The spears of pain lancing through him as he shifted on the cot forced a smile to Narvin’s lips. The mere fact that his body, and especially his shoulder, screamed with the wounds he’d sustained from the bomb meant that he was alive and that he'd retained the same face, one that he’d grown fond of and wasn’t quite ready to relinquish. The dull ache that filled the moments in between told him that he was healing, though far slower than he needed to be. With Pandora’s forces everywhere, searching for those loyal to Gallifrey’s true President, he could not afford to stay in one place for long. He had no idea how long he’d been out, but he knew it was high time to get moving again. Kicking back the thin blanket covering him, he pushed himself up to lean hard on an elbow, groaning deep in his throat.
“You should not move, Narvin,” came a severe female voice. “You are not well and must yet rest.” Firm hands pushed him back down on the bed, and he realised that he hadn’t managed to open his eyes. With some effort, he did so and looked about at the medical machinery around him, incongruous against the worn walls of whatever shack or abandoned farmstead he was now in. He didn’t need to see the woman who had spoken to identify her.
“We’ve tarried here long enough, Leela.” He tried rolling toward the edge of the bed and groaned as his shoulder blossomed with new agony. “We’ve got to keep moving, ahead of Pandora’s men,” he panted.
“I do not believe you could move at any speed.” With a touch to his arm, light and comforting this time, Leela coaxed the injured man to lie back again. “You will not heal if you do not rest. The medical man said you must stay still, so that the medicines will work best.”
“He would.” Elbon’s sneering face flashed before Narvin’s eyes, the doctor reluctantly allowing the CIA coordinator, barely on his feet with the support of the warrior woman, entry into the makeshift hospital. “The longer we stay here, the more compensation he could demand.”
“What you have paid him should cover care for every man and woman in this camp.” Leela scowled at the doctor’s greed as she returned to her position by the door, her hand resting on the handle of the knife strapped to her leg..
Narvin snorted, then grimaced at the twinge in his shoulder. “That might have been true a day ago, but now? They’re barely worth the trouble. Those codes will get him into the CIA’s computers, but expose him to Pandora. They’ll give him a shot at invaluable information, but only once.” With a determined grunt, he rolled toward the edge of the bed again, testing his capabilities by pushing himself up. One arm was nearly useless, the shoulder wrapped in thick bandages and singing with pain even as he tried to keep it still, but the remaining arm was strong enough. Puffing with each exertion, he propped himself up in stages until he could swing his legs over the edge and sit up nearly straight, his breath coming in short gasps. Her head bowed as she listened to his activity, the warrior woman made no attempt to assist him.
“Narvin, you must stay in bed,” she insisted once he’d caught his breath. “You must yet heal, and I can best protect you in this contained area. It is dangerous outside this structure.”
“You, Romana’s little pet, protect me?” His incredulity forced his voice up an octave. “I thought I would never see the day.”
“Do not mock me, Narvin,” she growled. “I would as well cut out both your hearts for what you have done.”
Picking absently at the bandage on his shoulder, Narvin gazed at the warrior, his brows knitted as he thought. “And yet you haven’t,” he mused. “War makes strange bedfellows.”
Leela frowned, cocking her head in confusion. “I may not be able to see, but I am perfectly aware of our positions in this chamber. I am not on your bed.”
“No, you ignorant savage. The phrase means…” He broke off with a disdainful laugh. “That doesn’t matter at all. The question is, why haven’t you killed me? You’ve been waiting for this chance for a long time. Well, long for a creature of your limited lifespan. You could have disposed of me without witness, without asking Romana for permission. You should have taken it. You could have at the very least left me out there to die.”
Leela recoiled at the suggestion, disgust twisting her face. “Taking such advantage of an enemy’s misfortune? I would never disgrace myself in that way! When I kill you, you will be fit and able to defend yourself.”
“It’s hardly a fair fight when one of the contestants is blind.” In one smooth motion, Narvin grabbed a roll from the tray next to his bed and flung it at his guardian. Leela snatched it out of the air, right in front of the band of cloth covering her sightless eyes.
“If you wish a fair fight, then I shall tie one hand behind my back.” She tossed the bread back to her attacker.
Narvin smiled as he caught it and deposited it back on the tray. “I certainly cannot deny that your soul is made of fire. But the question still remains. Why haven’t you killed me?” he murmured, his voice saturated with saccharin. “It’s because I’m still useful to you, aren’t I? You know that I’ll side with Romana against Pandora.”
“I must work with what allies I can find, even when it goes against my better judgment,” she replied, her words measured and careful.
“Don’t you trust me, savage?”
“You are the spider, Narvin,” she hissed. “You weave your webs and schemes, then pick your way along the edges, watching for your prey so you may feast and grow fat on its blood. You care for nothing but your own life and your own power, but at this moment, that power depends on Romana. Pandora will eliminate you as soon as look at you, so you must restore Romana to the Presidency -”
“And thus we shall be allies, for a time, at least,” he finished for her. Scratching at the rough stubble sprouting on his chin, Narvin surveyed the proud figure of the warrior woman. She frowned at his sudden silence.
“It is you who does not trust me,” she declared. “You believe I will betray you.”
“On the contrary, savage. I absolutely trust you.” He noted her jerk of surprise, then continued. “You are simple-minded, straightforward, direct. You see the world in a specific way and, as such, are eminently predictable. When you say something, it is a truth - your truth - and nothing will sway you from it.”
With a proud lift of her head, Leela tossed her hair back and stood straight against the wall by the door. “You do not deceive me, Narvin. You speak sweet words and empty praise because you think they will distract me, but I can smell your malice. You are mocking me.”
Narvin puffed his amusement, then grimaced at the stab of pain from that little motion. “You’ve yet to learn to distinguish praise from insult, savage. But I am not mocking you. I speak honestly.” With a low, pained grunt, Narvin pushed himself off the bed and landed heavily on his feet. He tested his strength and balance for a moment before drawing himself up to his full height, turning toward Leela, though one hand clutched at the edge of the bed for support.
“You see, I understand you. You are savage and violent, and your faculties are limited, even more primitive than that of the typical dull human. For all the years you have spent on Gallifrey, living amongst the most advanced species in the universe, you have not made one attempt to better yourself. You’ve squandered all of your opportunities to become truly great.” Taking three steps toward her, he rested against a table, his curved shoulders betraying his exhaustion at even this much effort. “However, you are loyal and courageous, and wise in a way that escapes even Time Lords. You’ll do everything within your power to protect the Lady Romana, and you have pledged to protect me as well. I expect that once this is all over, I’ll feel that blade of yours between my ribs, but until then, you’ll keep your word, as you always do. In that, I know I can trust you.”
Leela stood, her fingers squeezing the hilt of her knife, for a full minute. “You lie,” she murmured at last, though her voice lacked her usual conviction.
“I do not.” Narvin’s statement was simple and direct. “You may find this hard to believe, but I respect you, Leela. On this planet of politicians and schemers, it is refreshing to find one such as you. Honest and direct. I see why Romana keeps you around.”
Leela straightened, standing tall and strong. “Then together we shall find Romana and stop this Pandora person?”
A sparkle of clever malice crept into Narvin’s eyes at the mention of their adversary. “Yes, savage, I do believe we shall.”
Leela stepped forward and took Narvin’s arm to lead him back to the bed. “But first, you must rest. You shall only hurt yourself if you continue to move.”
“And it’s back to business after such a lovely heart-to-heart. Also typical.” He gently but pointedly removed her hand from his elbow. “No. The war moves on as we stay here. We must catch up with it. Help me with my robe.”
WIth only one usable arm, Narvin struggled to untangle the bundle that Elbon had made of his uniform. Then he positioned Leela to hold it up by the shoulders as he ducked under and into it. He found it easier to leave the sleeve for the injured arm empty, even though it meant that the high collar scraped against his jawline. “You know, Leela,” he murmured as he patted her hands to instruct her to let go of the cloth, “you were wrong.”
“I do not know what you are talking about.”
“About my intentions.” He pulled at the collar, then, with a sneer of disgust at his clothing, attempted to straighten the false tabard down his body. “It’s never been about me. I serve Gallifrey. I’ve only tried to do what’s best for it. Sometimes that meant going against the President, and sometimes…” He paused, gazing at Leela with pursed lips. “Sometimes I made mistakes, like everyone else. Darkel was probably my biggest one.”
“I do not understand.”
“I didn’t think you would, savage.” He gave his robe one last pat. “You do not understand what you are told and will not remember my words at all. You make a fine confessor.”
Leela frowned, confused. “Thank you...” she murmured.
Narvin’s lips twisted into a sardonic smile. “Come. Let’s go find out how that leech Elbon intends to betray us today.” He waited for the warrior woman to come up beside him and lend him her arm, and together, they left the safety of the infirmary.