There were no more muffled growls behind the stone slab that protected them from the beast on the other side.
They didn’t speak for a while. The only time the two made sure that each other was either awake or asleep was light touches. She would move her hand over his bareback, and when he was awake he would return the gentle touches on her arm. Space so tight their backs pressed against the wall. They even slept for a while to pass the time. There was nothing but time to wait out the Nahgua that was persistent to find them. Now there was silence.
She could even feel his tail, which didn’t have enough room to move on its own. Just like a cat’s his would always move from time to time and she only knew he was awake when his tail was moving less. It was still nice to touch the skin of his back, which she found herself doing more frequently. The feeling of his tail against her bare leg wasn’t as alarming as she had thought before. In fact, as strange as it sounded in her mind, she wasn’t bothered by it at all. It didn’t make her feel awkward or frightened. Just normal.
Well, as normal as normal is in this place.
Her head did fit under his nicely. His cheek touched her hair and he even ran his hand through her hair from time to time. She didn’t mind since he helped untangle it a bit. It also made his purrs increase, which she liked to feel against her more than she would confess.
He was strange... Yet she was fascinated with him. If not for him they would have been Nahgua snacks.
The one thing that did hit her home was how safe she felt around him. Never once, even when they met has she never felt safe. Like she could trust him not to pin her against the wall and have her look over her shoulder and dread the thought of him near her. It was all the opposite. She always seems to want more of his kind words and gentle touches, and when he would be so unbelievably kind to her it would also hit her deeper than anything else would. She never had anyone attempt to be so nice to her without wanting anything in return.
He never asked for anything. Nothing dirty, nothing cleaned, nothing bought. She even wondered if Kane was right the whole time. What if he was meant to be the hero?
That simple thought made her heart tighten and a tear falls across her temple. Nobody has ever been so nice to Kane as he was too. Not Richard. Richard had always insulted the boy’s playfulness and enthusiasm. Kane had tried to get his attention so many times, to have some kind of man to talk to because she knew that him speaking to her was never enough since she never got most of his boy fantasies or games. She always questioned herself if she was enough for him.
She hasn’t asked herself that question here.
Maybe she shouldn’t think of all of this too soon. She hasn’t been in this world long enough.
The center of her chest tightened more until breathing became hard. Her arms tightened around Kito considerably. “Kito?”
He spoke immediately. “Yes?”
“Is she right?” She needed to know the answer. She couldn’t allow herself to fall deeper into that hole without knowing everything. She couldn’t afford to fall deeper. “Alira... When she had the knife against me... She said it was all just a trick. I was brought here for us to... Breed. Is that true? Please don’t lie to me.”
She couldn’t bear it if he lied. She had always mostly trusted him throughout this whole situation. She also didn’t think she could take it if she was only here for that barbaric reason. She had her head down she wouldn’t look at him. She couldn’t. Her emotions felt too overwhelming for her to look at him and not tear up. It affected her more than it should.
His words were gentle. Tender. His hand moved through her hair again, “No, Clara. Not at all. Those are just lies she told you to twist your mind.” Just like Dannica is said to do.
“Explain it to me. What is expected of me here? Why am I here really? You can tell me. I can take it.”
Can she? She didn’t know herself. She would hate for him to be such a nice guy to change into something as evil as Richard. They can play nice very well. It was how he won over her kind Christian mother.
He hesitated. He was trying to piece together the words in his head and figure out how to tell her without scaring her. Or hurting her. He could sense her vulnerable position, in such a dark quiet space she has had time to think about everything. To feel everything. He didn’t want to hide it from her anymore anyway.
No more secrets. No more games.
“I was alone,” he chooses to tell her without thinking, from the beginning. Maybe it would come out right on its own. “As I aged from being a cub I always fantasized having everything my father had of my own. To me, he had it all. A mate, cubs, I would watch him return every night to makes sure we were fed. I looked up to him. Young cubs are too small to leave the tribe and hunt animals on their own-”
“It is said my kind was cursed a long time ago to feed off the blood, at least those are the stories. I am not sure if it is a curse, I think that we could always do this. But my father would come back after hunting with others to make sure that my brother and I are fed along with our mother. He is kind. He had everything planned. But what impressed me the most was how happy it made him. So content. Not just feeding, but having his family. I wanted that. I wanted my own family to care for like that. Pippie always told me that sounded ridiculous.”
His tail ceased moving. His head felt pain from the gloomy memories. They had nothing but time.
“Kai and I had a time that we didn’t get along with each other. He had just returned from the human world after meeting Mia and he was never the same. He started from that moment preparing for everything. He built the hut, the bed, he covered the flooring inside with blankets, and when I would ask he would just say ‘she would like it’. From a playful cub to one that didn’t want to play anymore. He was too busy preparing, making sure everything was perfect so he could go back into the human world one day and bring her here. The human girl that nobody has seen in this world before-”
“I grew more jealous as time passed. I didn’t know it was jealousy then until Pasha revealed it to me. He had everything planned, he had everything shown to him, given to him so easily. My mother found every story of humans so she could learn about them when Kai would bring one here. He didn’t even sleep in the bed he made until she came here. He slept in a temporary one. He was that devoted.”
His ears lower even though she couldn’t see them. Sadness and regret filled him. “One day I got so angry. Zeta and Ruro were speaking to him about the human and his plan, and I was not paying attention to the foul things I was saying. It’s when I spoke ill of her constantly that one joke about her. Things such as forgetting about him and moving on, and he will just find her pregnant with another male or plenty of them. That he was forgotten. I just didn’t keep quiet about the mean things I was saying. It was the first time each of us drew blood from each other, Ruro and an older Warrior separated us. I was so angry that I left the tribe with Pippie and Pasha, the only ones who could tolerate my behavior then. I was not an easy cub.”
She listens. She didn’t say a word to ruin the deep emotion that he was laying out before him, and she could feel the heavy breathing of hurt the words made him. He pressed on, “I sent back gifts to my brother. Messages. It wasn’t until Pasha taught me the wrong of my actions over time that I tried to make it right. He never sent a message back to me. I stayed away because I was ashamed that he was still mad at me, I was doing some bad things within the lands. Things I regret now. Now meeting Mia for myself I knew that I was wrong for saying what I said about her-”
“He probably never spoke about this to her because of the things I said. I said many dark things about her body and how she might come here as big as a Ruchin. Other words I had learned from Pippie, who helped. It took him a long time, for me to go through so much trouble in the Plains, for him to finally send me back a message for all my other ones that I sent him. He sent me one, and it said ‘come back home’-”
“I did. I left that life behind and I returned home to meet him again. It was as if we never fought. I was given my own hut as a gift. We still argue but it is nothing close to how we once were, and I spent my time alone carving and making things like candles and such. Nothing would come out perfect because I couldn’t see in color. No unmated male in my village could see in any color before they meet that one... Everything was dull for me. Boring. It made life harder-”
“Caji moved into the hut with me because my brother wouldn’t allow him in their hut with him and Mia. That only lasted until he assumed Kai was hurting her when he was mating with her after he fed on her. He attacked him. I took him in after that because it seemed like the best idea. Even having him in that hut didn’t help that empty feeling that I always felt sitting on my own. I thought Pippie was right for a long time. Why should we even suffer such cruel feelings?"
Finally, with his arms around her tightened some more, his purrs increased. His tail curled as a pleasant thought ran across his mind rather than sadness. “And then I met a small boy waiting for me in the Jungle after I had rescued a girl just moments before who seemed to have been in the Jungle for some time. He came up and embraced me with open arms and a smile, calling me his “hero”. He led me to you,” his eyes closed as he just basked in the sensations he grew to be eager for and enjoy. To want more. “And when I saw you the world wasn’t grey anymore. It was actually... Very beautiful.”
Another deep calm breath. “It is not about breeding, Clara. Not at all. Kai and Mia had been with each other for a while, for many moons in fact, and they haven’t had a cub yet. Mia may have complications I do know but it isn’t like they haven’t tried. Ivy and Tina never regretted their decision when having their cubs. Although we do have lower numbers of females no tribes among these Lands force them. Do not pay any more attention to what Alira told you,” he rubs her arm. “She is lonely and jealous and has many issues with her mind. It is easy to say the nastiest of things when one feels like that. Just trust me when I say that I would never harm you in any way you were used to being harmed before. I would never do that. Not with you, nor with your brother.”
She didn’t know what to say in return after he was done with his words. It was the nicest thing anyone has said to her. And nobody ever showed Kane interest before. Her hand moved to his arm, over his biceps, her fingers touching his tattoo. He seemed pleased when she did this and didn’t move her hand away. She wondered how they done this tattoo without any needles, maybe this hurt twice as much getting it. She would ask him that later at a better time.
“You’re so kind,” was the only thing she could come up with. Maybe she could have found better words to tell him how much that meant to her. She wanted him to keep his words as well as he did so far. “Could I tell you something?”
“Of course. You can tell me anything you want. I will listen.”
She bit her bottom lip. She also didn’t know how to tell him this because she never told anyone, but he did tell her his past. It was only fair she did it in return. “My mother died when I was fifteen and she had Kane a year before. She had a really bad sickness that she didn’t want to take the treatments for because she didn’t want to hurt Kane. After she did have him and did start the treatments she didn’t have the energy to take care of him, so I did. I did for both of them, because the more she became sick the more my stepfather, Richard, changed himself. Or... Showed his true side.”
She moved her head from his chest and laid it next to his so she could see him. She wanted to see him although it was dark in here. Her eyes had enough time to adjust, and his natural vibrant eyes were enough for her to know that he was looking back. She sighed, “Kane isn’t my full brother. He is my half brother, Richard is his father when mine left my mom for another woman. It hurt her when she would lay in bed and watch me hold him and care for him when she wanted Richard to be the one to do it. I did everything. When her hair fell out during the treatments and she had to shave all of her hair off. Oh, Kito, if only you saw what her hair once looked like. She had the most beautiful black hair that I ever saw-”
“Her voice was so soft and magical. She could sing lullabies to make any baby fall asleep, even a grown person. In a good way. People would pay her to go to their weddings and parties to sing and she never lost a talent contest. She used to sing me to bed every night, and after Kane was born she would sing to him. After she passed I started singing to him before he went to bed. He once would get into a big fuss if I was too tired to sing to him but some days but I just am more now. He says I sing like her, which I don’t understand since he was too young to remember her voice. I guess he’s just being nice.”
She didn’t stop talking. If she did she would tear up and even cry. This was why she never told anyone her past because it was always too much for her, and she couldn’t keep her tears in the same way he could.
“She didn’t want to fight anymore when it worsened. The sickness that had spread inside of her that she waited too long to start treatments for. Even all the treatments she went through didn’t work after a time. She died at home in bed, where she wanted, and she was buried. I took over and cared for Kane, and it was me that taught him everything. To walk, to talk, to not draw on the walls. It would always break my heart a little when he would try to get Richard’s attention to play with him. You know how little boys feel about their fathers, even ones that don’t care, and he would never give him a second glance. He was always a bother to him, but Kane didn’t know that. He just wanted a guy to talk to and ask questions-”
“I gave up a lot of things for him, not that I mind. I went to school, a place that we go to learn things, but that became too much and I had to work. Richard never paid anything and I didn’t have it in me to ask him to. I met a nice guy though, Janice’s father who owns the place where I work, and he knew how Richard is. So he gave me a job and paid me well,” she saw the slight confusion on his face. “I’m sorry, I forgot. You don’t know how that works in my world, don’t you?”
“I wish I did,” he admits. “But I do understand that you had to work by yourself to supply. To give. I do not like that.”
She didn’t smile although she wanted to. He always made her feel the urge to smile even when bad thoughts crossed her mind. Especially this one... “I think I did pretty good on my own though. You already know what he tried to do when I grew older. He scared me. He would corner me against the wall with a small blanket on,” which she called a small blanket for him to understand what she meant. She didn’t think he would know what towels were. “And say rude things. Nasty things. And I would run at the first opportunity I got.”
“But he is dead,” if he wasn’t then he would be. He had it thought out before that he would go and find the man and kill him and none would be the wiser it was him. He did not care for human world laws. Especially ones that protected horrible creatures such as that man. He saw the stricken look on her face when he saw that look in his eyes. The dark kind that was readable. They could never hide their emotions.
“You wouldn’t, would you?” She had to ask. She wanted to know. “And don’t play dumb with me. You would actually consider something like that?”
She somehow read it on his face or from his eyes. It was easy to see the slightly illuminating eyes in the darkness. For the first time, he didn’t answer her question. Instead, he focused on something else, maneuvering himself to remove the slab hiding them, and peeked outside. There was nothing but claw marks, but there and no signs of the Nahgua, not even any sounds.
He leans the slab against the cave wall and slides out and rolls on the ground, ending up on his feet without making a sound. He turns and looks at her, “It seemed to have left for a while because the scent is faded. It went forward so we will have to be careful not to catch its attention. It could want to leave as much as we do.”
She pulls herself in a less stealthy way he did. He helps her, pulling her out by her arm so she could stand. Her feet were a little wobbly and sore, plus she only had one slipper but she convinced herself she would be fine.
“Come on, quietly,” he urged her to follow behind him. She did, whispering loudly, “You didn’t answer my question.”
He kept silent.
“Na'Kito,” she pouts. “You didn’t answer my question!”
She gave up asking again for the third time. Especially after he gave her a small grin. They continue forward and kept a close eye on the claw marks on the way.