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The Marine, the Rebel and the Sangheili: Leave
Posted By: QuantumSheep<quantumsheep@optusnet.com.au>
Date: 11 December 2008, 9:05 am

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Sol Relative Time: April 17th, 2526

One thing Arla had decided to do was make the most of his last full day of leave before he and the others were to head back onto the Relinquished Light, although he wasn't too sure how to go about it. Nice again he was sitting in the same seat as yesterday outside the bar on the ground floor of their apartment building, Kesa and the others sitting around with him as they talked about whatever came to mind. Rtas was nowhere in sight, having left about half an hour ago, probably trying to find Yelina.

Arla had noticed his friend's interest in his sister but thought better than to mention it in front of him. He had never really thought anybody would actually be into his sister, considering she had a bit of a short temper and a distrust of all males, although Rtas was obviously making some progress with her.

On the other hand, Arla was making some progress with their new medic, the female Lirana, who was shyer than anything else, preferring to sit quietly across the table from him than talk. Arla sort of felt the same way, especially when he noticed that Kesa and Terlas had voiced their interest in the female to him. Right now though, she was his to talk to and spend time with and hopefully, for him, it would stay that way for a while.

Lirana certainly seemed the silent type, sitting with a bit of a flushed face, looking down at the table and downing the contents of the drink she had ordered, occasionally looking up towards him but not saying anything. Arla did manage a smile when she did look at him, although she wasn't going to say anything unless he started the talking, he knew that.

Sitting around in various spots, Kesa, Terlas and Sysha were happily talking about something to do with women, the female that had been with Sysha yesterday was back, having sat herself next to her boyfriend, occasionally whispering to him, Sysha giggling at whatever she was telling him.

Arla sat back in his chair, picking up the bottle he had ordered earlier and finding it just about empty. A little annoyed, he put it back onto the table and thought of getting up to buy another one but realized he couldn't be bothered.

He looked straight at Lirana and thought he would break the silence that had come up between the two of them, intent on finding out more about the young woman.

"What do you think of the weather?" He asked, shaking his head when he realized how stupid that question sounded. Lirana looked up, gave a mandible-shrug and replied in a timid voice.

"It has always been like this," she said, gazing up at the cloudy blue sky a moment, "the day begins sunny but by the time it's evening, the rains have come and are drenching the streets. Why do you ask?"

At least she didn't think what Arla had said was a bit stupid. He shrugged as well, having no reason why the weather cared to him so much, primarily because he couldn't care less about the matter.

"You've been here longer than I have, so I was thinking maybe you had a better idea about the climate," Arla replied. He paused, noticing that Lirana had opened up a little now; he could tell by the way she was looking at him and listening.

He thought maybe they should move onto a more interesting topic of conversation. He certainly didn't know too much about her, so maybe if he told her some things about him maybe she would tell him the same kind of things, except about her. It made sense, but it took a moment for him to get rid of the nervousness he felt and start talking.

"Maybe you would like to know some more about me?" Arla asked, "seeing as we're going to be in the same squad together, we should try and get to know each other well."

"Usually I wouldn't want to do that, but I think I can make an exception for you," Lirana said, leaning forward slightly where she sat, listening to what her friend had to say, "Go on."

Arla didn't know where to begin, although he had told her his name earlier, so that was one thing he didn't need to bother about.

"I…well…uh…." He struggled to start, Lirana grinning as she realized he had no clue what to say.

"Maybe I should start?" She asked, "Seeing as you're having so much trouble."

Arla simply nodded, he would find it easier to talk back if she was talking to him. He sat listening as Lirana started, beginning on where she was born.

"I was born to a single mother on the colony world of Salia, in the main city of Isaled," she began, taking a moment to remember these things that had been so long ago, "I never knew my father, he was merely a passing swordsman, attempting to pass those genes onto the next generation by picking and choosing any female he wished.

"He probably would have stayed if he had had a son, but when I was born instead he left in a hurry, probably embarrassed at how he now had a daughter instead."

Arla noticed she didn't seem too bothered about this fact, although if she had never known the man who was her father, having left her when she was born, she probably didn't have any emotional attachments to him.

"My mother raised me herself for a while, getting married when I was only two. My step-father never really appreciated me, since I wasn't his own, but my mother loved me, which is probably how I got through such a childhood," she continued, "I now have a younger brother who's training to be in the military, like you are. My parents are still together and still living in Isaled, if you're wondering."

Arla sat listening as Lirana told him so much about her, so much he had figured would be a bit personal to her, but she obviously trusted him if she was giving him all this information. It was his turn now, although he was curious about something.

"How did you end up a medic?"

Lirana shrugged again.

"I just did," she replied, "my stepfather wanted me to become a Priestess but…well, I guess that profession just didn't appeal to me, so I decided to get into something which was more active."

"Such as the military?"

"Such as the military," she reiterated what he had said, "and I'm pleased to be getting my first posting, which is with your squad."
Arla gave her a look which told her he was interested on learning more behind what she had just said.

"This is your first posting?"

"Couldn't you gather that from what the Major told you and your squad-mates?" She asked, frowning, "although, you never did seem like the type who listened well…"

Arla was a little taken aback by this comment but he was told by the smile she was giving him that she was merely playing around with him.

"I listen!" Arla exclaimed, "I'm listening to you now, aren't I?"

Lirana smiled wryly, taking up her bottle of whiskey and put it past her mandibles, downing its contents easily without a hint of being a little put off by the strong taste. Arla sat watching as she put the bottle down and used a napkin to wipe the residue off of her mandibles, taking note of the way Arla had been watching her and gave him a frown.

"What is it?"

Arla just gave an innocent shrug. He could tell that Lirana wasn't an average young female by the way she downed strong alcoholic drinks in seconds, although she seemed the shy type.

"I didn't think women like you were into alcohol…"

"Maybe I'm not like all the other women you know?" She asked, making it obvious in her tone of voice that this was the case. The question itself didn't require an answer, so Arla sat quiet for a moment before he continued.

"How old are you, Lirana?" He asked. She gave him a weird look, as if she thought he was intruding somehow. Arla quickly fixed up his mistake.

"I'm twenty-two," he said, "so maybe you would care to tell me yours…"

"Twenty-one, why?"

Arla didn't have much of an answer for that.

"Just curious…" He gave an innocent look, Lirana disregarding it and standing up. Arla was unsure of what she was doing, until he saw her heading for the bar again. She didn't seem like the alcohol enjoying type but rather than voice his uncertainties concerning her on this matter, he stood up and followed her inside. She was at the bar counter before he was and got the attention of the elderly Sangheili bartender, ordering another bottle.

He came up behind her, sitting down on the stool closest to her and unable to help but move his gaze over her backside, following her slender frame all the way up to her face, finding that she was watching him.

"Could you stop that?" She asked bluntly, "I would prefer it if you didn't look at me that way when I'm watching."

It took a moment for what she said to register in his brain.

"So I can do it when you're not looking?"

She simply shook her head in response, as if giving up entirely on the matter, turning around and unscrewing the lid on her bottle of whiskey. About to start drinking, she was stopped when Arla spoke.

"Maybe you would like to know a bit about me?" He asked, Lirana turning her head and looking down at him where he sat. She nodded.

"I'm listening," she said, sitting down on the bar stool behind her. She gazed at him with some slight attentiveness, waiting for him to begin. Arla wasn't too sure where he should begin, deciding to start from around about the same kind of thing she started at.

"Well, I was born in the city of Dylikth, on Sanghelios," he said, distant memories of a childhood gone by flowing through his mind, "My mother was a housewife while my father was a Ship Master. I was the second child, my older brother having been born two years before me. We got along well during our childhood, as far as I can remember.

"My mother gave birth to my sister, Yelina, two years later," he continued, looking down at the bar counter as he sorted through all the memories that had come back into his mind, many of which he had forgotten. He could remember getting into a bit of a scuffle with his older brother when he was five and his brother was seven, which resulted in a broken table. What was funny about it was how his father hadn't really cared too much, but his mother had gone berserk.
Then the more recent memories of his neglectful father and older brother who was always away from home came into his mind, and from there he took on an angrier tone, knowing that their family was falling apart.

"My father always cared more about my brother rather than my sister and I," Arla said, turning to Lirana, who looked genuinely understanding, "he would always spend the most time with him, training him and sending him off to military college when he was old enough.

"He never did that with me," Arla continued solemnly, "and as the years went by, my mother became less and less of the adoring, likeable person she had once been. She was the one to send me to military college when I was old enough she made it out to me that she wanted me to be better than my brother. Knowing that this would be something she could rub in my father's face, I cheerfully obliged."

Arla didn't realize how downbeat he was sounding, although Lirana shook her head and put a gentle hand onto his back as he sat with his head down.

"You don't need to tell me all of this…"

Arla looked up, noticed she had a hand on his back and somehow felt a little better, although he certainly wasn't on the brink of tears. For all these years he hadn't told even his closest friends all of this but now here he was, telling it all to some female he had met only last night.

"My father's now left home, apparently to spend time with other women," Arla said, "that's how my family is now, my mother spending time alone at home while her husband forgets she exists and her three children have headed their separate ways."

"Maybe you should visit her," Lirana suggested, taking her hand off his back, managing a soothing smile, "she could be depressed. You certainly seem that way."

Arla sat up, shaking off the sudden feeling of being miserable that had overcome him. He had other things to do, especially since they would be leaving tomorrow. He would make the most of the remaining time he had on this planet before they were back to the monotonous routine of living on board a Covenant cruiser.

"I do visit her when I get the chance," he said, "but I am, after all, in the military. I don't get much of a chance of seeing her…"

"The next chance you do get, maybe you should find that father of yours, convince him to come back home," Lirana said, trying to act cheerful, "I'm sure he would listen to his own son."

"I'll try," Arla replied, "but as I said, he seems to have more of a liking for my older brother than for me, or my sister for that matter."
Lirana didn't say anything in response, she didn't have to, and instead she stood up and nodded towards the bar's open entrance.

"Maybe we should go for a walk," she said, "there are a few places we can go to take our minds off of such downbeat matters. This town doe shave some good shops; maybe you could find a souvenir of your stay here. I know I will."

Arla nodded, standing up while Lirana paid the bartender for her drinks. Once she was done the pair headed outside, in time to receive some parting words from the young Sangheili sitting outside.

"Arla, is that your girlfriend?" Terlas asked, trying his best to
intimidate his friend, "our new medic is your girlfriend?"

"You pounced on her the first chance you got, didn't you?" Sysha asked as Arla stepped over to the curb, preparing to cross the street, trying to ignore the teasing he was receiving from his friends.

"If that's the case, Arla, you certainly were successful," Sysha continued as the group laughed. The young Sangheili playfully put the tips of his mandibles against the female he sat next to, the pair of them giggling as they exchanged glances.

"Is she really your girlfriend, Arla?" Kesa asked, sounding as calm and collected as he always was. When Arla didn't answer he spoke again, this time trying to be as serious as he could.

"An answer would be appreciated…"

Arla turned around, glanced at Lirana who was trying her best not to laugh, clenching her mandibles tight in an effort to stop but the look in her eyes gave it away. He looked straight at Kesa, trying to contain his anger.

"No…" Arla replied, somewhat weakly. Kesa wasn't finished at that question though.

"Is she a girl?"


"Is she your friend?"

"Yes…" Arla realized what Kesa was getting at but didn't realize this until after he had answered his friend's questions.

"Then she is most definitely your girlfriend," Kesa replied, making the last word rhyme with his previous question. He laughed, Terlas following suit.

"Just ignore them, Arla," Lirana said, returning her gaze to him. Arla saw that there wasn't point in getting angry at his friends, seeing as they were just trying to annoy him and weren't really being serious about it. He turned to Lirana, saw she had stopped laughing and was trying her best to distract him from his friends.

"I know of a place not too far from here," Lirana said, "it's just the place to find souvenirs of your stay here. A souvenir would certainly help you remember your stay in this town and probably get your mind off other things."

Arla nodded, he didn't think much of her idea but decided it was better than sitting around with nothing to do. Crossing the street, the pair started along the sidewalk, passing all sorts of civilians, ranging from Unggoy to Sangheili, with many Kig-Yar in between. Most of the civilians and other military personnel didn't seem to think much of the pair, too intent on their own business.

Passing several apartment buildings and a few shopfronts, they turned a corner into a less residential part of the town where restaurants and shopfronts were more common than apartments. It was a nice enough day for civilians to be eating outside, so the pair passed many groups of dining Covenant species, eventually coming to a small, windowed store with many sorts of seemingly pointless trinkets laid out behind the window on display. Lirana stopped him here and gestured to the door.

"This is it," she said, stopping by the window and peering inside at the many sorts of jewellery and other trinkets laid out on display, trying to find something of her liking.

Arla glanced through the window, noticing the rather unkempt look of the store which indicated to him that it wasn't so much a souvenir store but some sort of junk shop, selling items that other people had no use for. He took a look at the pointless trinkets laid out in the display cases behind the window, not really interested in what the shop had to offer, although he could tell Lirana was looking intently for something to purchase. She tugged at Arla's arm, pointing at something in one of the display cases behind the glass.

"I like the look of that," she said, "I think it would suit me fine. What do you think?"

"Ah…" Arla didn't know what to say, taken a little off guard by her sudden wanting of the jewellery piece behind the glass. He looked over at it, seeing that it was some sort of necklace, an intricately detailed symbol carved out of a shining type of stone, a sort of stone that looked familiar to him but he wasn't sure where form.

"It doesn't say how much it costs," she said, frowning, "I don't exactly carry much money around with me." She looked at Arla and he realized what she wanted of him. He was a little taken aback by the way she bluntly made it out that she wanted it but he wasn't about so say no, so he nodded.

"I'll go inside and if it's something I can afford, well, maybe I will get it for you," Arla said with a trace of uncertainty, "although I think we haven't known each other long enough to start asking for gifts from the other…"

"I'm seeing if you would buy it for me," Lirana replied, "because now that you are, I can tell that you like me. If you hadn't, I might have just left you standing here and gone back to spend time with your friends." She smiled, finding the fact slightly amusing. Arla realized he had been conned by her but thought better than to change his mind, smiling back weakly before heading into the small shop.

It wasn't too big a shop, with shelves of more pointless trinkets taking up most of the room inside. It was strangely quiet inside the store, which smelt of incense candles, a few laid out on the counter over to one side if the store. As Arla was walking over, the door behind the counter opened and a rather elderly Sangheili male entered the store, dressed in robes typical of his age group. One of his bottom mandibles was missing, having been lost long ago. The elderly man had obviously been far too proud than to get prosthetics, leaving the stump of the missing mandible as a lasting reminder of whatever had caused it. He gave Arla a typical customer-service smile, although this Sangheili seemed sincere about it.

"Good morning," he said, taking a moment to glance at the armour Arla was wearing, "a military boy, am I correct?"

Arla nodded, a little unsure of what he should say.

"What brings you here to my modest store?" He said, his pale green eyes gazing at Arla, as if trying to figure him out, "looking for something in particular?"

"As a matter of fact, I am," Arla said, nodding over to the display case behind the window, "I was interested in getting that symbol carved out of the stone…"

The elderly Sangheili smiled.

"Obviously not for you, I can see that," he said, turning to look out of the window. He saw Lirana waiting outside and turned back to Arla.
"It's for her, am I correct?"

Arla nodded, worried that the next few questions would be about her.

"She's a good looking girl; looks to be just your type," the Sangheili said matter-of-factly, "that necklace would suit her well." He paused for a moment, thinking over what he should say next.

"The necklace is carved out of the lightweight stone onyx, the very sort of stone the Forerunners themselves used to build many of their structures, some even here on this planet. Of course, the ones here have long since been ransacked of all their relics, leaving some chunks of useless onyx for people to do what they want with.

"Hence the reason some thought making jewellery out of it would be good business. That's the only one I have left, a simple Sangheili Mark of Youth, represents youth and vitality."

"How much is it?" Arla asked, figuring he would get straight to the point. The elderly Sangheili grinned.

"Usually six hundred and fifty, but since you're going to give it to your beautiful female friend, I'll put that down to five hundred."

"Five hundred?" Arla couldn't help but contain his surprise, the elderly Sangheili noticing and giving a mandible shrug, "that's a whole month's pay!"

"Do you have a better offer?" The elderly Sangheili asked, "Or are you going to leave and let me lose your business? Come on, don't be shy…"

"You look to me you served in the military," Arla said, taking off his helmet and putting it on the counter, the elderly Sangheili glancing down at it with some noticeable wanting of it, "maybe you would like a genuine Minor Domo helmet? That's worth at least two hundred, and then maybe I will throw in three hundred with it. How's that sound?"

The elderly Sangheili thought about the offer for a moment, Arla taking out three hundred credits and placing the money on the counter. He had no idea how the Major would react when he saw that Arla was missing his helmet, but it didn't matter, he could always get a new one when he was back on board the Relinquished Light.

"I did serve, and I did lose part of my jaw serving," the elderly Sangheili said, giving an annoyed expression, losing the customer-service equivalent of a smile he had given with his remaining jaws. He paused and glanced down at the helmet and then back at Arla, frowning.

"You would really give me your helmet?" He asked, sounding unsure. Arla nodded.

"I've got nothing to lose…"

"I suppose you don't," the elderly Sangheili said. He turned around and stepped over to the display case, reaching in through the open top and grabbing hold of the necklace, pulling it out and turning back around. He handed it to Arla, who could now get a closer look at the shiny, lightweight stone that the intricate symbol was made out of, being comprised of circles and curved lines. He closed his hand, clutching the necklace tight as he looked back towards the shopkeeper.

"I suppose you accept the deal?"

The elderly Sangheili nodded.

"I certainly do," he said, taking the money Arla had left on the counter and picking up the helmet, taking a close look at it, "I could easily sell this. People do like military memorabilia…"

Arla didn't bother staying any longer. With a simple farewell, he turned around and left the shop, stepping outside into the warm late morning air, seeing Lirana give a pleased look.

"Arla, you bought it for me!" She exclaimed, stepping towards him. Arla held up the necklace and smiled, feeling somewhat good about himself, a feeling he hadn't felt this way for quite some time. His face flushed purple and he tried to figure out something to say.


Arla let the necklace hang from his hand so she could see the main body of it. She smiled at him, aware of his sudden embarrassment. Arla shrugged, clasped the chain of the necklace with both hands and stepped forward, putting it over her head and letting it hang around her neck. Their eyes met and they both smiled. He suddenly felt his heartbeat pick up, a shot of excitement flowing through him. They way she was looking at him, the way their heads were close…

"No," she said simply, shaking her head and taking a short step back. Arla couldn't help but feel disappointed, but he did understand why.

"I know what you're thinking Arla," Lirana said, sounding a little strained, as if having been restricted somehow, "We can't be anymore than just friends, you heard what the Major said. You're a generous, understanding man, but I really don't want to rush into anything anyway."

Arla stood thinking about this for a moment before nodding. He understood where she was coming from concerning the matter and the smile she was giving him told him he shouldn't be too disappointed. After all, they would be seeing each other a lot in the future.

It must have been about midday judging by the height of the sun and the sudden increase in the temperature, from a rather warm summer breeze to a slightly more intimidating, uncomfortableness inducing hot air. Shifting where he sat, Rtas 'Vadumee tried his best to get comfortable in the new heat, his dark blue Minor armour not really helping him get cool in this sort of weather.

Picking at his nearly finished plate of animal meat which had a side of vegetables, he looked across the table towards Yelina, who was in a lighter coloured set of robes this time which were also shorter, probably to suit the day's weather better. She looked back at him and they both exchanged smiles, although Yelina quickly glanced back down at her plate of salad, unsure of what to say.

They had decided to meet up this morning outside the hospital where Yelina worked, she having called him earlier that morning, seemingly having forgotten the way she had left yesterday. Rtas had decided to play it safe by not mentioning it, preferring to get to know the girl better, although ever since they had met up they really hadn't said much, both of them either too shy or unsure on what they should say.
It had been his idea to spend their lunchtime eating in a restaurant, Rtas paying for it using the credits he had stored away in a compartment in his armour, having been smart enough to bring money from his locker on board the cruiser down to the planet once he had known they would be going on leave.

He remembered asking Arla when they had been back on the ship, about whether or not he had a girlfriend. Arla's answer had been a no, and so had Rtas, but now here he was, sitting with someone he genuinely had feelings for, having only met her yesterday. He had been planning on asking Arla to tell him more about his sister; the information would probably come quite helpful in getting to know her.
Rtas had forgotten to do this, too distracted the previous night by the arrival of their new medic and how Arla had been busy spending time with her in the bar. It seemed to him that Arla had found himself a girlfriend, although knowing him he probably wouldn't admit it. He could be quite stubborn sometimes and very moody, being happy one minute and almost depressed the next. The young Sangheili certainly had a lot on his mind, it seemed.

Rtas hadn't been too big a fan of the meat they served here, having come from some large desert roaming rodent that could be found outside of the town. To him, it had seemed a bit tough and a tad stringy, although the vegetables had been fairly tasty contrary to the processed ones he received back on the Relinquished Light. He had never been one for simple salads, unlike Yelina, who seemed the type to be into that kind of food.

Rtas picked up the glass of water on the table, swirling it about in boredom, trying to figure out how he should break the awkward silence that had fallen upon him and Yelina.

"How was your food?"

He looked up, noticing that Yelina had been the one to break the silence, although she did look nervous, uncertain almost. She seemed changed than the brash, smart-talking female that Rtas had talked to yesterday. It was as if something had changed her, most probably what had happened yesterday between the two of them.

"The vegetables were fine but the meat was stringy," Rtas replied, digging his fork into another strip of meat and finding that it was quite tough to get the fork into the meat itself, "How was yours?"

Yelina dug around the remaining salad in her bowl, thinking about her answer for a moment.

"It needs improvement," she said, looking back towards him, "but otherwise I found it alright." She paused, Rtas seizing his chance.

"I was meaning to ask…"

"Ask me about yesterday?" She said, finishing his sentence before he had a chance to, Rtas nodding slightly. She sighed, looked down at her bowl for a moment, thinking her answer through before saying it.

"What do you want to know about yesterday, Rtas?" She asked with a hint of agitation in her voice, giving him a pained expression while poking at her salad with her fork aggressively, obviously annoyed about it all. Rtas hadn't been expecting this reaction and so sat listening, not answering her question considering she never gave him a chance to.

"Rtas, yesterday was an accident," she said, shaking her head, "I let my feelings overcome me, do you understand? I really like you Rtas, I just…"

"What? What is it?" Rtas felt himself a little surprised at the way she was talking and couldn't hide the disappointment from his voice. He had been expecting her to be a little more subtle about the matter.

"Rtas, I grew up with a father who neglected me, preferring to concentrate on his first son and not even my brother and I, leaving the two of us in the care of our mother," Yelina said, her voice returning to a more normal sounding tone, "I grew up disliking my father and I'm afraid to say this, but that neglect filled childhood has shown me that no man can be trusted for anything, and that includes you."

Arla had never really mentioned his family life to him before so this fact came as a bit of a surprise to Rtas. He frowned, listening intently, realizing that maybe Yelina was more sensitive than he first thought.

"I find it hard to trust any man, and I'm afraid that if I do get involved with you anymore than I already have, I will find myself let down by you, probably left for some other woman," she said, "that's the truth, Rtas. I can't bring myself to trust you, I hope you understand…"

Rtas nodded lightly, but he wasn't about to give up on her yet.

"What happened yesterday was something I did not mean to do," Yelina continued, "I don't know about you, but I lost control of my feelings then. Maybe you enjoyed it, I don't know, but I really can't bring myself to trust you or any other man. I know it might sound a little stupid, but it's the truth, so if you're trying to find a girlfriend, maybe you shouldn't start with me."

Rtas had been intending to argue her point ever since she had started telling him about all of this, starting with the most obvious.

"Maybe you might find me different," Rtas said, trying to sound as sincere and honest as he could, after all, he was trying to win her affections, "not all men are the same as your father, and I hope I never end up like him…"

"That's not the only thing I'm worried about," Yelina said, shaking her head, "Rtas, we've only known each other for two days, not even that. You're leaving tomorrow and there is a very good chance you might not even bother returning to find me. I just don't want to get involved with you if that's going to be the case…"

"It isn't," Rtas replied, "I don't get much time off, but when I do, you'll be the first person I come to see. I won't forget about you…"

Yelina didn't look too convinced. She was proving harder and harder to reach, clouded by her distrust of all males, which included Rtas. He was no exception, but if he wanted to stay in some sort of relationship with her he would have to prove to her that he was an exception.

"You might mean what you say," Yelina said, "but there is a chance you might find someone else during your time away. I can't believe that you'll remain faithful to me for all that time; it's just far too long. If you were looking for a girlfriend Rtas, you've started with the wrong person."

Rtas struggled to find words as Yelina got up and left the table, the way she walked telling him that she was indeed flustered and attempting to forget that she had had any involvement with him. He wasn't about to let her walk out on him like this, so leaving an adequate amount of credits on the table he followed her into the midday heat outside where a few patrons were dining at the outdoor tables. The restaurant itself was by the side of the large town square, a small reserve in the middle holding plenty of greenery such as bushes and trees, a few birds singing from within those trees and providing some peaceful sounding background noise. A day like this was awfully quiet, seeing as not many civilians spent their time outside in such heat.

Yelina had walked over to the fence around the reserve, staring out at the greenery, obviously with a lot going through her mind. Rtas walked up behind her, stopping alongside her although she didn't take much notice of him.

"I know what you're thinking," Rtas said, watching as a few brightly coloured birds flew from the roof of a nearby building and into a tree ahead, "you think that once I'm gone, I'll never come back."

Yelina didn't answer, although she did seem to be listening by the way she was watching him through the corner of her eyes.

"I'm not going to do that," Rtas said, "ask anyone who knows me well enough and they'll say I'm a man of my word. I would never forget about someone like you, and that's the truth."

Yelina turned her head so she was looking straight at him, trying to determine if what he was saying was the truth or not. She could tell that Rtas was honest enough, but she would never be too sure.

"You sound honest enough, Rtas," she said, "but I can never bring myself to trust you, regardless of how you feel about me. It's just the way things are and it's hard for me to change that…"

"It isn't hard," Rtas said. He knew there would be a way to get through to her; he also knew that it was going to be hard to win her trust, "I know how you feel, but as I said, not all men are the same. I would never abandon you, and I would never forget about coming back to you."

Yelina thought about this for a moment, knowing that if she did indeed trust him he knew he would never be able to let her down. He wasn't planning on letting her down and he hoped he would never have to.

"The thing is Yelina; I had never felt this way about anyone before until I saw you for the first time," Rtas said. This was the truth, when Yelina had come into his sights for the first time he had never felt the way he does about her for anyone else. If he wasn't mistaken, he could very well be in love with her, but they hadn't known each other for very long, so he was far too nervous about expressing his feelings for her, in case she didn't feel the same about him.

"Really?" Yelina asked, looking a bit unsure of herself, "is that true?"
Rtas nodded. Of course it was true, he would never make up something like that. He suddenly felt a hand against his, and looking at where his right hand had been sitting on top of the short fence, Yelina had put hers on top of his. They shifted theirs a little so that they were holding each other, and strongly gripped each others hand.

"It's the truth," Rtas said simply, noticing a faint smile appear on Yelina's face. He smiled back and they stood there for a while, in silence. He hadn't known her for very long at all, but right now that was the least of his worries, more worried about keeping his word of not abandoning her than anything else.

As the day wore on so did the drinking, with Kesa, Terlas, Sysha, Arla and Lirana having their fair share of alcohol, having spent most of their day outside of the bar as they had done yesterday, Arla having returned with Lirana an hour earlier, the medic somewhat happy at what Arla had done for her. Strangely enough, Arla didn't get much ridicule from his friends who were far too busy drinking and talking amongst themselves. He had always thought they would have had room for teasing him, but the three of them were so filled up with alcohol that Sysha had fallen asleep where he sat, Kesa and Terlas looking and sounding a little woozy, talking about anything that came to mind.

Rtas was nowhere to be seen and this had been the case for nearly the whole day. Arla didn't have much of an idea of where he could have gone, although it probably had something to do with Rtas' liking for his sister. Whatever was going on between them had been important enough for Rtas to leave his friends alone for a while, which was something he didn't do too often unless he had a good reason. Rtas was the loyal type after all.


Lirana sounded tired, her voice soft and her eyes half-open. Arla turned around to face her, feeling a little tired himself.

"Do you want to go inside?" Arla asked, glancing up at the darkening sky, the first pinpoints of stars appearing to signify the coming of night but wasn't quite night yet. He guessed it was more like the twilight hours as day merged into night and the town itself became quieter, unlike the cities on his home-world of Sanghelios which seemed more active at night than any daylight hour.

It seemed a refreshing change, staying in a quiet settlement on a lightly populated planet. It was better than being cooped up on board the Relinquished Light, that was for sure.

Lirana nodded in response to Arla's question, managing a yawn, opening her jaws wide and moaning slightly. It had been a long day for the both of them for they had gone to almost every part of the town and even spent some time outside of it, going to the many Forerunner temples that were out in the woodland, just for something to do.

Arla stood up, his muscles aching from all the effort he expended in his tour of the town and surrounding woodland, helping Lirana up with one hand and turning to look at Kesa, who seemed to be the least drunken of the three Minors.

"Lirana and I are going inside for an early night," he told Kesa, "maybe you would like to do the same?"

Kesa gave him a frown and then glanced at the half-finished bottle of whiskey in his hand. Thinking about what he should do for a moment, he dropped the bottle, letting it roll off the table and land loudly on the ground, although it didn't break. Instead, the remaining whiskey poured out, forming a moderately sized puddle as Kesa stood up.

"I think I will…" He said, swaying on the spot slightly. He steadied himself and followed Arla and Lirana into the apartment building, passing through the entrance lobby and entering one of the elevators. As the door closed behind them, Kesa spoke.

"Do you know where Rtas is?"

Arla shook his head, pressing the appropriate symbols on the holographic panel by the elevator door. Back home on Sanghelios most buildings had gravity lifts, which made it feel a bit strange using an old-style metal lift. He figured colonies such as this one weren't up to getting the more advanced technology in yet.

"He's been away all day," Kesa said, staring towards the holographic panel as the elevator started up, as if there was something fascinating about it, "has he forgotten about us?"

Judging by the way Kesa was staring at nothing in particular Arla assumed all the alcohol the Sangheili had consumed was beginning to mess around with his vision. Kesa held out a hand in front of his face and slowly clenched his fingers as his vision swayed in and out of focus before him.

"I wouldn't worry too much about Rtas," Arla said, the elevator coming to a stop at the correct floor, "he will return soon enough. Why do you ask?"

Kesa shrugged as the three of them stepped out of the lift, Arla putting an arm around Lirana to help her long. She put his head onto his shoulder, almost falling asleep right there but Arla managed to keep her awake by shaking her slightly.

"I thought he might have liked to know that I saw his father earlier

Arla stopped at the door of the apartment, finding the door unlocked and letting it slide open before him. Helping Lirana over to the couch, he sat her down, sitting down next to her. It took a little while before what Kesa had said registered in his brain.

"You saw his father?" Arla asked, feeling Lirana place her head back on his shoulder. He could feel her warmth against him as she shifted slightly, closing her eyes and drifting off. He also felt a little pleased at the fact that she was actually getting this close to him, feeling that maybe there was something between the two of them indicating more than just a regular friendship.

"He stopped by the bar while you and Lirana were gone," Kesa said, racking his brain for the memories which were blurred by the alcohol he had consumed over the course of the day, "I am fairly certain it was his father. He was a large, green-eyed Field Commander which looked quite like Rtas. He seemed to be desperate for liquor and quite drunk."

Like you, Arla thought with a grin. He turned his head to face his friend who was standing by the now closed apartment door.

"The bartender refused to give him service and the Field Commander left soon enough, but not after he had yelled and swore at the bartender a little." Kesa paused for a moment, grinning slightly. "I don't know what he would be doing here…"

"He's probably just here for some time off, like us," Arla said, although he somehow doubted that Kesa had really seen Rtas' father. "Are you sure it was him?"

"I might be wrong, but I think it would be better if I told Rtas," Kesa said.

Arla had seen Rtas' father a few times in the past and it was also the case that his father and Rtas' father were close friends, although it seemed that his friend's father wasn't as neglectful as his own. If it had really been Rtas' father, the young Sangheili deserved to know.

"I think it would be better if you told him," Arla said, "if Rtas ever does return."

Kesa shrugged, heading for the sofa across from Arla, sitting down and laying back a little, staring up at the ceiling.

"I'll wait for him," Kesa said, "hopefully he won't be too long."

Arla nodded, Kesa remaining awake for another twenty minutes as darkness fell outside. Soon Arla himself was asleep and Terlas had come and retreated to his room, Sysha being left outside where he had fallen asleep sitting down. Kesa did get up and turn off the lights, leaving the room with only the dim light streaming through the windows, casting an eerie blue glow across the room. Sitting back down, he waited some more.

Soon enough his patience was rewarded, Kesa watching Rtas arrive with the female he had met yesterday, Arla's sister, in tow. The pair seemed excited, Rtas gripping one of his new girlfriend's hands as he dragged her towards the door of his room. Kesa stood up and followed the pair inside, stopping in the doorway as Rtas and Yelina stood facing each other a few metres ahead.

"Rtas, there is something I was going to tell you, but you weren't around…"

Kesa didn't get to finish, Rtas totally ignoring what he said as he leaned forwards and brought his mandibles to Yelina's, the pair putting theirs together as they kissed, Rtas wrapping his arms around her, Yelina doing the same so they stood embraced and passionately kissing, Rtas moving his hands along her back, feeling every curvature of her body, Yelina doing the same.

Kesa watched with a strange fascination as this all unfolded before him, the pair seemingly oblivious to his presence. He didn't think that Rtas would listen to what he had to tell him for now, so Kesa, quite reluctantly but probably for the better, turned around and left the room, the door shutting behind him. He could only guess at what exactly the pair were doing.

The next morning arrived Rtas was up later than he usually was, sunlight streaming through the shutters on the windows, Yelina still asleep in the same position from the night before, her head resting on his chest as she breathed steadily.

He took a moment to look down at her, admiring the way she seemed so peaceful, her eyes closed and body relaxed, her warm breath against his chest as he thought back to their activities the night before, unable to help but grin.

He may only have known her for now just over two days and for a moment he had been filled with doubt over whether they should not rush into their relationship, but now that seemed insignificant. He had never felt the same about anybody else before and it certainly didn't seem to him that he was making any sort of mistake. He wondered what Arla would think; it was obvious he knew about his involvement with his sister, although Rtas doubted if he knew about this particular aspect of their relationship. He would prefer it to stay that way, if possible, although privacy was a difficult thing to find in these apartments. Funnily enough, no one had bothered trying to get into Rtas' room, which was perhaps a bonus.

Rtas sat up, gently resting Yelina's head on the pillow beside him. She shifted in her sleep, sensing that something had changed but soon settled where she lay. He smiled, she looked so beautiful while she was asleep and he couldn't help but put a hand to the side of her face, caressing her mandibles.

This woke her up, Yelina slowly opening her eyes, looking up at him. She still looked half asleep, but now that she was awake she would find it hard to fall asleep again. Sliding slightly closer to him, she put her head by his side, her gaze meeting his.

"Did you have a good night's sleep?" Rtas asked, although his question was obviously the type to cause more of an effect than an answer. She smiled, a hand going for his chest as she ran her fingertips down his muscular bulk.

"That would depend, Rtas," she said, "did you?"

Rtas gave a mandible-shrug. It had certainly been one of his better nights, though.

"I slept well, considering you were right here with me," he replied, "and since we're both awake, I was thinking…"

Yelina cut him off, wearing a grin.

"Somebody might hear us…"

"They would have heard us last night, so either they don't care or they didn't hear us," Rtas said, moving onto his side so he was facing her, bringing his head close to hers, "as well as that, all of this talking is making me bored…" He put a hand to her abdomen, moving towards her a little. She frowned, using a hand to hold him back slightly.

"Rtas, we're both running late for where we need to be," Yelina said, glancing at the chronometer by the door where the time was displayed in large, visible symbols, "I was meant to be at the hospital an hour ago. You, on the other hand (she poked him playfully in the stomach) were supposed to be packed and ready to leave half an hour ago. I'm sure your friends are wondering where you are…"

They could wait, he thought. Using both hands to grip her sides and lie her down before him, he leaned forward and began to kiss her, Yelina refusing to put up any more resistance as he ran his mandibles across her chest in a seductive fashion, bringing his weight forwards, Yelina letting out a slight gasp.

Unexpectedly, the sound of the door sliding open broke Rtas' concentration. He rolled off her and sat up, watching as Major Kalara walked into the room, gazing at the pair of them with an uncertain expression. He stopped a few metres from the end of the bed, shaking his head.

"Minor Rtas, you're late!" He exclaimed, trying his best to ignore Yelina, who had pulled the bed-sheets over her so they met her at the
neck, "what are you doing?"

Rtas felt his hearts jump a beat as he realized he might be in a bit of trouble. He saluted, jumping out of the bed and standing to attention. Kalara clenched his mandibles tight in an effort to keep from laughing.

"Sorry sir," Rtas said, "I merely slept in…"

"No excuses, Minor!" Kalara barked, "Put some clothes on and get your gear packed." The Major snickered quietly when he finished the sentence, doing his best to keep a straight face. Rtas nodded, his face flushing purple with embarrassment. The Major turned around and exited the room, shaking his head as he went.

Yelina sat up in the bed once he was gone, Rtas hurriedly attempting to put on his under-suit, too much in a hurried state to do it efficiently. Yelina sat watching him for a moment.

"Do you still think nobody heard us?" She asked. Rtas shook his head, his face still a deep purple from embarrassment. What a good start to the day, he thought while trying to fit into his under-suit.

Hours later, the Minors had boarded a shuttle and headed back for the Relinquished Light which lay in orbit around the colony world, several other ships in the same sort of position. All of them were feeling a little disappointed at how short their stay had been, but according to the Major, the following mission was important and must keep to schedule.
Arla wasn't too worried about what the mission would be like, even the Major himself had told them there would be no combat involved, which could mean it was going to be as easy as the leave they just had or as boring as their lives aboard the ship. Either one was better than getting shot at, although Arla was yet to be in that situation, Minors like him always getting stuck with the least exciting operations unless you were really unfortunate, being put into large combat operations.

He couldn't work out why Minors like him were needed to do such menial tasks, but that was the last thing he was thinking about, his mind set on Lirana and how she was staying in another room close by. He hoped he would be seeing her soon, he was already getting bored with what they were doing now, which involved sitting around the barracks and talking about whatever came to mind. Sure, that was alright every now and then but not all the time, considering they had just been doing it down on the colony.

Rtas, in the meantime, had been quieter than usual, sitting in the seat closest to Arla, his head down as if he was miserable but he was wearing a bit of a smile, not a noticeable one but every now and then he would chuckle quietly to himself, as if having thought of something funny. Arla was trying to figure out what, although it might have something to do with what Kesa said last night.

Kesa, sitting nearby, had been quiet as well, obviously a little disappointed at how they were back on the ship so soon. He was the one to break the silence that had fallen over their group for a little while, everybody too deep into their own thoughts to say much.

"I think it would be a good waste of time if we went to the firing range, just for a while," he said, "it would certainly be better than sitting here moping just because we're officially back on duty. What do you think?"
Sysha was the first to answer, looking up from where he sat and giving a shrug.

"I'll go with you," he replied, "I did my fair share of sitting around down in the settlement."

Kesa nodded, turning to Arla.

"What about you, Arla?"

Arla shrugged as well. He wasn't too sure whether the firing range was the most exciting thing they could do, but he didn't have much else to choose from. Covenant cruisers weren't built with boredom reducing activities on board, troops would have to improvise or make do with what the ship had.

"I may as well," he said, getting up. Rtas stood up as well, obviously with the intent on coming as well.

Kesa nodded when he saw that nearly their whole group had decided to come along.

"We could have some sort of shooting competition," he said as the group started for the door, "although I'm fairly certain Terlas would win…"

"I would win," Sysha boasted before Terlas, who was walking next to him, could utter a reply, "besides, marksmanship is a cowardly form of fighting…"

"You have no idea what you're talking about," Terlas said, the group starting their way through the winding purple-blue metal corridors of the ship.

"How so?"

"Because there is no such thing as a 'cowardly' form of fighting, Sysha," Terlas explained, "it's the Sangheili who fights that is the coward or not, not how he fights. I doubt your miniscule brain would be able to make much sense of this…"

Sysha frowned, insulted. He grunted in annoyance.

"I know what you're talking about," he said, "not that it matters. I could beat you with my eyes closed…"

Terlas laughed, playfully patting Sysha on the back.

"I doubt it, friend…"

"Could you two stop arguing?" Kesa said, "you were both fine when we were down in the settlement but as soon as we get back on board, you're at each other's throats again." He shook his head at the hopelessness of getting the pair of them to get along.

The group came to a set of double doors which slid open as they approached, revealing the long, wide open room beyond. Several booths and benches were a few metres ahead, facing out across the long firing range, holographic targets at varying distances. A pair of Special Operations Sangheili, at the lowest Special Operations rank judging by the insignia on their armour, were standing at a pair of booths, firing at a few of the targets with plasma rifles, the targets flashing red and an alert beep sounding from the panels in the booths.

Now that the group was here it occurred to each of them that they didn't have much of an idea of what they should do. Kesa was the first one to come up with something, breaking the silence that had fallen amongst the group for the second time.

"If there is one thing that we may as well get good at, it's shooting," he said, stepping over to a closed rack of weapons and flashing his standard passcard over the panel, the shield protecting the rack switching off, allowing access to the weapons behind.

Arla stepped forwards, grabbing one of the plasma rifles, weighing it in his hands, taking note of its lightweight. It occurred to him that he hadn't fired a weapon since basic training, which had been a few months ago, so he had a feeling he would probably be a bit rusty. It was up to a Minor like him to practice and so far Arla hadn't gotten round to doing such a thing. It was the same with the others as well, maybe with the exception of Terlas, who grabbed himself a particle beam rifle, stepping over to one of the booths and fiddling wit the holographic panel there for a moment which in turn activated a target sequence. As he began firing away, Kesa put a hand on Rtas' shoulder to get his attention, stopping the Sangheili from getting a weapon.

Rtas had no idea why his friend had stopped him but Kesa spoke before he could protest.

"Rtas, there was something I was going to tell you last night," Kesa said, Arla standing by the pair and listening to the conversation, "but when I saw you were busy with Arla's sister…"

Arla realized how this related to him slightly and interrupted the talk, curious as to what Kesa was talking about.

"What was Rtas doing with my sister?" He asked, his voice tinged with uncertainty. He noticed Rtas turn his head slightly in an effort to hide the way his face had flushed dark purple. Kesa kept a straight gaze as he told Arla.

"I found them kissing and…well…" He paused, unsure of how he should say this. "They were kissing passionately, feeling each other in all sorts of places…"

Arla couldn't help but smile when he heard this. If Rtas had actually gotten lucky with his sister, he was keen to know how. He had always thought that the girl wore a tough mental shell which prevented most males from getting that close to her, always warding them off somehow. Then again, Rtas wasn't like most males.

"Rtas, is this true?" Arla asked, his friend turning to face him, looking a bit embarrassed.

"How did you know this, Kesa?" Rtas asked, glancing at Kesa who also looked as amused as Arla was, "were you actually there?"

"Didn't you see me?" Kesa asked, sounding surprised, "you two returned to the apartment, went into your room and began to get really close. I went in to tell you something, which is why I started this conversation now, but obviously we've gone off track slightly." He paused, shrugging. "I did leave soon after, if you're wondering…"

"What did you do last night, Rtas?" Arla asked, curious about the matter but knowing Rtas probably wouldn't talk about such a thing, "just how 'close' did you get to my sister?"

Rtas shook his head, embarrassed and a little annoyed at the way his friends were throwing him question after question. He shifted uneasily where he stood, trying to think of something to say.

"I…I don't think that is really any of your business, Arla," he said weakly, "I really don't want to say…It is my business, after all."
Kesa laughed, realizing that Rtas was hiding something. Arla didn't laugh but let Kesa interrupt the Sangheili, slapping him lightly on the shoulder in a playful manner.

"You frisky thing, Rtas," Kesa said, not really being serious but making sure he did get on Rtas' nerves, "you really couldn't help yourself, could you? I expected better from you…"

"Could you just stop talking about it?" Rtas said, a hint of anger coming into his voice, his face having receded from its flushed state back to its normal state, "It is really not your business…"

"She might regain her virginity but you would just take it right back, wouldn't you?"

Rtas didn't reply, rather he turned around and walked over to the steel bench against the back wall, sitting down with a rather annoyed look on his face. Kesa exchanged glances with Arla, the two of them chuckling quietly so Rtas wouldn't hear them.

Kesa went on to one of the booths to begin shooting at the holographic targets. Arla thought he would actually engage Rtas in a proper conversation, curious as to what really had gone on between his friend and Yelina. Stepping over to the bench and sitting himself down next to Rtas, who didn't even bother to glance at him as he sat down, ignoring his sheer presence, he rested the plasma rifle in his lap and sat back.

"You shouldn't let what he says get to you, Rtas," Arla said, "after all; he's just trying to get on your nerves."

"I know that," Rtas said without turning to look at him, "I don't care much for what he says, or anybody else for that matter."

"What's your problem then?"

Rtas sighed, turning to his friend, making it obvious there was something on his mind by the downbeat expression he gave.
"It's nothing too major, but it is something that will keep on my mind for a while," Rtas explained, "I didn't think much of it when it happened, but now…"

"Now it seems a lot more important?"

Rtas nodded in response, Arla having finished his sentence for him. For a second the pair sat in silence, hearing the sounds of weapons fire as the others fired their weapons at the targets, noticing that another two Special Operations soldiers had entered the room, and grouping with the two that had already been inside when Arla and his group had entered. It seemed there would be a small crowd gathering in the firing range son enough.

"I made a promise to Yelina that I would return for her," Rtas said, Arla returning his attention to his friend, "that I wouldn't forget about her, living down in the settlement. I made that promise without thinking too much about it…"

"Is that what's on your mind, Rtas?" Arla asked, unconvinced, "that's it? Nothing else…?"

Rtas shook his head, annoyed at his friend's ignorance.

"You don't understand, Arla," he continued, "I'm worried I won't keep that promise, for whatever reason. Something might happen by the time I get some more leave…As well as that, I've been having this strange feeling about this mission we're going on."

Arla's interest level increased slightly. He leaned towards Rtas a little, curious on hearing more, although his friend kept his downbeat tone of voice.

"There's something we're not being told, I can tell," Rtas said, "I doubt the Major's being told the whole story as well. This mission, why send a pack of Minors like us to secure an excavation site? It seems utterly pointless, considering if there's going to be nobody there to fight nobody needs to secure the site…"

Arla found himself nodding in agreement to what Rtas was saying. It made sense, why send soldiers in if there was going to be nobody to fight?

"Is this all?"

"I think somebody's not telling us on purpose, Arla," Rtas said, "I have no idea why they would do that, but I am certain we're not being told the whole concerning this mission." He frowned, glancing back at Arla. "I am sure that when we do arrive on this desert planet we will end up doing far more than securing a vacant site."

Rtas fell silent, leaving Arla to dwell on these words, whether what they told was going to turn out true or not. With some reluctance, Arla stood up and stepped over to one of the booths, finding that he would feel much better if his shooting skills were up to speed if what his friend said was going to be true.

Note: Couldn't find a way to break this up, hence the reason it's a bit long. Sorry if that, ah...ruined your day or something...