“And you are mine,” he said.
“Hmm?” I looked up at him, too blissed out to move. “What?”
“You said mine.” He blinked lazy eyes at me. “We belong to each other now.”
I hadn’t meant to say it out loud, but I was glad I did. For days I’d been on edge, like the skin I was in was too tight, my muscles quivering on the verge of an explosion. Inside I’d been just as big of a mess, emotionally and mentally. Now all I wanted to do was sleep. “Rest.” I stroked his chest and one thigh.
The universe could stay outside our quarters for a little longer.
Our reprieve was not as long as I wanted, but longer than I could probably have hoped for. Bouncer’s growl at the door chime woke me, but Garjah was already out of the bed. I had even been cleaned up, my skin holding the faint traces of cleanser and the metallic tang I associated with Garjah.
He came out of the bathroom with a new uniform on, but instead of answering the door chime, he came over to me. “You’re awake.”
“Hard to miss that.” I gestured rudely toward the sound.
Garjah hovered awkwardly on the side of the bed, so I stood and pulled him down, kissing him. I ran a hand over the smooth ridges on his scalp, sliding my lips across his cheek and down his neck. Inhaling deeply as I went, I let it out with a soft sigh. That was what I needed. “You smell good.”
“You do too.” He had a pair of hands on my lower back, just above my ass. He squeezed me, then let me go. “I should probably see who that is.”
“Okay,” I agreed. I grabbed a set of pants and put them on while he checked who it was.
“Garjah.” Seedrah inclined his head but kept his distance and didn’t even try to look into our quarters. “Are you available? There have been questions about the mission, and we are approaching the galaxy edge now. The quadrant leaders are dissatisfied dealing with an underling. They are threatening to send you directly before the Kardoval.”
The stripes across Garjah’s body didn’t change color, but Seedrah’s darkened like he was distressed even to share this news.
“I would request that. The only ones who have the wisdom to judge this are those who can see all.” Garjah turned toward me. “Do not worry, Essell. I will go speak and relay the proper security codes to ensure our prompt process to the Kardoval’s complexes.”
Bouncer was at my side, rubbing against my leg. I wasn’t sure what to say; the scientist in my still reeled at the knowledge of their racial memories and the rigid roles their society locked them into. I kept wondering if that rigidity would turn into xenophobic tendencies, and that is why they hid from the Galactic… or if there was something else.
“I need to feed Bouncer,” I said. He was mouthing my hands, sniffing and nipping lightly at my fingers when they proved empty.
“Seedrah will take you.”
The younger male’s back straightened, and he widened his shoulders and took a deep breath. “It would be my honor.”
Well, that was a weird change. He’d been very informal before, almost insulting at times. Now he’d barely look at me, and he was posturing. “I’m sure I’ll be fine. I could probably figure it out from here.”
Garjah turned his back on Seedrah, and the door slid shut with a soft hiss. I opened my mouth to say how rude that was, but Garjah captured both my cheeks in his hands. He tilted my face to lock our gazes together. “Essell, you are very different now. That will confuse the crew. Sometimes confusion can turn to fear, and fear to hate for that which caused the dishonorable emotion. Please allow Seedrah to escort you so the familiar outweighs the unknown.”
I hadn’t thought about it that way; they knew what a cerops was, they’d seen Bouncer several times, and yet many of them would hiss or rumble at him. What would they do to me, the deformed half-human, half-Four Arms hybrid?
Garjah, damn him, turned out to be right. Even with Seedrah dogging my heels I wasn’t comfortable away from Garjah’s rooms long. The looks and mutters weren’t outright comments I could object to, but it was enough to send me hurrying back to our quarters once Bouncer had his fill.
Seedrah offered to bring food, and I thanked him. Sitting with my back tucked into the corner of the bunk, I stroked Bouncer’s pebbled flanks and under his chin. He closed his big, dark eyes and rumbled contentedly.
When the door slid open, I thought it would be Seedrah but Garjah strode in instead, a tray full of food in his hands. “Food.”
I cocked my head. “What’s wrong? Is it about the Kardoval? Are you in trouble? Are they going to kill me?” The questions tumbled from my lips in a hurry, thoughts I hadn’t even realized were in the forefront of my mind.
“What? No. We will be at their complex by the next shift change. They wish to meet you, yes. But they will not harm us.” Garjah slid a hand around my waist and drew me up. “Come. Eat. You should ask me for these things if you want food.”
I stopped, twisting to look at him. “Is that why you came in here with a frown on your face? Because I asked Seedrah to get me food?”
“We are bonded. What you need, I will provide.”
“You were busy,” I pointed out. “And people were staring. I just wanted to eat in private.”
“I will get you a communicator so you can message me anytime,” Garjah said. “I will bring you whatever you need.”Want more flash?