Fucking nighttime beasts coming out trying to eat me. I spun and smacked the squishy beast from my shoulder before it could lock its jaws onto my shoulder and gnaw a gaping hole up to my neck and blood supply. Worse, I knew these things didn’t come out by themselves.
No, the creepy little beasts crawled out of tiny holes with their squishy, extendable bodies, looking for something warm and blood-filled to take away the chill of the night. Where the hell did they come from?
I stomped on the thing on the ground and it squished, then splatted as the blood spread out through the splits on either side of its body. “Die!”
There was another one. I took two big steps to it and stomped down. So nasty, but necessary. Soon they were coming up nearly as fast as I could stomp down. I didn’t want to run back to the house; they’d follow the heat trail from my feet.
Chomper was in the house. I glanced at the window.
Shit! Chomper wasn’t there anymore. Well, maybe that was a good thing. He didn’t need to see this. I stepped on two of the crawlers at once, one foot on each, and shuddered, yelling in revulsion.
“Kohen?” Captain came running from the back of the house. He held a weapon at the ready. “What are you doing?”
“Killing these things. One of them tried to take a nibble from my neck. I kinda thought you might not like that.” Another one came up from a hole I thought I’d collapsed. Damn it! “You gonna help or what?”
The buzz of Captain’s weapon frying the little shits was loud in the near perfect silence, at least until a strident bellow sounded in the air above my head. I risked a quick look up, and my jaw dropped.
Chomper was in his shifted form. He was bigger, at least twice the size he was before, and he had two of the squishy beasts dripping blood down his arms, one in each clawed hand. He tore a strip off of each with his teeth, living up to his name, chewing with his mouth wide open.
By the blood coating his front, he’d eaten more than the ones he was holding.
At least he was safe in the air. It took several more minutes before the attack subsided and we packed down the holes that had been left in the ground. Captain holstered his weapon and slid his hands over my arms and up to my neck, checking me for wounds. “You’re okay?”
“Yeah, fine.” My feet hurt, and my stomach was churning, but that was because I could see Chomper on the ground still eating. “I don’t think we’ve been feeding him enough. Or maybe just not enough meat.” I swallowed and checked Captain with my eyes. “You okay too? How’d you know something was wrong?”
“Of course. I was inside when Chomper started yelling. He’d been whining, but this was different. Then I felt your panic.”
“Well, when it was just one I was fine. A whole herd of those things is deadly.” I still didn’t even know what they were called.
Aparoe stood in the doorway of the house. “Everyone all right or are my medical skills needed?”
“We’re fine,” Captain called.
The medic caught sight of Chomper. Their breath caught. “Oh my. He’s grown.”
“I know,” I said. “I left him inside in the window sill and came outside to walk. I only went around the house about three times before I was attacked. Then Captain and Chomper came to help me.”
“Oh no. I came to help. I told Chomper to stay inside like a good boy like his dad told him too.” Captain glanced at the filthy little beastie that was somehow ours. He was still on all fours, but his wings were tucked and he was slowing down. “But he must have found a way to get out.”
“Did he grow before or after he ate some of them?” Aparoe asked.
I shrugged. “Don’t know. He had blood on his face and two of them impaled on his claws when I saw him.”
“My guess is before. He couldn’t have reached the door release, otherwise, his arms were too short to release the latch and turn the handle.” Captain pursed his lips. He sighed. “Guess we’ll have to put a password lock on the doors.”
“It’s fine,” I tried to say soothingly. “I was out here. He doesn’t go anywhere without me or you.” He was like the synthgar in that. Hmm… the little symbiote was with Captain right then, and I could see just the edge of it behind his ear.
“So most likely a biological response to the threat. To you, obviously, not him since he was safe indoors. Once again proving the bond between you.” Aparoe tapped their chin. “Fascinating. Chomper, will you come see me? Let me run some tests?”
They didn’t even ask me anymore, just Chomper. I said no, but he usually said no. Of course, I’d veto if I felt I needed to. But Aparoe knew my history, new Chomper’s… they knew exactly who was Chomper’s parent, and what would happen to them if Sparkles came back. Chomper dropped the carcass he was more playing with than eating and scampered over to the medic.
Picking him up as if the blood covering him was nothing, they retreated into the house.
If, not when. I stopped on the walk back to the house, suddenly stuck on that thought. Captain’s jerk on my arm as we stopped startled me back into walking. “Sorry.”
I needed out of these clothes and into the clean room. I needed a wash fast. I might even splurge and do a water bath.
“Join me?” I glanced at Captain over one shoulder.
“Anytime.” We stripped the second we hit the bathing chamber. I ignored the promise of sleek, naked skin was too much for him to resist.
Even though we were planet-side, he still rationed, and the water the house of all. We climbed inside the clear stall and the lights came on. His eyes stared at me hungrily, and I felt like a feast laid out for him to nibble and snack on until his heart was content.
“I was so worried about you,” Captain said. “What if I didn’t get there in time?”
“But you did.”
“Because Chomper told me there was something wrong. He’s hyperfocused on you, but sometimes, that’s a good thing. You get into too much trouble.” Captain wasn’t wrong, but he’d winked and the rueful grin as he rolled his eyes said he was only joking.
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