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Copyright ©2022 Alexa Piper
The rain that had welcomed me back to Earth, back to Ireland, and back from being unconscious for days hadn’t let up. It beat down in sheets and slicked against the kitchen window to our left, but Inkiri’s body radiated warmth. There was a chicken on the kitchen table in Donna’s farmhouse, and it was looking at my bagu mate, the chicken’s beady eyes bright, her mottled gray feathers freckled with white.
Inkiri clicked — possibly at both me and the chicken — and ran his hand over me, double-checking that the blanket was drawn tight around me. Donna was at the counter between the large fridge and induction hub, filling an espresso maker with ground coffee, her head half-turned, her long brown hair braided over one shoulder.
“I’ll be honest with you, Rory. You looked like a corpse who’d foregone the beautifying appointment with the mortuary technician,” Donna said and glanced at me. The chicken clucked at Inkiri and lifted a clawed foot as if she were about to jump into Inkiri’s lap except, of course, I was in that lap.
“Yes, you were very pale, sadir,” my mate said and used the opportunity to lick over my neck.
My throat constricted. I remembered the streets of Esaka, the chaos, the Koa Esher… or maybe I could call them cola asshats now that Vergis’s dad had approved of my abuse of the Lugarran language. At any rate, I remembered the magic and how that voice in my head had said something about how that same magic that had saved Nokim and Vergis might hurt me so badly that some rest — well, a three days’ time-out in this case — wouldn’t make me better. I shuddered to think what the magic could have done to me. Could it have made me sleep forever?
I didn’t want to share that with Inkiri, so I swallowed the lump in my throat and wiggled around under my blankets.
“Yeah, but look.” I pointed at myself when I’d successfully extracted my hand from under the folds. The chicken followed my fingers with her black eyes. “I’m all better now. Uhm. Donna, do you think I could take a quick shower here?” The thing was, even if Inkiri had cleaned me up with a cloth back in the tent, he still produced a lot… just a lot. Of stuff. Well, cum was the stuff he produced a lot of, and it was still trickling out of me.
She looked back over her shoulder. “Sure, honey. There’s a bathroom upstairs with fresh towels in the cabinet.”
Inkiri huffed and clicked. “I will take care of you,” he said and stood. Still with me in his arms, which was excessive. I also maybe kind of liked it, because my mate’s nearness was such a huge comfort, but I was pretty sure I could stand and do stuff, never mind that I knew I needed more rest after the drain of the magic.
“I’m fine,” I said. “Put me down. I can shower by myself, Ink. I told you, that’s a human thing.”
“But, sadir –”
Donna turned to face the bagu, who was some two heads taller than her. “What have we been talking about when it comes to touching others and randomly carrying people?” she said to Inkiri and crossed her arms.
Inkiri made a purring noise with only a hint of a growl in there, but he ended in a soft click. “But Donna, this is my mate. He’s so frail. He –”
“Oh, put him on his feet, you overgrown blue goat,” she said.
Inkiri huffed, but slowly and with exceeding care, put me down. His touches lingered, indigo cat eyes searching my face for any hint that I’d forgotten how legs worked all of a sudden.
“I’m fine,” I told him. And me. The verbal confirmation was good.
“I brought fresh clothes for you,” Inkiri said and took a step toward a honey-brown kitchen cabinet and pulled open the bagu-made backpack that sat next to it on the floor. It was a pretty big backpack, the kind of size hikers would like, and it looked heavy. “It’s shibiya. You liked those before.”
“I did. I do. Thanks for packing for me.”
Inkiri frowned as he rifled through the backpack. “It’s a small thing, sadir.”
I curled my toes in my cat socks as I stood there and looked around the kitchen. The farm was an old building like so many in Ireland. Wooden beams in the ceiling showed their exposed ebony, and copper pots looked like they’d been here for no less than a century. There were four chairs around the generous kitchen table and a bench running underneath the window, which was framed by blue-and-white checkered curtains. Also, there was that chicken. She behaved like she belonged in this kitchen, eyeing all of us as if we were intruding on her day.
“Hey, where are the rest of the guys?” I asked.
“Good point,” Donna said. “And why did you only bring the acquired taste and his daddy?”
I smirked a little at Donna calling Vergis that. I was suspecting he wasn’t as bad as he pretended to be, maybe, even if he was still plenty murderous. After all, he’d used a bear as a weapon, so at the very least, he was happy to facilitate carnage. Also, he’d killed that bear.