“I don’t think so,” said Aparoe. “I found her right before we left the other ship. I never told anyone I did scans, but I was just as wary as you about unknown life signs after what we’d been through. I didn’t want to have any more surprises. But no one has tried to find her, like you think would happen if she was going to be used against Kohen.”
“You’d think telling your captain would have been on your agenda, at least,” Captain said. “How did you know this wasn’t part of the Elite’s plot? Or something else the scientists cooked up? Kohen figured out that it was a plan to get his DNA within minutes.”
Aparoe shrugged. “You had a lot going on trying to overcome your guilt at bonding with Kohen. He was afraid he was a threat to the ship and crew. I had it handled. Besides, no one knew I had her and she was tiny.”
“Key word there. Was.” Captain turned a narrow-eyed glare on Sparkles.
“Hey, stop that. It’s not her fault,” I said. She chirped and rolled quickly in the water, ripples splashing the edge of the rock around the pool.
“I was forced into the water by Lakshou, and the egg was just there. She didn’t ask for this any more than we did. The question now is to find out if this was part of the plan to use my DNA to create… something, whatever super soldier they were trying for originally mixed with her species, or if we’re just looking at another tiny part of the puzzle that Danie and I represented to the scientists.” I skirted around Captain and knelt next to the water, putting my hand inside the warm pool. A nose instantly nuzzled my hand.
“Meanwhile, we protect her and the eggs. She brought me here for a reason. I don’t know—”
“The eggs will probably hatch within a day,” Aparoe interrupted. “The sacs have grown more transparent and you can nearly see inside them. She’s been attentive to them, checking back frequently, but nothing like this.” Aparoe indicated the long curl of a wing around the eggs swishing water around them gently.
“Oh. Well… um, do they need help, do you think?”
“Doubtful. She seems to be self-sufficient, if given the right environment.”
Captain huffed as he crouched beside me. “You’d be safer at home.”
“What will hurt me with you here?” He was armed to the teeth and it wasn’t like I was helpless, even if he tried to treat me like I needed protecting. “Do you need to comm anyone? I’m sure you have Deke freaked out, right?”
“Freaked? Probably not. Excited to hunt with some of his toys? Definitely.”
“Well, he’ll just have to be disappointed,” I snapped. “No hunting Sparkles; I told you that before.”
Captain made a sour face. “I’ll let him know where we are and to bring supplies for a stay outdoors.”
I settled into my spot, my hand in the water next to Sparkles and not far from the eggs. I didn’t want to touch them, but there was an urge to stay close. “How’d you do this, huh? Are these babies gonna be okay?”
Sparkle’s eyes rose above the water. She blinked, then nodded once.
“Are they like you?”
She just blinked several times. I sighed. Too many answers possible for that question. Then again, would she understand DNA? Or the connection between us? She understood words, but advanced concepts or abstract ones? But then again, she also knew she couldn’t answer.
I looked over my shoulder. “How much did you do with her, Aparoe? Talk to her, teach her?”
“She had a space in my quarters. I left programming on the vid for her, to mask any noise she might make or her movements from others. During the evenings, I spoke to her often, I guess. Before I took her to my quarters to hide her, I often spoke to myself in the evenings.” Aparoe huffed. “Hard to find anyone else to have an educated conversation with most times.”
So maybe Sparkles would understand. Perhaps her kind were intelligent and not just naturally sentient. “How smart are her kind?”
“Not this smart. Something in the genetic link she shares with you has made her different,” Aparoe said.
“So I’m going to have to share you?” Captain’s warmth settled down beside me. Sparkles sank below the water immediately.
“I felt a tie, but it’s not like our bond.” I leaned back against his body. “You’re in here and in here.” I tapped my head and my heart. “Every time we’re close, it gets stronger. This is like… recognizing someone or something you know you know but can’t really remember how you know them. Or it. A gut feeling.”
“Your gut feelings have saved us before,” Captain said. “I should have listened. I’m still trying to learn how not worry.”
“Like how you instantly thought Sparkles being here meant someone on the crew had to be a traitor? Even though you know everyone who came with us is loyal to you?”
“You are the most important thing in the universe to me.” Captain nuzzled my neck, his arm creeping over my chest and locking our bodies close as he spoke softly in my ear. “I don’t know if I will ever be able to fully trust anyone else is completely safe around you. I want to keep everyone and everything away, even the people I trust with my own life.”
At least he didn’t want to say he wanted to lock me away. “We’re stronger together.” There was going to be danger in our lives, but this crew was not just a random group of aliens brought together for a mission. They were a family, one who stuck together, fought together, and had each other’s backs. “Whatever mystery Sparkles and her eggs hide, we’ll figure it out. All of us.”
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