He found the package of stim tabs. A glance at Kila made his heart slam hard in his chest. The Nobek’s default expression of a mocking sneer was nowhere in evidence. For the moment, Kila looked at him with the same emotion Piras felt – with longing and the confusion that spoke of not knowing how to get what he wanted.
Piras couldn’t stop himself from speaking. “Don’t look at me like that.”
“As if you care. Don’t make me feel like I matter.”
Kila cocked his head to one side. “Of course you matter. Why shouldn’t you?”
“Because I’m not like most Dramoks. I’m not what a Nobek wants.”
Kila sighed. “You’re getting maudlin. Take the damned stims, Piras. Two of them.”
Piras obeyed. “I’m only a novelty to you. Not someone you could really care about.”
Kila growled. He slammed his fist on a smooth stone countertop. The boom of it made Piras jump. “You of all people know Nobeks don’t speak of such things to other men. Have my actions not made things clear to you? Do you not see what is in front of you?”
A spike of energy helped shove some of the haze in Piras’s skull away. Lucidity was returning, but it didn’t help his mood. If anything, it made him more morose than ever. “I thought I had something real, something lasting with Lidon. Then he found out the truth about me, and I didn’t matter anymore. Despite all we’d been through together, how long we’d been lovers, I wasn’t enough for him.”
Kila glared at him. “I’ve known about you from the beginning though. We haven’t started on a foundation of lies. I know who you are and how you are, and I’m here. Look at me, Piras. I’m here.”
The Nobek’s words penetrated, finding a way through the clearing mists of drunkenness. How many times had Piras thrown Kila out? Pushed him away? And yet he kept coming back, kept refusing to be put off for long. He was here, dealing with Piras at his intoxicated worst. Not running away. Not giving up, as any man with good sense would have by now.
Hope flared in Piras’s being. Maybe Kila did care. Maybe Piras did count for something to the Nobek.
He looked up at the grim, ferocious, and compelling face glowering at him. “You’re here. I see you, Kila.”