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Say The Words

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Mina stared at her hands silently as she listened to her siblings argue in front of her. They had been yelling since her brother had come home with his grand plan to get their family back into good standing with the leaders of their people, the Genii. The fact that they were yelling about her did not spur her to join the argument, even though it was her future they were debating.

“You can’t just marry her off to one of Cowen’s men. Especially not him!” Mina’s sister fumed.

Their brother Caleb threw his hands in the air in frustration.

“Your well-being is my main responsibility, and I’ve run out of options to get us back into Cowen’s good graces. What else would you suggest I do Thali?”

“The marriage is not the idea that I am opposed to, it’s the person you want to marry her off to. He’s a cruel man and he is much older than her! Couldn’t you pick someone else? Ladon would be a much better choice. He’s closer to her in age and is close to Cowen.”

Caleb sighed and shook his head.

“I didn’t choose who she is going to marry. I brought the idea before Cowen and he made the choice. Commander Kolya is one of his most trusted men and is in good standing within the Genii. Not to mention that he is one of the best fighters we have and could protect her.”

Mina decided she had finally had enough of their bickering and stood up from her chair, bringing her siblings’ eyes to her.

“I wish the two of you would not act as if I am a child. I know that this decision is for the best, and I am willing to do my part to bring the Delaine name out of the dirt. Even if that means marrying someone that may not be the youngest or kindest man available.”

Thali looked at her sister with pity and crossed the distance between them, placing her hands on her shoulders.

“Are you sure Mina? You don’t have to do this.”

Mina met her sister’s eyes, giving her a sad smile.

“Yes I do. As a Genii, it is my duty to help my family and my people. If this is how I do it, so be it.” Mina embraced her sister and jokingly added, “and please don’t offer Ladon as an alternative. I’ve known that man my whole life. He’s a snake in the grass, and we both know it.”

Thalia chuckled quietly and returned her sister’s embrace. Caleb cleared his throat to get their attention.

“Does that mean that you will marry him?”

Mina pulled away from her sister and turned to face her brother.

“Yes Caleb, I will follow your plan and marry him.”

........................................................................

Acastus Kolya stood before Cowen’s desk, not sure what to make of what the man had just said to him.

“You wish for me to enter into an arranged marriage? Are you sure I am the best candidate for this? Surely someone younger would be better, someone like Ladon or Mekhai?”

Cowen shook his head and walked around the side of his desk to stand beside Kolya.

“Caleb Delaine came to me in an effort to restore his family name to good standing to fix the mistakes made by his father. His suggestion was to marry off his younger sister Mina to someone trustworthy and in good standing. My mind immediately went to you.”

Kolya raised his eyebrows at the mention of Mina being the younger sister of someone that was barely 30. His mind went to Sora Tyrus, who he had taken under his wing after her father’s passing. He wasn’t sure how comfortable he was with being married to someone close in age to one of his students.

“Again I suggest someone younger. If this girl is young, surely she will want a husband that she could live out her days with.”

“She is nearly 28, so not as young as you are thinking. I’m sure things will work out. If you are truly unwilling, I will find someone else. If it eases your worries at all, you could simply view this as an order and be done with it.”

Kolya closed his eyes in thought. He had never seen marriage as a priority. He could always go with Cowen’s idea and view it as an order. Arranged marriages were not common among the Genii, but not unheard of. The couple usually was able to work things out and live in a way that suited them both.

“I will marry this girl.”

Cowen nodded in approval and moved to sit behind his desk again.

“Very well. I will let Caleb know. I imagine the engagement will be short and then you can resume normalcy after the ceremony.”

Kolya bowed his head in agreement before turning and leaving the room. He made his way down the corridors of the underground facility until he reached the entry to the surface. As he walked the path towards the above ground settlement, his eyes drifted to the groups of younger people milling about. One of them could be his future wife. Since he had no idea what Mina Delaine even looked like, he was at a loss when it came to finding her within the crowd.

Kolya entered his home and glanced around. There was nothing of significance in the home that showed someone actually lived there. Maybe having a wife would do him some good, put a little color in his life. He walked back to his bedroom and grabbed a small box out of the drawer of his bedside table.

He opened the box to reveal the one thing left to him by his mother. Though he had never really planned on marrying, he had kept the ring after her death. It was simple, a silver band with a royal blue stone attached. It only seemed right that Mina should have the ring, given she was not likely going to want anything else from him.

His mind kept going back to what Cowen had said, this was simply a business arrangement. Romance had nothing to do with it. He decided that he would leave Mina to her own devices and simply be her husband by law, and nothing else.

Chapter Text

Mina paced back and forth across her bedroom, stopping every so often to look at the dress laying out on her bed. The dress was simple and traditional for a Genii wedding, ironically so since it was her mother’s and had come from a completely different culture. The dress was not the problem, however, it was what the dress represented. She was getting married in a few hours, to a man she had never met and was 15 years her senior. A man that was well known amongst the Genii as being cold and harsh. Mina’s thoughts were interrupted by her door opening and her sister entering the room.

“Mina? Are you alright?” Thali inquired quietly.

Mina looked from the dress to her sister, inhaling slowly and focusing her thoughts.

“At the moment, not really. But I will be. I just want to get this over with.”

Thali looked at her older sister with sympathy.

“You never know, this might turn out better than you think. For all we know, there could be a good man under that harsh exterior.”

Mina smiled at Thali’s suggestion, always the optimist. She let out a long sigh and picked the dress up off the bed. Thali moved forward and helped Mina into the dress, lacing up the strings in the front and back. Once the dress was on, Mina could feel the pressure of what she was about to do increase on her chest. Suddenly she felt like she couldn’t breathe and her eyes began to water.

“Mina? What’s wrong?” Thali asked with concern, guiding Mina to sit down on the bed.

Mina’s breaths came in gulps as she bent over, her head in her hands. Thali gently rubbed her sister’s back, offering small soothing noises.

“You don’t have to do this, you know. I can go talk to Caleb and we can call the whole thing off.”

Mina shook her head and sat up, brushing the dampness from her eyes. She took a few deep breaths before turning her gaze to Thali.

“I can do this. I made a commitment to help my family, and I plan to follow through with it. This isn’t how I pictured my wedding day would go, but it’s how it’s going to be I guess. Can you do my hair for me?”

Thali sighed and nodded solemnly, grabbing a brush from Mina’s bedside table. She watched her sister’s expression in the mirror as she styled her hair, watching Mina’s eyes express her fear and sadness. Once her hair was finished, Mina stood up and gazed at her own reflection in the mirror.

“It’s time to face the music.”

…………………………………………………..

Kolya stood silently at the front of the empty event room within the tavern. He didn’t know what he was expecting. He didn’t have many friends, and the ones he did have were off planet on missions. From what he had heard about the status of the Delaine family, it didn’t surprise him that they wouldn’t have many people there for them either. He chuckled softly to himself at the fact that he had something in common with his bride to be.

His attention turned to the door to see Cowen and Mekhai walk into the event hall wearing uniforms that matched his own. Both men nodded in greeting and joined him at the front of the room.

“You ready for this?” Mekhai asked.

Kolya turned to the younger man and raised an eyebrow.

“This is simply me following orders Mekhai, nothing more.”

Cowen smirked at Kolya’s statement.

“At least give the girl a chance Kolya, you may enjoy having a wife around.”

Their conversation was cut short by the door opening again and a young redhead with short hair poking her head in the door. Kolya was taken aback by the woman’s young appearance, concerned that he was looking at the face of his wife to be.

“Is everyone ready?” the young girl asked.

“Yes Thali, we are ready,” Cowen answered her.

The door closed again and Kolya turned to look at Cowen in disbelief.

“I thought you said she wasn’t that young. I’m not sure I am comfortable marrying someone who is barely an adult Cowen.”

Cowen returned Kolya’s accusatory statement with a look of confusion.

“What are you talking about?” he gestured to the door, “You mean Thali? She’s not the one you’re marrying. You are marrying Mina, that was her younger sister.”

Kolya let out a sigh of relief and focused on the door again, waiting for the woman he was really going to marry to walk through it. He was disappointed when the door opened to reveal the same girl as before. She walked across the room from the door and stood at the other side of Cowen. He glanced at her, surprised to find her looking at him with disdain. He turned his gaze back to the door to see two more people entering the room.

Kolya had met Caleb Delaine before, but never his sisters. He suddenly wished that he had met them before this day. Mina’s red hair matched her sister’s, but fell past her shoulders in gentle curls. She walked slowly across the room on her brother’s arm, and Kolya’s eyes never left her face. When the pair reached the front of the room and joined the rest of them, Caleb released Mina’s arm and took his place between Thali and Cowen. Mina stood opposite Kolya and looked up to meet his eyes. Kolya was surprised by the mixed emotions he could see. Fear, sadness, confidence, and hope mixed together with the soft hazel color.

“We are here today to join together in matrimony this man and this woman,” Cowen started, bringing Kolya out of his trance.

“Who gives this woman to this man?” Cowen continued, turning his gaze to Caleb.

“I Caleb Delaine give this woman, my sister Mina Delaine to Commander Acastus Kolya to be his wife,” Caleb stated clearly.

Cowen nodded in acceptance and turned back to the pair before him.

“Could the two of you please join hands?”

Kolya lifted his hands in front of him with his palms up. Mina brought her hands to meet his and gently placed them over his. He marveled at how small and delicate they appeared compared to his. He closed his hands over hers, grasping them as gently as possible.

“Mina, please repeat after me. I Mina Delaine, daughter of Markand and Nola Delaine, take you Commander Acastus Kolya to be my husband.”

Mina took a deep breath before repeating the words exactly as Cowen had said them.

“I Mina Delaine, daughter of Markand and Nola Delaine, take you Commander Acastus Kolya to be my husband.”

Cowen turned his attention to Kolya, saying a similar thing. Kolya met Mina’s eyes, seeing the fear and sadness he had seen before prevalent above everything else. The poor woman was terrified of marrying him. The honorable man in him wanted to put a stop to this and save the beautiful woman before him from doing something she clearly didn’t want to do. The soldier in him knew that this marriage was ordered by Cowen, and if he didn’t do it, he would pay for it and Mina would likely be married off to another man she didn’t want to marry. Finally, the part of him that was nothing more than a man, who saw a beautiful woman standing before him, wanted nothing more than to take his chance and scoop her up while he had the chance.

“I Commander Acastus Kolya take you Mina Delaine to be my wife,” he strongly repeated Cowen’s words.

Cowen gestured to Thali and Mekhai, indicating for them to hand the rings to the couple. Kolya accepted the ring from Mekhai and watched as Thali handed Mina a simple silver band, giving her sister’s hand a reassuring squeeze as she did. Mina slid the ring onto his finger, and he did the same for her. The rejoined hands and both looked to Cowen.

“I now pronounce you husband and wife. Mina Delaine, you are now Mina Kolya. Commander, you may kiss your bride.”

Kolya looked down at his new wife and released her hands. He gently took her face in his hands and closed the distance between them, placing a soft kiss on her lips. The kiss lasted only a few seconds before he pulled away, not wanting to make her uncomfortable. His hands fell from her face to his sides. When their eyes met again, he swore he could see a change in her emotions. Her fear and sadness had faded slightly and the hope had returned. The corner of his mouth quirked up slightly, but returned to its neutral position when Mina quickly looked away.

A hand grasping his shoulder forced him to look at Caleb, who was extending his hand for him to shake. He shook the young man’s hand, his gaze shifting to Mina embracing her sister behind him. He watched the pair of women turn and leave the event room together, leaving the men alone.

Chapter Text

Mina walked down the path that ran through the village, arm in arm with her sister. On her back, she carried a pack with her belongings. She was meeting her husband at the edge of the village to go to her new home. Once the ceremony had ended, she and Thali had returned home to gather her things. Neither one of them had said anything about the ceremony or the fact that Mina was now married to a man that she had never met until that day.

“There he is,” Thali said quietly, breaking the silence between them.

Mina looked to the end of the path before her to see her new husband and Caleb standing together. She swallowed her nervousness and closed the distance between the two pairs. She released her sister’s arm and embraced her for a few seconds before moving to her brother. As Caleb wrapped his arms around her, he leaned down and whispered into her ear.

“It won’t be as bad as you think it is. I can’t promise you will be happy, but he will take care of you.”

Caleb released her and took a step back, giving her a small smile. Mina returned the smile before turning her attention to Kolya. He offered his arm to her, which she took, and they continued down the path, leaving Caleb and Thali behind.

As he led her down the path, Mina looked up at him. His face expressed no emotions, but she could sense that he felt as awkward as she did. She wasn’t sure what he expected out of this marriage. She didn’t even know what she herself was expecting. There wasn’t clear expectations when it came to an arranged marriage. This arrangement was nothing more than a businesslike transaction to her family, and orders for him. While she racked her brain for ideas on how to make this marriage mean something besides good standing for herself and her siblings, she didn’t notice that they had turned off the main path. Eventually Kolya stopped in front of a small house. Mina pulled herself out of her contemplative state and took in the dwelling before her. It was not exactly what she had expected of a man that had dedicated his life to the Genii military. She had suspected that he lived in a bunker in the underground part of their civilization, not a quaint little farmhouse.

“Welcome to your new home,” Kolya said, uttering his first words to her outside of their wedding.

Mina pulled her arm out of his and walked forward, opening the door to the house. As she entered the main room, she took in her surroundings. The kitchen and dining area sat off to one side, with a small living space on the other side of the room. A hallway at the back held three doors, a bathroom and two bedrooms.

Mina heard the door close behind her, indicating that Kolya had followed her into the house. She turned her gaze from the room to look at his face again. This time, she was able to see something more than a blank stare. He almost looked worried, like he was awaiting her opinion of his home. The fact that he seemed to value her opinion touched Mina’s heart. She gave him a reassuring smile.

“It’s lovely. Different than I expected, but I think that I will enjoy making this my home.”

She watched as relief washed over his face. It seemed to soften his hard appearance, which changed Mina’s view of him. When he wasn’t actively frowning, he had a handsome face. When his eyes met hers, Mina realized that she had been staring and looked away quickly.

Kolya crossed the room and opened one of the doors on the back wall, revealing a bedroom with a single bed and a dresser. He looked to her and gestured to the room.

“I hope this room will be satisfactory for you.”

Mina’s face must have expressed her confusion for Kolya closed the distance between them and gently grasped her hand. Mina started slightly, as she hadn’t been expecting him to touch her. She instantly regretted her actions when he quickly released her hand.

“I know that this marriage is not something you wanted. I expect nothing from you and I wanted to give you your own space. I don’t plan on making your life any more difficult.”

Mina could see the sincerity on his face, and she wasn’t sure how she was supposed to feel. It almost seemed like he had been hurt by her reaction to him touching her, but when she looked in his eyes, she saw nothing that showed he felt anything towards her besides indifference. She could have sworn that she had briefly seen something at their wedding in his eyes that could only be described as lust or affection. The brief kiss they had shared had sparked something between them, but that spark seemed to have disappeared. Part of her wanted to kiss him again just to test it out, but her self-control and want to avoid the awkward conversation afterwards stopped her.

“Thank you Comman…” Mina started, stopping herself from finishing her formal addressal, “what would you like me to call you? Commander just doesn’t seem like something you should call your husband.”

The corner of Kolya’s mouth rose in a smirk.

“You may call me Acastus.”

“Very well. Acastus, thank you.”

Mina pulled one of the straps from her pack off of her shoulder, and walked into her new bedroom. She opened the bag and began to unpack her belongings. As she began her work, she glanced out the door to see Kolya had disappeared. She hadn’t heard the door close, so she assumed he was still in the house.

Her mind returned to her previous thoughts of what it would be like if she tried to reignite the small spark she had felt between them a few hours ago. They were stuck in this situation together, so maybe they should make the most of what they had been given. The room she was standing in pulled her back to reality. He had purposefully given her her own room, separating her from him. He had said that he did it for her benefit, but what if she had misread the feelings she thought she saw in his eyes. What if he really wanted nothing to do with her?

Chapter Text

Over the next two months, Mina slowly settled into her new life. She had made a few personal touches to her new home, making it look like someone actually lived there. Judging by her husband’s sense of being out of place at home, she assumed he had not spent much time there before her arrival. Being a military man, she figured that he spent most of his time below ground in the bunkers with most of the other military families. In their two months together so far, she hadn’t been able to get much out of him about his personal life. She knew that he had grown up in this house, but once his parents had passed and he made serving Cowen and his predecessor his priority, he had no use for his surface home. Marriage had never been high up on his list of priorities, he had told her hesitantly. When she had expressed to him that it hadn’t been a plan of hers either, he seemed to relax, but still remained distant.

Most of the time, he was below ground training others or attending to other matters assigned to him. Her time was spent on the surface, working on the farms with her sister and the other farmer families. Every night, the two of them returned home, she prepared dinner, which they usually ate without much conversation, and they retired to their respective bedrooms. This was not at all what she had expected married life to be, but then again, their marriage was not one born of an actual relationship. This was strictly business, for both parties. That was what she continued to tell herself every morning and night as they went their separate ways.

Some days while she was working in the fields, she would watch the young married couples around her that genuinely cared for each other. They seemed to be happy and their lives together had some meaning. A few times, she had noticed Thali looking at her with pity when she noticed Mina’s observant behavior. Mina wouldn’t go so far as to say that she felt jealous of these other couples, but she definitely felt something. She felt empty, like something was missing. She hadn’t felt this way before marrying Acastus, but now that she was married, it seemed that something inside her had changed. She actually wanted to be happy, wanted to feel loved and wanted, wanted to feel married. S

he kept these feelings to herself, not even expressing them to Thali. It was bad enough getting her looks of pity when she didn’t have any concrete proof that something was wrong. If she knew that something was going on inside her, Mina knew that Thali would only increase the frequency of the looks. It wasn’t just her either. Mina had noticed several other people, including her brother, giving her looks of pity since her marriage had begun. She didn’t feel that her exterior behavior had changed in any way, but deep down she knew that they could all see a change in her. Today, she had dodged many looks as she moved about the field. It was getting to be almost unbearable. She stopped her work and turned to her sister.

“Is it that obvious?”

Thali looked up from her work, brushing her hands off on her apron.

“Is what obvious?” she asked.

“That I feel different and incomplete since my marriage. Everyone seems to have formed a permanent look of pity when I am around.”

Thali sighed and stood up from the ground, grabbing Mina’s hand and pulling her to a more isolated area of the field where they could talk privately.

“I don’t think it is as obvious to everyone else as it is to me, but something has definitely changed about you. You never really had an interest in marriage before, but now whenever you see a couple or a family, you get this look on your face.”

Mina tilted her head in confusion, narrowing her eyes.

“What kind of look?”

“Like you want that life. You want to be married and have a family.”

Mina held up her left hand, displaying the ring on her finger.

“I am married, remember? And I’ve never been much a motherly type.”

Thali looked at her sister with raised eyebrows, crossing her arms over her chest.

“What?” Mina asked, “It’s the truth.”

“I meant happily married to someone you love and who loves you back. As for the not being the motherly type, you helped raise me. At 11 you took on the role that neither Caleb or dad could fill. You took mom’s place, and then 5 years later, you took dad’s place too. If anything, I would say you are overqualified for motherhood.”

“I don’t think there is such a thing as being an overqualified mother,” Mina joked, cracking a small smile at her sister.

Thali rolled her eyes and reached out to take Mina’s hands.

“If family and happiness is something that you want, reach out and get it. On your wedding day, you said you wanted to make things work. Talk to Kolya, get to know him. For all you know, he could want the same thing.”

“I don’t think so. Our marriage is just an order to him. He’s only doing his duty, following Cowen’s orders.”

“But somewhere within him, he is just a man. And you are a great catch. Any guy would be lucky to have you!”

Mina laughed softly at her sister’s declaration.

“I’ll make sure to tell him that.”

“Make sure that you do. I know of one guy that would kill to be in his shoes.”

Mina sighed and shook her head.

“Oh will you quit with that. Ladon does not have feelings for me. We haven’t even seen each other in over 5 years. He probably doesn’t remember me, much less have feelings for me. I don’t know how you got it into your head that he liked me. Especially since you were 10 when you met him.”

Thali tapped her head with her finger.

“I just know things. And I know that Ladon has been head over heels for you since you met. Sora told me when we were younger, and she knows him better than I do.”

Mina rolled her eyes and walked away from her sister back towards the area they had previously been working in.

“You are both delusional. The point is moot anyways. I am married and I have never felt that way about Ladon, no matter how he feels. You know that. He’s too pompous and thinks he knows everything.”

Thali laughed and followed Mina across the field.

“Well since Ladon is off the table for you, I guess you’ll just have to make things work with your husband.”

Mina shook her head again and threw a small handful of dirt at her sister. Thali let out a small shriek and moved further away from her. The two laughed as they continued their work, Mina feeling better than she had before. Even though nothing had really been said that would help her in her current situation, spending time with her sister always lifted her spirits. The cheerful mood that had fallen over her did not last long, evaporating at the sound of a loud explosion.

All the heads in the field turned to the source of the sound. Mina’s eyes met Thali’s and they both turned and ran in the direction of the sound. They were joined by other concerned people running towards the commotion. Running through a small patch of trees, the group came upon the clearing where the testing was done for some of the smaller explosive experiments.

They were greeted with the sight of debris scattered throughout the clearing, several people laying on the ground, and a cloud of smoke covering the area. Mina noticed one of the people laying on the ground had blonde hair and quickly ran over to his still form. She rolled the man over and her suspicions were confirmed when she saw her brother’s dirty face covered with scratches.

“Caleb!” she shouted, shaking his shoulder.

To her relief, Caleb coughed and opened his eyes, blinking a few times. He let out a low groan and sat up slowly.

“Uhhh, what happened?”

“That is exactly what I would like to know,” called out an irritated voice from a few feet away.

Mina turned her head to see Cowen rise from where he had been knocked over by the blast. He certainly did not look happy. His anger seemed to be directed at a smaller figure that approached a piece of debris. Mina narrowed her eyes, gazing through the smoke to see what poor soul had caused this unfortunate incident and angered Cowen.

“I thought it was ready!” Ladon shouted from his place near the debris.

Caleb let out another groan as he attempted to stand.

“Well you were wrong,” he stated bitterly.

Thali joined her siblings and helped Mina get Caleb to his feet. They both took an arm on their shoulders and wrapped their arms around his waist, helping him away from the debris field and guiding him to sit on a log. A man about Mina’s age came running into the clearing, carrying a bag. He made his way over to where they were sitting, pulling medical supplies from his bag.

“I came as soon as I heard the explosion. I really wish I was informed when dangerous tests are taking place so I can be ready for injuries,” he said in an irritated tone.

“I didn’t inform you because I was told that this test would be successful. I didn’t think your services would be needed Corric,” Cowen fumed as he walked closer to where Ladon was still crouched.

“I don’t know what went wrong!” Ladon yelled.

“You don’t need to yell Ladon, we can hear you just fine,” another voice called out from where Cowen had been.

Mina turned to look in the direction of the voice and was surprised to see her husband standing there, brushing stray debris from his clothing. He walked over to where she and her siblings were sitting. He glanced at her for a second before turning his attention to Caleb and the medic named Corric. Corric had tended to Caleb’s wounds and looked up to Kolya.

“He’ll be fine. Ladon on the other hand, may have hearing damage. That’s probably why he’s yelling.”

Kolya jerked his head in Ladon’s direction.

“Go tend to him. He’s not doing any good stumbling around yelling.”

Corric nodded and walked away from Caleb in Ladon’s direction. He placed his hand on Ladon’s shoulder and led him to a place to sit so he could check him out. Kolya glanced at Mina once more before turning and walking over to Cowen. Mina narrowed her eyes at the scene briefly before turning her attention back to Caleb. She untied her apron and poured some water from her canteen on it, using it to wipe some of the dirt off her brother’s face.

“Are you alright?”

Caleb winced as she grazed over a scratch on his face.

“I’ll live. Not sure about Ladon though. He seemed really confident that this test was going to work.”

“What were you testing?” Thali asked.

“Ladon’s been working on containing a smaller explosion so he could observe their progress on the main weapons they’ve been working on. He thought he had succeeded in creating a method to observe them, but it seems he was wrong. Either his containment system is faulty or they haven’t worked out the kinks in the smaller explosives.”

“If it wasn’t ready, why did he test it?” Mina asked, “and why were so many people put in danger to test it?”

“Cowen’s really been pushing him to work harder. After the news that the wraith have woken up earlier than expected, he’s been pushing all the teams to the breaking point. I was here to offer moral support to him, but now I kinda wish I hadn’t been here.”

Mina sighed and again looked over to where her husband was talking with Cowen. She had never been a big fan of Cowen’s, sharing her father’s opinion of the man. Now his decisions to push Ladon’s experiments had put her brother and many others in danger. From what Caleb had told her before, she knew that they hadn’t been anywhere close to having a working method of fighting the wraith. Now Cowen was pushing to get things done faster. They simply didn’t have the resources to make it work.

The people that had gathered in the clearing had started to disperse, returning to their work. Corric returned from tending to Ladon to report to Cowen and Kolya.

“He’s mostly alright, but his hearing will be out for a while. Expect a lot of yelling and him not being able to hear you for a while.”

Cowen threw his hands in the air in exasperation.

“Wonderful. I thought maybe we had made some progress, but it seems that we have taken a step back.”

He turned and stormed off the field, Kolya and Corric following him back to the entry to the underground bunker. Mina watched the three men walk off before looking back to where Ladon was wandering around, picking up random pieces of rubble and looking at them with disappointment.

“Thali, why don’t you take Caleb home? Finish cleaning him up and make sure he gets some rest.”

Thali nodded and helped Caleb to his feet, holding onto his arm as they walked to support him if he needed. Mina walked over to where Ladon was standing and gave him small wave. He looked up at her and blinked in surprise.

“Mina! What are you doing here?” he asked loudly.

Mina raised her hand, motioning for him to speak quieter.

“You don’t need to yell. My hearing is fine. It’s yours that’s damaged,” she told him, raising her voice so he could hear her.

Ladon turned his head so he could hear her better.

“Sorry,” he said not quite as loudly, “doc said my eardrums were hurt in the blast. I can’t hear myself talk very well.”

Mina nodded in understanding.

“Are you alright otherwise?”

Ladon’s expression fell as he gazed around the clearing.

“My pride is wounded and my head hurts, but other than that I’m alright.”

Mina bent over to pick up a piece of Ladon’s experiment off the ground. She turned it over in her hands, looking at the charred parts.

“I think you need to work a little more on this.”

Ladon shook his head and took the piece from her hands.

“I really thought it was ready. I had hoped that we had finally gotten somewhere and that Cowen would be happy with my work.”

Mina was not used to seeing this side of Ladon. In the whole time she had known him, he had always been too over confident in his abilities. Being appointed as Cowen’s chief scientist at such a young age had not done anything to lessen his ego. It was one of the things that had pushed her away from him when they were younger. This disappointed, downtrodden Ladon was someone completely different. She reached out and placed her hand on his shoulder, an encouraging smile on her face.

“I’m sure things will work out better next time. Maybe make sure it works before testing it around Cowen and other people though. Avoid this kind of disaster in the future.”

Ladon returned her smile in gratitude. She watched his eyes rake over her face, and she began to think that maybe Thali had been correct. Her suspicions were confirmed when Ladon’s expression changed as his gaze fell on her hand.

“Are you married?” he asked in a surprised tone.

Mina followed his gaze down to the ring on her finger that she had been waving in Thali’s face earlier.

“Yes. I got married 2 months ago. Arranged marriage.”

“Who did you marry?”

“Kolya. My brother and Cowen made an agreement to help my family get in better standing.”

Ladon’s mouth turned down in a frown. Mina was sure now that Thali had been right. He did have feelings for her. Now she was married, and to his commanding officer. She took a step back, putting some distance between them.

“I’ll let you get back to work on your experiment. I’m glad you are alright. Bye Ladon.”

Ladon raised his hand in a half-hearted wave before he walked away to collect more pieces of his failed experiment. Mina sighed and walked across the clearing back in the direction of her home. The work day was nearly over, so there was no point in returning to work. She spent the remainder of the afternoon preparing dinner.

When Kolya returned home from the bunker, she had everything ready. All through dinner, she kept covertly glancing across the table at her husband. He hadn’t said anything since arriving home, which was nothing out of the ordinary. Even outside their home, when she had seen him after the explosion, he hadn’t said a word to her.

As was the usual, they finished their meal in silence and she cleaned up afterwards. She walked to her bedroom door, turning to look at him sitting in front of the fireplace. He had a glass of liquor in his hand and he was silently looking into the fire as he often did after dinner. She wanted to say something, anything to strike up a conversation. Maybe do what Thali had suggested earlier and talk to him about her unhappiness. She opened her mouth to say something, but no words came out. She let out a sigh and simply said goodnight before entering her bedroom, closing the door behind her.

She changed into her sleeping clothes and laid down to go to sleep. Her mind kept wandering to her conversation with Thali and her conflicted feelings about having a family and happy marriage. Ladon’s smile and disappointed expression appeared in her mind, stirring up doubt.

Had she made a huge mistake in agreeing to marry Acastus? Would she have been happier if she had gone against her brother’s plan? Maybe someday Ladon would have told her how he felt and they could have moved forward together. Now she would never know, and she was here in her own bed in her husband’s childhood home. As she thought over her situation, for the first time in a long while, Mina quietly cried herself to sleep.

Chapter Text

Mina stood in her kitchen, staring out the window at the dreary weather outside. She never knew what to do with herself on days like this. There was no work to do in the fields, even if it wasn’t raining. She didn’t have much to do at home and had no real friends outside of her siblings. Thali had plans with her friends and Caleb was always busy with his military duties, so they didn’t even have time for her. To say that she was lonely wouldn’t be completely accurate, as she liked having time to herself, but she was bored out of her mind.

She looked around her simple home, and her eyes fell on a music box sitting on the mantle. She had never really noticed it before and wondered if it had always been there. She walked over to it and turned the key on the side, winding the gears inside. The box began to play a soft melody that she had heard before. It was a song that her mother had played when she had been a child. Mina began to slowly sway to the music, memories of her childhood filling her head.

She remembered following her mother’s guidance as she moved smoothly around their living space, demonstrating different dance moves that she had learned. Her father had always sat silently watching, a smile on his face. Caleb had tried to join in a few times, but he was an ungraceful being, often times tripping over his own feet while dancing. He didn’t have the grace that Mina and their mother possessed. As the memories flooded in, Mina began to imitate her younger self’s movements. She spun around the room, moving her feet and arms in sync in flowing movements.

Mina was so caught up in the music that she didn’t hear the door open. Not aware of her surroundings, her dancing caused her to bump into her entering husband. Mina let out a yelp of surprise and stumbled in her movements. Kolya reached out and gently grabbed her arms, preventing her from falling over. Mina regained her balance and looked up at her husband with surprise.

“I’m sorry Acastus. I didn’t know you were home.”

Kolya released his hold on her arms and gave her an apologetic smirk.

“I’m sorry I startled you. You looked like you were enjoying yourself. I see you found my mother’s music box.”

Mina flushed lightly and brushed some hair away from her face that had fallen loose during her dance. She hadn’t expected him to come home and find her dancing.

“Yes. It caught my eye and I was curious if it worked. The song it played was a song that my mother would play when I was younger. We would often dance to it as dancing was a large part of her culture on her home planet.”

Kolya walked over to the music box and rewound the key, starting the song over. He turned back to Mina and held out his hand. Mina raised her eyebrows in confusion, but stepped forward taking his extended hand. He pulled her closer to him and placed his other hand on her waist. He began to lead her in a slow dance, swaying to the music. Mina felt a smile form on her face as they danced together. This was not something that she expected she would ever do with her husband. He was actually a decent dancer. The song seemed to end too soon and Kolya stopped their movement.  He released his hold on her hand and removed his other hand from her waist.

“You are a wonderful dancer Acastus. Where did you learn to dance like that?”

Kolya gave Mina a small smile, gazing back over at the small music box.

“I learned from my mother as well. Like yours, she came from another planet and another culture. She thought it was important that I learn to dance. She said it would be an important factor in impressing the ladies. Can’t say I’ve ever got much use out of the skill however.”

“Well I found it impressive, so I guess she was right.”

Kolya turned his eyes back and met hers, and Mina swore that she could see something there that resembled the affection she had noticed on their wedding day. They were standing so close to each other, and like she had before, Mina felt the desire to close the distance and kiss him. Their moment was interrupted by a loud knock at the door. Kolya’s warm expression slipped away and he moved away from Mina to answer the door. He pulled it open to reveal a dripping wet Thali. Mina rushed to her husband’s side, pulling her soaked sister inside.

“Thali! What are you doing out in the rain? You’ll make yourself sick!”

Thali waved her hand at her sister, dismissing her concerns.

“I come bearing good news! Alaina had her baby, a little boy!”

Mina softly laughed as she grabbed a towel from the kitchen to wring out her sister’s dripping hair.

“And you felt the need to come tell us that in the middle of a rainstorm?”

“Well, you told me to let you know when it happened. I know that you are always interested to hear when babies are born, since you love them so much.”

Mina’s smile faltered as she turned her gaze to her husband. He didn’t seem to be listening to the conversation and had moved to sit in his usual chair, ignoring the sisters. Thali followed her sister’s gaze and realized what the issue was. She lowered her voice so that only Mina would hear.

“Have you not talked to him yet? I thought you were going to do that.”

Mina shook her head and replied in a low tone.

“I never said I was going to talk to him. That was your idea, not mine. It’s not something I feel like discussing right now.”

Thali rolled her eyes and returned to the topic of Alaina’s new baby, not wanting to make a scene in front of Kolya.

“They are having a gathering in a few days to present him and reveal his name. Alaina told me to pass on a message to you saying that you were invited. She actually said that you were both invited as her husband knows yours well apparently.”

Mina looked over to her husband again, clearing her throat to get his attention.

“Did you hear that Acastus? Callistair and Alaina Dart invited us to their gathering to celebrate the birth of their son.”

Kolya nodded his head in confirmation.

“I’ve known Callistair for a long time, so I suppose it would be right to honor his invitation.”

Mina turned her attention back to her sister, giving her a small smile.

“You can tell Alaina that we would be happy to attend. I look forward to meeting the newest member of the Genii.”

…………………………………………………………………………………………..

A few days later, Mina found herself once again in the event room that she had married her husband in nearly three months prior. The room was filled with people that had gathered to celebrate the birth of the Dart baby. Callistair and Alaina had revealed his name to be Lowell. They had presented him to all in attendance and everyone had offered their congratulations. Even Cowen was present at the celebration, honoring the couple with his blessing on their child’s future. Mina gazed around the room, taking in the sight of all the merriment around her. There hadn’t been much celebrating in quite a while. Ever since the revelation of the early awakening of the wraith, her people had been on edge. It was nice to see them in a happy setting once again.

Her gaze fell on the new parents, who were both beaming and conversing with guests. Like she had before, Mina began to feel the gnawing feeling of emptiness in her gut. She felt like something was missing, much like she had felt when gazing upon other couples she came across. Alaina almost seemed to be glowing with happiness, even though she looked exhausted. Mina knew that Alaina had always wanted a family and had told her so on many occasions. The two of them had grown up around each other, both coming from surface dwelling families and being a similar age. Now Alaina had fulfilled her dream, and she was sharing her happiness with anyone that would listen.

Mina was pulled out of her thoughts by a soft nudge to her elbow. She turned to look at Thali, who was standing next to her. She had that look of pity in her eyes.

“You are making that face again,” her sister pointed out.

Mina sighed sadly.

“I may as well admit it, I want that. I want a child. I want a loving husband.”

Thali reached over and took Mina’s hand giving it a squeeze.

“I know you do. Your face throws it all out in the open. But, you might want to know that I’m not the only one that’s noticed.”

Mina looked at her sister with confusion.

“What are you talking about?”

Thali looked pointedly across the room at something, indicating for Mina to look as well. Mina looked in the direction her sister had indicated and was surprised when she saw her husband’s face looking back at her. Their eyes locked for a moment before Mina quickly looked away.

“Are you sure he’s noticed? He could simply be looking in this direction.”

Thali shook her head and gave Mina’s hand another gentle squeeze.

“I’m pretty sure he figured it out. He’s been watching you for a few minutes now. I saw his gaze go from you to them and back again. He looked concerned and surprised. I think it is time you talked to him Mina.”

Mina nodded in resignation and looked over in her husband’s direction again. He had looked away from her, but he still had a troubled look on his face. Mina had a feeling that he would bring it up soon if she didn’t herself.

As the celebration dragged into the evening, Mina excused herself from her sister’s company and made her way outside to get some air. She walked down the path a little ways away from the building, before sitting down on a rock. She gazed up into the night sky, counting the stars to distract her mind from the millions of thoughts swirling around inside.

“You lied to me before, didn’t you?” a voice said, coming up behind her.

Mina jumped slightly at the sudden voice. She turned around to see her husband standing a few feet away.

“Excuse me?” she asked.

Kolya closed the remaining distance between them, sitting next to her on the rock. He wouldn’t look at her, but Mina could tell he was bothered by something.

“When you told me that family was not a priority to you, you were lying weren’t you?”

Mina opened her mouth to protest, to prove him wrong, but no words would come out. He finally turned his head to look at her and she was surprised to see that his expression seemed almost sad.

“You want a family. You want what Callistair and Alaina have. You only told me that you didn’t because you thought you lost your chance. I want you to know that isn’t true. I’m giving you an out…”

Mina scrunched her face up in confusion, not sure what he was talking about.

“An out? What do you mean?”

“I want you to be happy. You didn’t ask to be married to me. If you want to find someone that you can love and have a family with, I won’t stop you.”

Mina’s eyes widened in response to his words. He was offering her a chance to find love wherever she wanted. He didn’t realize that what she really wanted was to find that with him, not someone else. She wasn’t sure how to phrase that in a way that wouldn’t scare him, as he didn’t seem to want the same things from her.

“Oh Acastus, that isn’t necessary. I am perfectly fine with how things are. I don’t need to find someone else. I don’t need a family. I’ve already had the chance to raise a child, as I helped raise Thali.”

Kolya shook his head, surprising Mina by reaching out and taking her hand.

“It’s not the same. Are you sure that you don’t want to find someone else? Someone you can be happy with?”

Mina looked at her husband’s concerned face and realized that this was the perfect time to tell him how she felt. She didn’t have the courage to form the words, so she took a small step in the right direction. Leaning forward, Mina placed a gentle kiss on Kolya’s cheek.

“I’m sure.”

She watched as Kolya’s eyes widened in surprise at her kiss. He stayed silent but she could sense that he was confused.

“The one thing I do want is to have a better relationship between us. I’m not asking you to love me or anything, but I would like us to at least have a friendship. Something more than simply saying goodnight and good morning to each other and sharing meals.”

Kolya’s surprised expression faded and was replaced by a small smile. He gave her hand a gentle squeeze before releasing it and standing.

“That I can do.”

Mina returned his smile and stood as well. The two of them silently walked back towards the celebration, keeping a small space between them. Mina could feel some sort of progress building between them and she continued smiling the rest of the night.

Chapter Text

Mina and Thali were busy at work in the crop fields, when their work day was interrupted by the sound of a man screaming. Both women’s head shot up and turned in the direction of the scream. Mina halted her work and acted quickly, running in the direction of the other workers in the field. She soon came across the sound of the scream. One of her fellow farmers, a man named Liam was lying on the ground, clutching his leg. Bright red blood was seeping through his fingers and falling onto the ground. Mina’s eyes slid over to the farming instrument on the ground that had caused the wound, a pickaxe that had broken off the handle and hit Liam in the leg.

“Oh dear,” she muttered under her breath as she kneeled beside the bleeding man, “Liam I need you to hold very still. We need to get this bleeding under control.”

Liam’s face was twisted with pain, but he nodded in agreement to Mina’s command. Thali came up behind her kneeling sister and covered her mouth to stifle a gasp.

“Oh god! Liam!” another woman shouted as she came across the scene. Liam’s wife Annie had joined them on the ground, grabbing onto her husband hand.

Mina quickly reached behind her and undid the strings for her apron and proceeded to tie the clothing article around Liam’s upper leg. She pulled it as tight as she could in an attempt to slow the bleeding. The small group around Liam was growing steadily as more people came over to see what had happened. Mina turned to one of the men in the group and shouted a command at him.

“Quickly! Go get help!”

The man was quick to obey her command and took off towards the town, searching for help. Mina knew that they had little time, as Liam was still losing quite a lot of blood. She waved some more people from the group over and started issuing commands to them.

“Grab his arms and legs! We need to get him closer so the help doesn’t need to come so far. You two grab his legs and you grab his arms. Annie I need you to hold his head. I need you to help my sister support his body while I apply pressure to his leg. Thali give me your apron.”

Everyone did as she said, and Mina pressed her sister’s apron over the wound, applying pressure as the group of them slowly moved Liam across the field. When they reached the edge of the field, they were greeted by the help she had sent for. Two men with a stretcher met them and they gently placed Liam on the stretcher. As the men carried him towards the entrance to the compound for medical help, Mina continued to walk alongside, holding her hands on the ever bleeding wound. The small group moved as fast as they could, with Annie running in front of them telling people to move out of the way.

Liam had lost consciousness as soon as they had put him on the stretcher, which concerned Mina. Soon enough they had descended into the compound, rushing down the hallway towards the infirmary. When they entered the room, Corric was ready for them, meeting them at the door and taking Mina’s place. Mina stepped out of the way and watched as Corric rushed to save Liam’s life. Annie sobbed at her side, shaking like a leaf. Mina wanted to reach out and comfort the woman, but her hands were covered in blood.

She felt almost as if she were in a haze, watching Corric work before her. She almost didn’t register the person that touched her arm to get her attention. She shook her head to clear the hazy feeling and turned her attention to the person. The woman beside her guided her to a sink to wash the blood from her hands. Once she had been cleaned up, she followed the woman’s direction to a small waiting room off the infirmary. Annie was already there, pacing back and forth across the small space. Her head whipped towards Mina as she entered the room.

“Did you hear anything? Will he be alright?” she asked in a shaky voice.

Mina shook her head again and gave the woman a sympathetic look.

“I’m sorry Annie, I don’t know how he is. They ushered me out.”

Annie’s hands went to her hair and she began to anxiously run them through it. Her eyes fell to Mina’s front, which was still covered in blood. She began to sob again and returned to pacing the room. Mina found a seat, knowing she couldn’t do anything to help Annie.

They waited in the room for what felt like hours, Annie almost leaving track marks on the floor from her pacing. Finally the door opened, revealing the same woman that had brought Mina to the room. She looked relieved.

“You can come in Annie. Liam is out of surgery.”

Annie practically ran from the room into the infirmary. Mina stood from her seat and moved to follow her. The woman at the door held out her hand to stop her.

“Corric wants to speak to you as soon as he tells her how Liam is doing. He asked me to tell you to stay out here.”

Mina nodded and retook her seat. A few minutes later, Corric came through the door and made his way across the room to where she was sitting. He offered her his hand to shake, which she took. He released her hand and sat beside her.

“You are Mina Delaine right? Caleb’s sister?”

“It’s Mina Kolya actually, but yes.”

“That was some quick thinking that you did. Where did you learn that?”

Mina’s mouth quirked up in a small smile as she remembered that it had been her mother that had given her the medical training. She had made sure she knew how to take care of a wound in case she needed to help someone in their militant society.

“My mother taught me when I was younger. I’m surprised I remembered what to do since I was 10 when she taught me.”

Corric seemed impressed with her skills, especially since they were so unpracticed.

“I could use someone with your quick thinking to help me. If you hadn’t been there when Liam was hurt, he would have bled out before the help got to him, not to mention before he got anywhere near me. We don’t have enough help down here and I can’t be everywhere I’m needed.”

Mina looked at Corric in confusion. She wasn’t sure what he was saying to her.

“I’m sorry, are you offering me a job?”

Corric let out a light laugh.

“I guess I am. I will have to talk to Cowen about it, but I could really use your help. You wouldn’t have to leave your current post. You would actually be where I need you, on the surface. I can’t always get there when I’m needed.”

Mina’s smile widened at the idea that Corric was proposing. She could do something that would be helpful and more productive than her daily farming tasks. At the same time, she wouldn’t have to abandon Thali and lose the time she spent with her sister.

“If you can talk Cowen into it, I would be more than happy to help.”

Corric looked relieved that she had accepted his offer. He stood and offered her his hand again to shake.

“I look forward to working with you in the future.”

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

 

As Mina emerged from the entrance to the underground portion of the settlement, she was ambushed by her younger sister.

“Mina!” Thali shouted her name as she grabbed Mina’s arms to grip her full attention, “what happened? Is Liam alright?”

Mina nodded in answer to her sister’s question.

“He lost a lot of blood, but he will be alright. Had I not thought quickly, he would have been much worse. Thankfully the training I got from mom came in handy.”

Mina watched as her sister’s face fell at the mention of their mother. Thali always had a hard time discussing the woman that she had never met. When she was younger, she had thought it was her fault that she had died, but luckily she had grown out of that thought process. Mina quickly changed the subject, moving away from the topic of their mother.

“You want to walk me home, I desperately need a change of clothes, and people might get the wrong idea if I am walking home alone in the dark covered in blood.”

Thali’s expression quickly changed from the down state she had entered. She let out a small chuckle and linked arms with her sister.

“People might think you killed someone,” Thali joked.

Mina laughed at her sister’s attempt at humor.

“Who would I have killed?”

Thali shrugged as they walked on, having trouble thinking of a person that her nonviolent sister would want even want to hurt, much less kill.

“I don’t know, but you still look suspicious.”

Mina laughed again, glad the mood had changed so quickly.

“Thanks a lot Thali.”

The two sisters walked through the darkness until they reached Mina’s home. It was still dark inside, which meant that her husband had not yet returned. Mina bid her sister goodbye and entered her home. She walked into her bedroom to change into some non-bloody clothing, not bothering to turn on lights as she went. She lit a candle as she entered the room, not wanting to bother turning on the gas lamps. While she was searching for some clothing in the dim lighting, she heard the front door open, signaling that her husband had returned home.

“Mina?” she heard him call out as he turned on a light in the main room.

Mina stopped her search for new clothing and exited her room to see her husband standing in the middle of the main room. As she walked into the light, her eyes soon caught sight of the bright red liquid on his forehead. She let out a gasp.

“Acastus! You’re bleeding!” she shouted at him, running to grab the first aid kit from the bathroom.

Kolya’s hand went up to his head and he brought it back down to see blood on his fingers. He shrugged as if it was nothing.

“I didn’t even notice.”

Mina sighed in frustration as she gestured for him to sit at the table so she could stitch him up. She muttered under her breath about bleeding men as she got to work.

“How did this happen?”

“Sora was lucky today and managed to strike me. I bandaged it up earlier, and I thought it was fine. I guess I was wrong.”

Mina was surprised at the small spark of jealously that she felt at the mention of Sora. The girl was well known among the Genii for her good looks. What was her husband doing spending time with Sora?

She shook her head to clear that thought, remembering that it was her husband’s job to train the members of the Genii military. She wasn’t quite sure where the jealousy had come from. It wasn’t like they had a normal marriage. He had already given her a chance to find someone else, so he wasn’t connected to her in that way that would encourage her to be hurt by him paying attention to another woman.

Mina scowled at her own thought process, turning her focus back to what she was doing. She finished stitching up the wound on her husband’s forehead and wiped the remaining blood off with a wet cloth.

“All finished,” she said, walking around to the front of Kolya to get a better look.

Kolya looked up to thank her and she saw his eyes widen.

“Mina! You are covered in blood!”

Mina looked down at the front of her clothes. She had forgotten that she had been interrupted from changing them by her husband’s entrance. Kolya stood from his chair and gently grabbed her arms, his eyes scanning her as if he was looking for wounds.

“A man was injured today in the field by a pickaxe. He was bleeding a lot and I helped get him to the infirmary. I haven’t had a chance to change my clothes yet. I was in the middle of doing that when you came in, also covered in blood I may add.”

Kolya used his grip on her arms to turn her around, guiding her in the direction of her bedroom.

“You can go clean yourself up, don’t let me stop you.”

Mina did as he suggested, returning to the main room minutes later in bloodless clothing. Kolya was sitting in his chair, and he looked up when she entered the room. Mina gestured at her clothes.

“There. No more blood. For either of us.”

Her husband gave her a small smirk as he stood from his chair. He crossed the distance between them and gently grasped Mina’s hand. She looked up at him in confusion, but he said nothing. He simply led her to the kitchen, pulling out a chair for her. Mina sat in the chair and for the first time noticed that the table was set before her. In the short time she had been gone, he had fixed a simple salad for dinner. This was the first time she had seen him prepare food in the three and a half months that they had been married.

“You didn’t need to do this Acastus. I could have made dinner.”

Kolya shook his head as he sat across from her.

“You’ve had a busy day it seems. Why don’t you tell me what happened?”

Mina recanted the day’s events to her husband, excitedly telling him about the job that Corric had offered her. He seemed to think that it was a good idea.

“It will give you a chance to see what goes on beneath the surface. Not many people that are raised on the surface have that chance unless they join the military. Our lives will be a little more connected this way.”

Mina tried to grasp what he was trying to say. It almost seemed like he was happy that she would be working closer to him. Corric had said he needed her on the surface, but the way he made it sound, he needed help everywhere. Maybe this was the thing she needed to get closer to her husband. She smiled to herself at that thought. The accident was almost a blessing in disguise, as it brought her to a new point in her life.

As they finished their simple dinner, Mina glanced across the table at Kolya a number of times, trying to gauge what he was thinking and if it matched up with hers. She felt a small amount of hope flare up in her chest. Maybe this was their chance.