“Xander, you’re an idiot,” Zib snapped. “I thought I told you not to drink Harare water.”
“I really don’t recall.”
It was the third time that Xander had been to the toilet that very morning and Zib was getting impatient as she waited in their bedroom. The two rooms they had all purchased had been $80 for two single beds in each room for the one night and since time was not on their side, she desperately wanted to make leave for Victoria Falls.
A knock came at the door and Zib opened it only a fraction. She came face to face with Tashaun and her blood boiled. They might be on the same team for the time being but that didn’t mean that she had to like him.
“What do you want?” she snapped.
“I would like to know when you plan to depart. It is eight o’clock local time and we should probably go out to get some breakfast soon.”
“Xander’s not really feeling well. The idiot drank the tap water.”
“You know I can hear you!” Xander yelled.
Zib turned her head towards the bathroom and shouted, “Good!” She turned to face Tashaun again to gage his reaction but his face was blank and unsympathetic.
“Didn’t he have bottle water?”
“He finished it.”
“I have some left. If he drinks salt water then it’ll help him retain the water. I have some medication for IBS as well.”
“Ooh, aren’t we prepared?” Zib sniped.
“I do not have irate bowel syndrome!” Xander shrieked.
“No!” Zib shouted back. “You have stupid syndrome.”
Tashaun didn’t give any indication as to whether or not he even heard that last comment, though of course it would have been impossible for him not to. He just continued standing there rather stiff, as usual.
“I know that you still hold grudges against me for past wrongs,” he said. “But I’m not at all inclined to ask you for forgiveness. I did what I had to at the time in order to stay in good graces with the queen. Considering our childhood together, you of all people should understand.”
“No, I don’t.” Zib opened the door wider to let him inside. She couldn’t risk anyone hearing such a conversation, except Xander of course. “How could you choose a queen who turned you into virtual cyborg over your best friend?”
Tashaun leaned in closer, lowering his neck to whisper, “How could you have chosen him over me?” Because in the end that’s what it boiled down to. Betrayal and allegiances. Truth and love. And the truth of it was that Zib had chosen her Other Half over her childhood friend— the one person who had had her back since the fey had taken them both from their former lives.
Does that make me as bad as Ariel? The Iabal Prince had been friends with Xander but had turned on him the moment Xander betrayed the court. But I had never tried to kill Shaun.
Zib was saved from answering that question when she heard the toilet flush and Xander open the door not long after. He still looked a little pale and queasy but as far as Zib was concerned, it served him right for not listening.
“Did someone say something about medication?” he asked.
“Yeah, I have something in my bag,” Tashaun said, his gaze never wavering from Zib. “I’ll go get it and then we should head out to eat somewhere.”
“Thanks,” Xander muttered. “And about Glasgow…”
“Please.” Tashaun’s often reserved façade cracked a little as his jaw set firmly and his fists clenched tightly. Zib should never have told Xander how to shut down Shaun’s robotic functions but it had been necessary. “Don’t mention it. I would have done the same thing in your position.” When he exited the room, a drawn out silence permeated through the room.
“Do you think we can trust him?” Xander asked.
“No. But we’ll have to take our chances for now. He can still give us intel on what the Ivbal are up to and his Technopath skills will come in handy in other regards. But be prepared for…”
“Hold that thought,” Xander interrupted. He clutched onto his stomach and swerved towards the bathroom before locking it shut. Zib gripped onto her hair, cursing softly. What a motley team they made.
The blistering sun was a welcoming change to the cold dampness of England— or at least for Zib. Cedric and Xander didn’t seem to be faring so well at the back of the Volvo as Zib drove. October was the dry hot season for Zimbabwe and so they had had to purchase a fair bit of sunscreen lotion for the long journey ahead. It didn’t seem to help Xander too much but he didn’t groan overmuch, thankfully.
“This SPF 50 is terrible,” Cedric moaned. Well, Xander might not be complaining, but the pixie was another matter altogether. “With scorching weather like this, they should sell SPF 80 at the very least.”
“Try SPF 100,” Xander snorted.
“Feel free to hop on out for your sunscreen quest anytime you want, guys,” Zib replied. “Otherwise shut up and get used to it.”
“I concur,” Tashaun said, looking out his side of the window. Only his right eye squinted as he stared out at the vast gravelly fields surrounding them. Large, dry dying trees surrounded fields interspersed with shrivelled weeds at the left side of the road, the heat of the sun all consuming. Zib recalled that his left eye was mechanical so probably adjusted the filtration of light on its own without the need to squint. Zib felt a pang of guilt in her stomach as she remembered how devastated Shaun had been when the pixies had taken him for his first operation after the initial Change. The fey liked to call the procedure that had turned them all from human to Galatea ‘The Ascension’ but it would only ever be The Change to Zib.
“So tell me, Tashaun,” Xander said. “How do you intend to get revenge on not one but three immortal faery monarchs?”
“Only one of them is immortal,” Tashaun corrected. “I do believe that was the main reason why the Iabal and Ivbal Courts turned us into Galatea to begin with— to do that which they cannot in their increasingly limited capabilities.”
“Okay, but that doesn’t answer the question.”
“I think you should leave the schematics of that plan up to me. But first and foremost, we must all sever our links with our Other Half. Only then might it be necessary to divulge those details to you two.” Which of course translated to: I’m not telling you right now because I don’t trust you and I’ll probably never tell you.
“Now don’t you go getting yourself killed,” Zib warned.
“Why should you care what happens to me?” he replied.
“I didn’t team up with you with the intention to kiss and make up, so why don’t we try and keep this strictly business? We go find this fey who will separate us from our Other Half and then we see if we can work together kill the fey who did this to us. At no point do I have to forgive you.”
“Fine, but you and I will talk, sooner or later.”
Everyone in the car settled into an awkward silence, the tension between Zib and Shaun as palpable as the heat. It would be a long journey to Victoria Falls, and Zib knew it was only a matter of time until the fey courts caught up with them.
Author's Note: I went back to visit my family in Zim last Christmas for a wedding and I can confirm that they did advise me not to drink the water in Harare and though it is fine to bathe in, it isn't advised to drink. It won't kill you, of course. As far as I know.
Also, I'm a little dissapointed that this seemed a bit like a filler chapter but I hoped it showed the nuances between Zib's relationships with the guys.
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