Startracer, Starchild - Tale 5--> Not-so-secret secret

Recap of Tale 4 . . .

Without warning, the table split evenly in two and held for a brief second before exploding into a million splinters. Krystine stood her ground for a moment, then bolted past the stunned cops and straight out the door of the inquiry room into Haldir's arms.

"Daddy! Papa!"

Haldir, just as surprised to be witness to the table's abrupt destruction, caught her reflexively. But it was not long before her sobs refocused his attention and he attempted to soothe her.

"Please, take me away from here!" she begged.

"All right," he cooed into her hair, rubbing her back. "All right."

Tale 5

He turned her slowly away from the room toward the outer doors. In the car, he asked, "Do you want to have dinner at home or at a restaurant?"

She gave it some thought. ". . . Can we get take-out?"

Perfectly willing to be indulgent, he agreed. "Sure."

"Let's do that."

He pulled out his cellphone and gave it to her. "Why don't you call your mother and ask her what she wants?"

She did so obediently. When her mother finally answered the phone, she tilted her head. "Mom? What's so funny?"

Her mother didn't answer for a moment as she was still laughing and talking to someone else. "No, it's all right, just put them . . . put them down. Like that, right. Good boy." Her voice rose slightly in volume as she placed the receiver against her ear. "Your friends were prepared to destroy the phone, that's all."

Haldir chuckled to himself as Krystine frowned thoughtfully (even illegal aliens should know what a telephone is). "Well, what do you want for dinner, Mom? We're getting take-out."

"Where are you going?"

". . . Pizza?" Krystine knew her mother didn't care much for pizza.

But Marie said, "Mm . . . Sure. Just get whatever you like as long as it doesn't have vegetables all over it like your father enjoys."

She smiled. "All right. Well, that was all I needed. Thank you."

"Sure sweetheart. Can you hand me over to your father?"

"Uh huh. Daddy . . ."

Haldir accepted the phone. While he disapproved highly of driving while talking on a phone and avoided it whenever possible, he also knew he was far more capable of dividing his attention evenly than the race of Men. "Yes?"

"I'm afraid you're going to have to give them a run-through of the twentieth century's little mysteries. One of the dark-haired ones nearly cleaved the phone and my hand in half."

A surge of protectiveness rose and took him and he almost asked to speak to whichever one it was so that he could explain their misdeed clearly. Unfortunately, Krystine was still in the car and he was barred from it.

Sighing, he said, "All right. I'll do it when we return."

"Thank you."

They said their good-byes and hung up just as he pulled into the lot of the pizza parlor. Upon entering the shop, Haldir was practically overwhelmed by the sheer number of people that had converged on them. He did have enough of his senses to grab Krystine and pull her back against him to protect her, but it turned out to be completely unnecessary.

Her face lit up in joy. "Everyone!" She looked back and up at him. "It's okay, Papa. I'll be fine."

He reluctantly let her go and went to the counter to order, keeping the majority of his attention focused back on her. He knew that it was a bit on the paranoid side, but after what had happened recently, being a bit paranoid and not needing it was far better than not being paranoid enough.

Unfortunately, his vigilance paid off.

A scruffy sort of man entered the shop and made as if to order, but drew an old-style pistol instead. Some of Krystine's female friends screamed and all backed away from the man, Haldir included. Krystine sought the security of her father's presence and Haldir hooked an arm around her shoulders, his eyes locked on the man who was now collecting the money from the cash register in a feed sack.

Then the man turned and his eyes locked on Krystine. Gesturing angrily with the gun, he commanded, "You. Come with me."

Haldir shifted to push her back and the man trained the gun on him. "Let her go or I put a hole in your head, pretty boy."

Krystine stepped forward slowly and said quietly, "Papa, no." Growling softly, Haldir released her and watched her walk into the man's outstretched arm. The man locked her against him, placing the gun to her head, and backed carefully out of the shop. Krystine bravely remained calm.

Following cautiously, Haldir found himself in the middle of the parking lot before the man ordered him to not take another step. Haldir obeyed; this was more than he had needed. He met Krystine's gaze and nodded ever so slightly. She blinked in reply and kicked back with one foot, hitting the man square in the groin. He freed her and groaned in pain, barely keeping from kneeling on the pavement.

Krystine dashed for the pizza shop and Haldir drew one of his knives from where he hid them in his boots, lunging for the man. The man raised his pistol and shot, but Haldir's superior senses helped him to deflect the bullet with the knife. With lightning precision he disarmed the man and pinned him to the lot without injuring him too badly.

Shoving his hand up beneath the man's jaw and pressing the tip of the knife against the hollow beneath his chin, Haldir hissed, "You have two choices. Fight me and die, or give up and live."

The man, staring up at him, eyes filled with malice and fear, held completely still. Haldir, however, did not take his eyes from the man even when cop cars surrounded them. It was then the man struggled and Haldir lightly banged his head on the pavement to remind him of where he was and who was in control of the situation.

The police took over from there and Haldir backed away, quickly finding himself in a tight hug from Krystine and on the receiving end of lots of comments on how cool he was from her friends. The police only held him in the lot to question him, then said he could go, and the shop owner gave him the pizzas he had ordered free of charge as thanks for helping to return the money the man had stolen.

So he and Krystine drove home with the teenager going on and on about his heroism and what an awesome father she had. She could hardly wait to tell her mother and while Haldir was not sure that was a particularly good idea, the girl's exuberance on the subject convinced him to hold his tongue and let her tell Marie the story, come what may.

Luckily, Marie was not too upset. She was too amused with the young Elves' reaction to pizza. Krystine eagerly showed them how to eat it and that soda, while not like water or ale, was quite good to drink. Dirnees learned the quickest, being the youngest, and Legolas picked it up next, being used to the eccentricities of other cultures. The soda took some work, for it fizzed and burned the mouth slightly, but they gradually warmed up to it.

There was a rather small accident where the four scalded themselves before Krystine could warn them that the pizza was hot, but they eventually calmed down and let their fingers and tongues cool. Haldir shook his head; while he could admire their culinary open-mindedness, the impatience of youth almost prompted him to laugh and he only held himself back because he knew that Krystine would be angry with him if he did.

[For not being evil, she seems to draw it to her as a flower draws butterflies,] Elladan told the others in a low voice a few hours after they had finished eating.

Haldir could take it no longer. After showing them the Library of Gondor, the four younger Elves had accepted Marie as someone to trust. Unfortunately, simply being Marie's daughter did not clear Krystine of the same suspicion. And while the girl did look similar to the Evil, he was sure she was not. He would have sensed it or the Valar would have told him.

Without thinking, he rose and began shouting at the four Elves. [How dare you speak of her knowing she cannot interpret it!]

Elladan stood as well. [Why? She will not understand! But if you believe she should hear us speak of her, then be so kind as to act as translator! You have already dismantled the cover you built for yourself, so what holds you back?!]

Haldir snarled. [I told you previously that she is not the Evil and I will not let your ignorance sacrifice her life! If you make one incorrect motion toward her I will ensure that you rue your choice to plague her, I swear it!]

Young Elves did not usually argue with or act disrespectful to one who was older than them. However, Elladan thought Haldir to be horribly short-sighted and vice-versa.

"Stop! Stop fighting!" Krystine squeezed between them and pushed them apart. The room fell into silence and she turned to Haldir, her eyes glassy with unshed tears. "Please, Papa, don't fight with him. You shouldn't be fighting with him. It's not right."

Haldir was taken aback. ". . . What do you mean?"

She shook her head. "I want them to stay. Please don't fight with him."

"You want them to stay? Why?"

"Because they're so far from home. Just like you."

"Like me? Krystine, my home is here. It always has been."

She shook her head again and a stray tear tracked down her cheek, which she brushed away carelessly. "Papa, please. You and Mom don't have to lie to me anymore. It's all right. I know that you aren't my real father and I know that you aren't really even the same . . . type of person . . . as Mom and me."

He looked sharply over to Marie, who had her hands over her mouth and was beginning to cry as well, her head shaking back and forth. Obviously, she had not betrayed his secret. He returned his gaze to Krystine. ". . . How long have you known this?"

"Ever since you saved me from being hit by that truck."

"I never---"

"You did when I was two."

The analytical part of his mind stored away the curiosity of her spectacularly good memory for later consideration, but the rest of him had hardly heard her say it. He had thought that all along he had been deceiving her when it was the other way around. How had he not known?

"Papa, I'm so sorry I didn't tell you sooner," she whimpered, tears now running freely down her face. "I was afraid that you would leave and I didn't want that to happen. I wanted you to stay. I'm sorry."

Still astonished by what he had heard, he drew her into a tentative embrace and felt the now-familiar surge of protectiveness as she nuzzled against his chest. He lowered his head to kiss the top of hers, holding her unconfiningly in case she felt the need to pull away.

"I'm so sorry," she sobbed.

"Shh," he cooed, stroking her spine with his fingers. "Shh, Krystine. It's all right. It's all right."

"Please don't be angry."

Angry? How could he be angry at her? "I'm not, love. I'm not."

Marie retreated to her rocking chair in the corner and sat in it, staring blankly out the window into the night. Haldir checked on her to be sure that she was only shocked as he was and not entertaining anything irreversible (though he doubted that Marie would be so flippant with her life even while getting over the stress of Krystine's disappearance).

[What it is we have missed?] Dirnees asked.

[Silence!] Legolas hissed. [It is no business of yours!]

Haldir shook his head and tightened his grip on Krystine. [She knew.]

[Knew?] Elrohir prodded gingerly.

[That I am not of her race. She has known it since she was a child.] He focused on Krystine. ". . . How did you know that I was not the same as you and your mother?"

She fisted his shirt nervously, then relaxed her grip and said softly, "The way you survived the accident and your ears." She looked up at him and her eyes glistened with still more tears. "And did you think I didn't listen when you read to yourself in the library?"

". . . But that couldn't possibly have told you . . ."

She shook her head. "It didn't. When Mom wouldn't tell me anything, I did my own research. I found some of the translations in the library and read those, then tried to find the language you spoke because I liked it and wanted to learn it. When I couldn't find it, I went back to the library and found some notes that you had written contained symbols that were identical to some of the ones I had seen elsewhere. I discovered the ones who used that type of writing and the rest of the pieces just sort of . . . fell into place."

While part of him felt irrationally furious that she had fooled him, it was overwhelmed by admiration and pride at her resourcefulness. He sighed and pet her, listening to her quieting sniffles. He glanced at the time, surprised at how late it was. "Krystine, why don't you go to bed?"

"I don't want to!" she cried, suddenly panicked. "You'll leave!"

He managed to pry her arms from him and tilted her chin up. " Krystine, it's nearly two a.m. You've had a very long day and you need to rest. I promise that I won't leave."

"Cross your heart?"

"Hope to die," he confirmed, kissing her forehead. "Now go to bed."

"Will you tell me about Middle-earth?"

He did not know why it would interest her, though she did enjoy history a great deal. "Sure, love. Whatever you want."

So? Was it too sappy? Not sappy enough?

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