she turned the knife in his wounds – and Adam writhed in soul-sick distress.
“And just think of the celebrations there’ll be, too. Why, all the bells in the city will be rung in peal before tomorrow’s banquet, and afterwards –
fireworks! And all in your honor –”
But he had screwed his eyes tight shut – and his lower lip trembled.
“Celebrations –” he said bitterly. “Honor –”
“Adam, you’ve proved yourself at last – made us all so very proud and – and –”
“Don’t tell me this – don’t! Are you trying to torture me!” A hectic life sparked in his eyes – and he
heaved up against her to throw her off. But she was ready for him, her anger the match of his and with greater stay – and though he struggled, held down he
remained. And then the brief fire doused and he again went limp beneath her – and would not meet her furious eyes.
“Why, you –! Torture you? I’m trying to help you – and you’d know that if you weren’t so wrapped-up in
yourself! How can you be so selfish? You’ve won fame and – and, yes – glory! You have all Eternos at
your feet, every reason to be glad and grateful – and all you can do is whine!”
“Glad? Grateful? The truth is that I just want to tell the – I mean, I – I –” The life leeched from his voice and left it flat.
“Oh, what’s the point? I knew that you wouldn’t understand.”
“I’m still trying to – in spite of all. You know, Adam, I just don’t understand how you can even say that. There are people who care about you – really,
really care. When they volunteered in their droves to venture against Skeletor it wasn’t just He-Man they were turning out to rescue, you know. No, look at
me – you need to hear this, even if you don’t want to. They risked their all, these people – for you. I call that caring – don’t you? Some of them even
love you –”
He turned his face aside at the word with what she took to be a grimace of disdain.
“– though Elders know why – they – would when you act so selfishly.”
“Selfishly? Oh, if only you knew!” The spark of life, of indignant anger had returned to his voice and she seized on it.
“Knew? Knew what? How can I know if you won’t ever tell me?”
But he had not the spirit to maintain the fight; his anger was futile – impotent. His voice again lapsed back into apathy. “I can’t – I just can’t. I’m
trapped – and there’s no way out.”
“And what does that mean? Always these evasions, these riddles! Well; enough. I will get some straight
answers from you, sniveling apology for a prince that you are. It needs to be done – for your own good. Trapped, are you? Yes, you are, too: because I’m
going to keep you right here until I get some sense out of you; even if it takes all night!”
“No. You mustn’t do that. Let me up now, Teela. I’m done with games.”
“Not ’til you tell me what’s wrong with you. You’ve become a hero at last – by saving another. You proved yourself past all doubt
when you made that incredible leap and took the Sword to him right before them all!”
“Did I?” His voice was dull and he still wouldn’t look at her. It made her both angry and sad. But the anger came more naturally and it had the upper hand.
“I saw it! You saved He-Man; he saved me – so where does that leave me?”
“Saved?” came the laconic reply.
“Adam – this isn’t a joke! Look – everyone’s so very proud of you – you should hear the King’s voice when he speaks of his son!
He’s written a long speech for after the banquet – what are you groaning about? I mean, even He-Man’s in your debt!”
“He-Man owes me nothing. Nor does anyone else.”
“No – only all Eternia! What’s wrong with you about all this? Is it some kind of misguided false modesty?”
“There’s nothing false about it. That’s not what’s false.”
“Well, I won’t speak to the side of your head any more: just you look at me when I’m talking to you!” Furiously Teela seized his jaw in her hand and forced
him to meet her eyes. “Oh, but couldn’t I cheerfully sock you one, Prince Adam – right here and now! And it’d be for your own good, too!” She shook his
captive jaw hard before releasing it.
“Feel free.” His voice was lifeless. “I deserve it.”
“Yes – and I dare say that you do, too. But – in spite of everything – I still want to help you even more than I want to thrash you. So why don’t you stop
this act of yours and tell me the truth?”
“Act? You really don’t understand, do you? It’s only because I’m no longer acting that I seem such a stranger to you. What if
this is the true me, the real prince, not the performance?”
“And that’s what I don’t understand! It’s all a pretence to you, isn’t it? – even now. Like you’re playing a part. A sham!”
He was looking at her now; something in that haunted look was both new – and way too old for his years – and it frightened her. And to that fear anger was
again her response.
“You look like you’re – ashamed of yourself.”
“Maybe I am at that,” answered Adam quietly, his eyes sliding from her face to look past her to the twilight sky where the first stars were now appearing.
“But how can you be? Isn’t it what you wanted? Well – isn’t it?”
“To be a hero? Whatever one of those is – and I’m clearly not. Yes – of course; I wanted to make my parents proud, and – and prove myself to – to –” He
broke off and his mouth quirked awry. “But not this way.”
“What way? I just don’t get it! You wanted to be – and now you are – and everybody is proud of you –
“Then they shouldn’t be,” he said, the resentment breaking through again. “I’m no hero – quite the reverse. You said it yourself;
respect has to be earned – and I haven’t. Yes – I wanted to; but I failed. I failed dismally.” He looked briefly at her again, and his eyes were sad. “I
just didn’t understand what it really takes to be a hero.”
“Then why did you go along with all that training?” she demanded fiercely.
“Because it’s expected of me, being who I am; to keep my father appeased – and yours. But –” He paused, and then looked her in the eye, “most of all to
“To – please – me?” her voice was incredulous. Well it might be. He nodded, wordlessly solemn by way of reply.
“But – surely? No! No – you’re mocking me, aren’t you? You are! I try to make allowances, to understand – and I try to help you –
I put up with your moods and your evasions and your acting like a spoiled brat – and now you scorn me! Do you know that I came
every day to the infirmary – every day! I was so proud of you that it hurt! I waited and waited, paced
up and down for hours, asking after you, how you were, harrassing the healers for news of you. Just a word on how you were feeling, if you were eating, if
you’d slept well. People smiled such knowing little smiles to see me waiting there, day after day – and all in vain. I knew just how pathetic I looked to everybody; but I swallowed my pride and endured it – even all those giggling girls
with their stupid bunches of flowers – And I did it for your sake. Yes; yours. And yet you wouldn’t
even see me. Not even the once. Can you begin to imagine how I felt – waiting – and hoping – and always being put off? Did you ever feel like that, Adam?
Ever? Was there ever anyone you cared enough about to feel that way? To make a fool of yourself over? Well; was there? No – don’t
you turn your face away from me again! And don’t you dare try and escape; we’re going to have this out – right here – right now!”
She was inflamed with anger again; her whole weight bore down hard upon his wrists imprisoning him, enforcing her will upon him – and at once evoking
darkly bright visions of his time with Lyn. It was at once more vivid than the waking world about him in which he walked now but as in a dream – and more
exigent by far. He was there, shackled to the Machine beneath the lights, stretched taut in both body and mind as she tormented him – toyed with him –
overwhelmed his feverish senses with pain and with urgent, unrelieved lust. And to his horror Adam found that he was stiffening with a tense, intense
desire, as an overfilled glass is brimful the instant before it spills. He just couldn’t help it, any more than he had been able to help it when she – when – she – Sweat broke out again on his body and he shivered, closing his eyes tight as something strange
and dark and potent surged all through him with a compelling succubic insistence. He must, must fight it – fight it –! But he
couldn’t. He had not the means. He didn’t know how. Shame was swamped, swept away on the dark tide’s turbid flow for it had no power to match. A breath of
voice sighed whispering in his ear – With you always – and again – Always – and was gone – and he felt the faintest touch like lips
brushing light at his cheek. And then it was done; now it was in him; it was simply – there. And he was changed.
There came fleeting unheard laughter, a silvery sound he knew, like the ripple of moonlight on water. But now there was warmth to it; now it seemed only
kindly – and vastly amused.
His spirit, torn, yearned after it, after her – bade her stay with him and not to be gone: but gone she was – and that in
compassion and lovingkindness. And, alone, his thoughts turned inward, drawn irresistibly towards what he found now within himself, an urgency of feeling
that overcame all else. For he was charged full – sated with a surging glory that was like to the Power moving unsummoned within him. But it was not the
Power, for it did not burn: it was like nothing he had ever felt before; and it raised him, magnified him, filled him with a glow of golden light itself
rendered all the brighter for the passing of the darkness.
After darkness, light –
And with that light came comprehension, and words spoken before came to him again and now had meaning anew.
Love itself takes many forms, the truest of which are pure – and selfless.
And could it be? Could it even be: that jealous, possessive love might repent, might renounce its claim, relinquish its hold – and allow for another more
fitting and beloved to take its place? For, if so, then what nobler proof of purity, of selflessness could there be – or of the healing, redemptive power
of love itself? A heart that gives its hard-won share of love away may be accounted generous indeed.
His eyes, seeing and unseeing, opened wide as the glow coursed through him; his lips parted to form one softly spoken word as full appreciation dawned upon
him – within him – bringing awe in its train.
And he lay in utmost wonder – and gratitude. For he was ransomed – and that with grace; the shackles which had held his mind in thralldom were at last
released, the captive finally set free. More: there was fulfillment too, for he had been endowed – and lavishly endowed – with a gift. And a gift from one
who had been his enemy, and knew his need – and thus doubly precious. Its enormity swelled huge within him, suffusing both body and mind with its largesse
and promise. And words came crowding to him, thoughts faster than he could fasten upon them: renewal, redemption, forgiveness – and above all, love.
Tested he had been – and found wanting: and had proved weak. And yet it was true, as Lyn herself had said: there was strength indeed in weakness – and in
the knowledge of it. He had not understood – but now there was light, for the shadows were passed away. And it filled him, renewed him – and fired him with
hope. And he knew now the true meaning of the Sorceress’ words: seeing, he understood at last the wisdom of the Lady of Grayskull.
You must have faith – and trust in what will be.
Perhaps it shall prove that comfort will find you.
More, he understood now what it was he had been granted, the balm of consolation for his woes, the way to find healing of mind as well as of body. And for
all the full-charged potency of his gift there was neither guilt nor shame, for this was of light and love, and those former things were passed away.
Though he had thought himself alone, yet it was not so: it had never been so; but the darkness within had hidden it from him – and now, with its passing,
being filled with light himself, he saw clear. And he lay in radiant wonderment and acceptance – and knew himself blessed.
From the furthest distance, the far edge of consciousness, her insistent voice came to him, drawing him back. Teela’s face, her fierce eyes, were again
before him – and he blinked, once – twice – and his senses turned again to the girl sat firmly astride him, who held him fast in place and whose wrath,
unknowingly past its time, was as yet unassuaged.
And thus he returned to her. But not as he had been.
He stared up at her face, scarcely hearing her threats: for his eyes, unseeing before now, had been opened – and that same sense of wonder which
transcended all else filled him – and he saw her clear – and at last understood. Yet he felt some lingering constraint with her, this girl from whom he was
still separated. So many things long unsaid to say to her – and yet he knew not how to express himself across this great divide. Well; if the words would
not come, then deeds must do their turn and come in their place.
Her words to him had gone unheeded – but still her look and voice were bitterly angry.
“I warned you, you brat, you: I said what would happen, didn’t I? Scorn me, would you? Well, I’ll teach you to mock – let’s see
who laughs –” Her hand was delving up into his shirt, digging hard into his abdominal muscles, looking to reduce him to that helpless, squirming, giggling
plaything – to master him once more, and have things once again as they had been between them. But not this time; it appeared that Prince Adam had entirely
lost his ticklish streak. Seemingly unmoved he lay and looked up at her. Puzzled, she tried again, her strong fingers doing their worst, almost desperate
to be avenged upon him for the worry he had given her and for – much else besides. But he did not laugh, did not beg, did not twist about in heedless
abandonment; instead he stared steadily up at her with eyes like the summer sky.
“Teela –? Kiss me.”
“What? Kiss you – you beast?”
“And why would I do that?”
“Because I want you to,” he said calmly. “And because – in truth – you really want to – don’t you?”
“No! Not at all – just you wait –!”
“I am waiting; I think that I’ve been waiting a long, long time – Only I just didn’t realize it until now.”
She looked down at him with acute suspicion – he sounded – what – bewitched? Unlike himself, anyway. His sudden serenity was unnatural, his expression
uncanny. A twinge of belated contrition struck her.
“Adam – are you all right? Truly? You looked – weird – for a moment there: like someone else altogether.”
“I’m just fine – never better.” He regarded her, steadfast. “And I’m still waiting –”
She sighed with much tried patience. “All right then. All right.” She bent and repeated that same perfunctory peck to the cheek.
But Adam was unappeased and shook his yellow-haired head.
“No, Teela. Not like that. A real kiss: a proper kiss – Like you mean it: like you kissed me once before –”
“Before? When? What – what are you talking about, Adam? You’re really starting to worry me.” His eyes were strange, too – fey and over-bright; their
blueness shot through with silver strands.
“When you came to me – all shining in the darkness – when we were alone together and you comforted me. Like that.”
She sat back hurriedly, releasing him and frowning down. “I was wrong; you do still need the healers to tend to you. They let you
out of your sick-bed far too early – and you most definitely should be taking those medicaments.” She saw with sudden shock that
her tight grip had opened up his scabbed-over wounds – and that there was bright blood staining his wrists – and her own hands. And self recrimination
seeped into the tone of her voice. “But I really shouldn’t have done this to you – Not when you still aren’t well – and in pain.” She broke off, shaking
her head in over-late concern. “Adam – I’m so sorry – truly I am. I didn’t mean to harm you – But, please – tell me; are you feverish again? You sound –
and look – really odd to me.”
He smiled up at her – and that expression at least she knew well, though she had not seen it for quite some while. “I am odd – or at least – different. And it feels – good.” He paused, considering – and his eyes widened with a still dawning appreciation. “It feels very good.”
She stared down at him, worried and wordless.
“And I’m still waiting –”
“You should be in bed.”
“Yes; so I should: your bed.”
“Adam – I really don’t think that you should treat this as a jest; it’s serious.”
“And so am I. And still waiting –”
“Let me help you to the infirmary – to the healers; you really aren’t well.”
“Ah – but I know where the cure for my malady lies: now I do.”
His mobile eyebrows rose. “No? Well then; if you won’t kiss me –”
With a sudden, swiftly executed maneuver worthy of a far more seasoned fighter he twisted, levered her off, flipped – and at once dropped onto her. A
breath later their positions were neatly reversed and Adam was laughing down at her furious, futile struggles.
“You know? I think I definitely like it better on top!”
“Adam – But –? So you were shamming, were you?”
“Guilty,” he grinned. His fair hair was falling forward over his brow – and his eyes were very vivid. “And, anyway – it’s my turn now.”
“Oh, but you’ll pay for this, you little wretch! You let me go right now or –!”
“But I’m not going to let you go, Teela. Not now: not soon: not ever.”
“What? Ooh – I’m going to kick your –!”
“You are so very beautiful when you’re angry. Do you know that?”
“Well you are. Very beautiful indeed.”
“When I get free flattery isn’t going to save you–!”
“No; it won’t. But I think that you will.”
His face was suddenly serious, his gaze intent. “Because – I have been set free; because the hold that I thought was was over me
is – gone. And in its place – a gift: a gift freely given: a gift that will make me whole: a gift that I understand at last.”
His eyes implored her to share that understanding.
“And because – because – this is our time: don’t you see that?”
“I see that you’re not going to be able to sit without wincing for a week – that I see!”
But Adam just looked down at her gravely and shook his head.
“It isn’t your fault, Teela. You don’t really understand as yet – and how could you? But I think that very soon you will. Because I’m going to show you –”
So saying he stooped and silenced her threats with his mouth. By the time he lifted his lips from hers her anger seemed to have melted – most of her had
melted – and there was a lambent light in her emerald eyes; one he had not seen before.
They stared at one another close in a long, long silence – and then Adam sat back and released his hold upon her: and, knowing and unknowing, set upon her
a hold that would last throughout life – and, passing through both burning joy and bitter grief, would in time transcend two turning worlds.
And his gentle hands reached reverently into her hair and unbound it, so that it fell all about them, a red-bronze cascade like heavy silk. He ran his
fingers slowly through it – and again – and again. While she lay suddenly still and watchful under him, Adam was gazing down at her, as if taking her in
for the very first time. Something in his eyes was – new, yet strangely familiar – and it made her feel hot all over, a flush rising from her innermost
self. It was as if, without understanding, she had been waiting for this moment all her life. And as she lay still, her breath held for an instant,
revelation came so suddenly and softly upon her, like the drawing back of a veil between her and the light. It was Adam: Adam – as ever it had
been, before she even knew. Filled with a sudden surge of love so intense that it blurred her sight she reached up to lay her hand along his cheek – and
her thumb traced tenderly, softly over his slightly parted lips while he held himself stilled by her touch. And he took her hand gently, slowly and kissed
it and with solemn reverence returned it to her side – and looked down on her with young and wonder-filled face.
Then, without either forethought or awkwardness his hands settled close about her slender waist and moved slowly on upwards until they dived as smooth as
two fishes into the opening of her tunic. A moment only Teela’s eyes opened wide in surprise – and then his hands were upon her, moving gently, lovingly –
arousingly. And she could sense it – feel it – as his body, mastering hers, became defined by its own overmastering need, that purity of desire which is
hallowed by love both true and requited. And so, laying down the steely shield of her proud spirit, she surrendered willingly for the first time ever,
yielding herself at last to the implacable demands of love. Her back arched under them with pleasure and she uttered a long, low sigh – and then Adam’s
accomplished hands were deftly undressing her, as if they had done it many times before, somehow skilled without skill, knowing without knowledge. But she
did not wonder at this or at his new boldness, being lost in a newer wonder; nor did she speak of it – not then nor yet on any further occasion. It was as
if understanding had at last blossomed between them – and that, having no barriers to mount, had no need of speech; in this marvelous eloquence of
stillness and silence what use was there for words? At every breath they each drew in knowledge and reassurance until all questions, all doubts and fears
fell away like shadows from the brightness. Innocence was with them, as it is with children, and wisdom too, both seeking and bestowing forgiveness – and
And so she unhurriedly helped him do off his own clothing and, there in the scented darkness of the garden, the two of them, gently, lovingly, without any
lingering shyness, joined together and became one.
And maybe, from afar, the Elders of Eternia looked down upon that union – and saw that it was good.
And, after, as they lay holding each other and sharing that languorous sadness which follows on from love, she turned her head in the crook of his shoulder
and looked at him in the pale light which would in time become dawn. The beautiful, beloved face was peaceful now, composed; the lids heavy over the eyes.
But he was not sleeping.
“Adam – would you tell me something – truthfully?”
He did not open his eyes, but the long lashes fluttered on his cheek and his lips curved upwards as he gave a soft smile. “No, Teela; I won’t.”
“Because I really don’t know the truth of it – and because you won’t ask.”
“No. Sometimes it’s better not to question – just to accept – and be grateful. For not all things are loss. We have this little stolen time; we have each
other and we have – this gift – this grace of bliss. And love in truth redeems and raises what seemed laid low and lost. What more dare we ask for in a
world that falls short of perfection?”
She snuggled herself again into his chest, the steady beat of his loving heart beneath her cheek. And she had thought him but a boy –
She sighed, but not with sorrow, and answered him, her man.
“Only that it might last,” she said softly.
And Adam, Prince of Eternos, who was both man and boy together, silently echoed her words as he gazed up into the vast, star-seeded firmament of the