Frost and Fire

An immediate short story to follow the completion of Maverick :D ***** Cover by AldrinHD

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5. 4

The scorching sand of an uncharted island left blisters on the underside of Mariqah's calves as she sat and huffed. Since they'd been dropped into the sea by Morgan and his lot, and left to survive in this unknown place - Vasquez didn't wait to start up.
“This is an outrage! I could just see myself-”
Only, he didn't stop either.
“-Killing that insolent little chicken-shit-”
Everything always seemed to be someone else's fault with him.
“-And you!” Vasquez barked, “If you had come with your own men and in your own ship, I wouldn't have been robbed of mine!”
Mariqah looked at him, feeling a little dazed by the strength of the sun's rays. It didn't matter if her legs were screaming for her to get up, Mariqah knew that if she stood, she'd pass out. She wanted to stand though. She wanted to slap some sense into Vasquez.
“It's not worth talking to you,” she muttered, “You don't understand words.”
 “Of course!” Vasquez shouted, holding his head, “Of fucking course! You have no excuses, so now it's not worth talking to me! When you haven't shut up for a minute since I've met you!”
 “I have no excuses because there's nothing for me to be excused from.”
 “Of course. I forgot I was talking to sinless fucking Santa María!”

Mariqah growled and stood, her vision blurring as did, but she tried to maintain her composure, “I am not the one that mistreated sailors so badly that they mutinied against me! I am not the one who has to yell and curse to get everything she wants! I am not the one who has acted as a poor leader to desperate men clinging to floating straws in the sea all these years!”
Vasquez backed up as she stepped towards him, “Oh yah? You're not a poor leader?”
 “I did not say that and we aren't talking about me!” Mariqah barked, throwing her weight into a push and knocking Vasquez over, “I did not come here of my own accord - you called me! I did not bring my men on the account that you didn't specify how many men you wanted, what your problems was and what resources I would need! I came in person to help a squandering little shit like you and you can't even shut your stinking gob for a second to listen to what I have to say!”
 “Shut the fuck up!” Vasquez said, pushing Mariqah back.
 Mariqah held onto his shoulders, her vision spinning due to the sun's intensity, “You have no-one to blame-!” she shouted.
“Shut the fuck up!”
 “-But yourself!”
 “Shut,” Vasquez grabbed her neck and pressed his thumb into her throat, “The fuck. Up!”
Mariqah gasped for air, but her lungs wouldn't fill. She felt light-headed and couldn't even struggle. She saw Vasquez's face slowly become more calm, his breathing less heavy. Vasquez let her go and put her down.

 She put a hand to her neck, her lungs filling with air, and said, “You just tried to kill me.”
Vasquez sat down and put his head in his hands.
 Mariqah stared at the back of his head for a moment, before she decided to get up and move away. Her vision still blurred and her head pounded. She'd do well to find some shade.
“Wait,” Vasquez said, grasping her hand.
 Mariqah tried to shrug him off, but Vasquez held on.
“Wait, Mariqah, please!” he said.
“You tried to kill me!” she turned and snapped at him.
 He didn't say anything for a moment, “Where are you going?” he mumbled.
“To hell! What does it matter? So long as I'm away from you!”
Vasquez still didn't let her go, “I'm sorry.”
 “Sorry doesn't cut it.”
 “I know. I...” he took his hand away, “Fine.”

Mariqah spat on the floor and walked across the small strip of land until she reached the cool, blue-green water. No trees in sight. She could walk this island end to end and not find a food source. Morgan had only provided them with one flask of rum - which Vasquez still had - and he'd taken all the pistols, except one. He let Mariqah keep her sword though, since he thought it wasn't worth fighting with her for. Mariqah crashed down into the water, letting it splash around her. She dipped her head in and let out a sigh of satisfaction and relief. She pushed herself, deeper and deeper, until she was submerged - her calves stinging when they first hit the surface of the sea, but then cooling down.
 There were small crabs scuttling on the sea-floor, and tiny schools of fish that evacuated the vicinity. They could be food, right? Fish could be eaten raw. Mariqah took off sword-belt - because it was weighing her down - and her jacket and tunic and threw them onto the sandy shore. Feeling more comfortable in the water, she moved slowly, allowing the faint current to carry her ever so slightly, and observed the creatures around her. Even the ugliest crab down here was more beautiful than a number of people that she'd met. Unlike them, though, she bet the crab tasted good on an empty stomach. Mariqah grabbed it with one hand and pressed it down with her palm, covering its face with her fingers. It struggled, much like a giant spider would under duress, before it snapped under the pressure - literally. Mariqah got our of the water, her trousers sticking to her, her bodice glistening with moisture and made her way back to the shore. She sat on the sand - frowning at the squelching noise her boots made - and sucked the soft, white flesh out of the crab. Mariqah sighed. That wasn't enough. She'd hunt all afternoon and it still might not be enough. But it was something and she had nothing better to do - so Mariqah stripped off her boots and went back into the water.

 She went out far to collect oysters, crabs and, if she could catch them, small fish in her tunic. She came back to shore when the sun was setting, and a cool breeze blew in as the celestial bodies twinkled in the darkening sky. Mariqah shivered. She forgot about how cold it could get. She dumped her tunic-ful of sea-life - still shuddering as the creatures slowly died from being out of the water - and put on her jacket for all the good that would do. It was sleeveless and her trousers were heavy with water, and, not to mention, her entire person was wet - so Mariqah shivered, her teeth chattering as the sun disappeared on the horizon. She curled up into a ball and opened up her tunic with shaking hands to keep herself busy.
 She heard footsteps approaching her from behind.
“Go away, Vasquez,” she warned.
 He stopped and Mariqah looked behind her, “Go away,” she said again.
 He just stood there and didn't say anything.
“Urgh,” Mariqah sighed and then said through chattering teeth, “You're not going to make me feel sorry for you. You don't want me around, that's fine by me.”
 “My tinderbox is still dry,” he told her, “If you share your food, I'll build a fire for us.”
 “Out of what? There isn't any wood for miles around from what I can see,” Mariqah said.
 Vasquez pulled his tunic up over his head and let it fall to the ground. He gave Mariqah a look.
“You don't deserve this,” she said, pausing a moment before she sighed and said, “Alright. We can share.”

Vasquez knelt down and set the tunic on fire. He sat back and accepted Mariqah's collection of seafood. They sat in silence, cracking open shells and eating. It wasn't Mariqah's normal fare, she didn't enjoy fish - let alone oysters and raw crab - but she gulped it down without thinking too much of the taste. Priority was survival. She could rough on Callum later to get her a gourmet cooked meal if and when (and because) she survived this.
“How did you get those scars?”
The strong mirage of roasted lamb was banished from Mariqah's mind by Vasquez's question.
“Hmm?” she said.
“The scars on your back. Where did they come from?”
Mariqah frowned. She had no inclination of small-talking with Vasquez - since he was butt-hurt so easily. And also...
 Mariqah shrugged and said, “An injustice.”
 “Were you a slave?” he asked.
 Mariqah just huffed.
“You won't talk to me?”
 “Give me one good reason why I should, Vasquez.”
 “I don't have any.”
 “Well, then.”
Vasquez sighed, “I'm sorry I... got carried away.”
 “That's putting it lightly.”
 “What do you want me to say?”
 “There's nothing you can say.”
 “Then?”
 “Then, nothing.”
 “You're not going to put things right with me?”
 “I tried, Vasquez,” Mariqah snapped, “I tried. And it got me marooned and almost killed. I'm done trying to make friends with you.”
Vasquez didn't respond for the longest time. He stared at the ground and ran his fingers through the sand.

“You're not like other women,” he murmured.
 Mariqah found it in her to scoff, “What gave it away?”
Vasquez gave her a furrowed look, blinked and then turned away, “I based my actions towards you on something that happened... in the past. Something I'm not proud of. I know it's not an excuse, but...”
 “What happened?”
He rubbed the back of his neck, “I don't... I...”
 “Vasquez, if you want to even begin to make things up to me-”
 “Alright, okay, fine,” he said, sighing again, “A long time ago, there was a girl I loved.”
Mariqah groaned inwardly, but did nothing more than roll her eyes.
 Good grief...
“Only...” Vasquez continued, “She was the most caniving whore there was. She was beautiful, she came from a powerful family and she had a Midas touch. But everyone hated her. I didn't believe the stories, I didn't heed their warnings. I agreed to meet her in her father's orchard at the stroke of midnight, and...” Vasquez hesitated.
“You can definitely skip over this bit,” Mariqah commented.
“Yes, well, she... In the morning, when the sun had come up and warmed us in its glow, she rolled onto my chest and she wept. There was another man, she said, who had claimed her as his own and if he found out about us, he would kill her. I said I would gladly die for her-”
Mariqah raised a brow, “Seriously?”
 “It's what I said,” Vasquez shrugged, “But she told me that man wouldn't bother with me, he'd only come after her. I asked his name and she pointed him out to me. He wasn't anyone special and wasn't half the looker I expected him to be. So, I killed him. Nobody saw me do it, nobody would know that I'd killed that man. But when I went to see that girl again in her father's orchard, she screamed and all the guards from her estate came running at the sound of her shriek. 'That's him!' she barked, 'That's the man that killed Manuel!'” Vasquez sat back, “I'll never forget that day - when men and their dogs chased me out of Spain. I hopped onto a ship, a stowaway, and I haven't gone back since. She made me kill her suitor, Manuel. Two men fell to her treachery because I was too blind to see it.”
 “And you've, what? Abstained from all women since?” Mariqah said.
 Vasquez took the flask of rum from his belt and sipped a little of it, “It might not be the easiest thing to believe, but...” he shrugged and passed the flask to Mariqah.
 She wrinkled her nose at the smell, but took a sip and tried to swallow it down without tasting it, “How many years has it been?”
Vasquez laughed, “You don't wanna know, hermana.”
Mariqah passed the flask back and said, “It was a bit extreme to base the integrity of all women on one stupid girl you knew, don't you think?”

 “Perhaps,” Vasquez said, screwing the lid of the flask back on, “Your turn.”
 “What?”
 “The scars...”
Mariqah rubbed her shoulder. She felt the pit of her stomach go cold, “No. No, I'm not telling you that story.”
 “Then what about the scar on your lip?”
 “It's part of the same story, and I don't want to tell it.”
 “But I-”
 “You were paying me back for attempted murder. This is different.”
Vasquez scoffed, “Fine, amiga,” he said, “So, you and Captain O'Brien...?”
 “Hmm? Oh, just friends. Although, there had been something between us,” Mariqah said, looking away to crack open another shell, “He seems to have put it behind him though, and I... Well, I put it behind me before it was even over-”
She felt something warm touch her shoulder and she drew up short, to find Vasquez sitting right beside her. He touched her cold skin and Mariqah jerked at his touch. She tried to keep calm, but he was so close and so warm.
“I'm sorry I hurt you,” he said, touching her face and looking into her dark eyes.
“I- I don't understand what this is...” Mariqah said.
“This? This is two people being stuck on an island with many three or four days left to survive,” Vasquez explained, caressing Mariqah's cheek, “It's nothing deep, nothing meaningful.”
 “It means nothing?” Mariqah whispered, putting her hand on Vasquez's knee.
 He kissed her softly, the heat from his mouth warming Mariqah's face and she kissed him back slowly.
“Nothing, except you must be very cold,” Vasquez commented, putting his arm around her.
“Mm, I could use some of your warmth,” Mariqah replied.

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