The team regrouped in the room they slept in. As Ak patrolled outside, everyone ate lunch.
“What did you decide? Are the walls stable?” Draekon asked.
“Yes,” Kira delivered. “The first level is. I need to look into the rest.”
“You can continue the search tomorrow. There is much to do today. I will go hunting with Ni’ev and Ak. We need furs and meat,” Vrox added.
“I can help with the skinning when you return,” Kira offered. “I can stomach it. I promise.”
Vrox frowned. “Are you positive? There will be a lot of blood. You have never skinned before.”
“Yeah, but I saw Kyros...”
Her face fell.
Oh, how she missed that alien. His remarks, his white smile that contrasted his dark skin. His absence left an aching hole behind that only his rumbling chuckle could fill.
“Very well,” Vrox swallowed, pushing thoughts of his brother away. There was nothing they could do for him but pray to the fates for mercy.
“Um... we need the salt to dry the furs. Do you think you can find some?”
Vrox nodded. “I will search for that as well.”
“I will get wood for the bed frames and fire,” Rokan said.
“I’ll come with you,” declared Nebula.
Rokan shrugged. “You may come, but you must make sure that Akdronis does not see us leaving together. He will not like it.”
Nebula puffed as if frustrated by the mere mention of the overbearing male.
“I will go feed the animals,” Draekon offered, standing up and wiping his hands on his loincloth.
“Does that include Ak?”
The group chuckled and started cleaning up. Kira looked at the specks of meat that remained on her leaf-plate. This was a humble life indeed, and they had a long way to go, but she would walk through fire for her family.
– • –
That afternoon, everyone fulfilled their assigned jobs. When Vrox, Ak, and Ni’ev delivered three enormous, toothy, furry things, Kira squared her shoulders and secured a huge leaf around the front of her dress to protect it from blood.
Vrox stayed by her side, monitoring her progress. By the time they were done, her fingers felt numb.
“You did good,” Vrox praised. “Let us salt and hang them. We will finish tomorrow.”
She nodded and grabbed two of the pink salt rocks. She rubbed them against eachother, raining the particles atop the skin. It would take a lot of sunlight to cure the inside, so they’d have to spend another night sleeping on the dirt.
“That is enough. Let those furs there. Draekon will hang them.”
With a sigh, she stood up and stretched her arms. A lot of meat remained from the animals, but the guys ate so much that nothing would go to waste.
Unlatching her leaf-apron, she stood up and began walking to the steps of the pyramid. Vrox picked up the two buckets he had salvaged and followed her.
“Go to the main room.”
She followed his instructions, not questioning him.
The main room was still flooded. Before stepping inside, Kira undid her sandals and left them at the entrance. Vrox, who never wore shoes, entered and placed the two buckets down.
“What are we doing here? Are we going to scrub the walls clean?”
“No. You need a bath, little Terran,” Vrox said as he reached for the knot on her top right shoulder.
“Are you saying I smell? That’s rude,” she grinned.
“You do smell, yes. It has been days since your last bath.”
“I’m sorry that I don’t have your pores. You guys barely sweat. It’s unfair.” The only body fluid you have in abundance is semen.
Vrox reached for the next knot and kept going until she was naked against the wall. When her belly was released, he grinned with satisfaction and ate the sight up. She approaching one month now, and she showed more every day.
“I have missed seeing you bare.”
She laughed, reaching to cup her breasts. “You’re a hornball.”
Vrox didn’t understand the word, but he had an idea of what it meant.
“Not because of mating. I missed the sight of your swelling.”
His eyes returned to her stomach, and his fingers began to caress the vessel of Ezron’s hope.
“I have missed you, seedling,” he smiled. “I apologize for not addressing you earlier. I have been busy. The past few days have been long. There has been pain, loss, and fear, but I keep walking for you. Your mother and uncles have been working hard, too. We want to prepare our home for your arrival.”
He was unashamed of his love. The fetus had no capacity to understand his words, but it didn’t matter to Vrox. He was the father of the clumps of life in Kira’s womb, and his love did not respect reason.
Kira let him caress her belly, keeping her arms by her side. Part of her felt like she was intruding, as absurd as the feeling was. She knew that Vrox loved her, but he had a different kind of love for their baby.
With her heartbeat screaming in the language of joy, she stayed still and allowed the male to bond with his unborn child.
“I will address you more often. You have my word. This will please you, yes?”
No answer came. Not yet, anyway, but Kira wouldn’t spoil the surprise that would come in a few months. She wanted Vrox to experience the shock of feeling his child kicking his palm.
“I must get back to your mother now.”
He raised his hands to her braid, his handsome face now curved with a smile.
“Look at all this dust in your braid,” he said, shaking the hair loose. “You must... why are you smirking at me, female?”
“Because you just earned yourself a good dick-sucking session."
“A what?” he replied, unable to understand the English words.
“Nothing. Let’s get clean.”
She reached for the buckets that were already soapy, but Vrox was quick to pull her away.
“What did I tell you about–”
Deeping her voice, she mocked, “what did I tell you about bending down? Mothers, Kira, you do not listen. You are wild like a squar. Why must you give me such a hard–”
Her mocking was pieced with a gasp when Vrox pinched her ass.
“It is my right to take care of you. You will not take it from me.”
She playfully raised her arms. ”Okay, mom. Scrub away.”
“I still do not understand why you call me a mother. You Terrans often make little sense. What was it that I heard Nebula say the other day? Oh yes, ‘well, slap me silly.’ Why would she want one of us to commit assault?”
He kneeled in front of her and began to scrub her legs.
“You should ask her. She will explain.”
“What if she asks me to injure her and gets upset when I reject her? Akdronis will demand my head if I make her eyes drip.”
She laughed. “She won’t that. You take us too literally.”
He shrugged and focused on her skin. He paid special attention to her stomach, scrubbing it thoroughly as if it was the most important part of the task.
She had to wash her own hair, Vrox’s nails being too long to offer much help. When she was fully lathered, Vrox used the bucket of water to rinse her.
“There. You no longer smell like death.”
She crossed her arms. “You know what? I think I’ll go find an alien that appreciates all of my smells.”
Vrox snatched her, bringing her back to his front and keeping her there by wrapping his arms around her.
“No need for that. This alien appreciates you.”
He kissed her naked shoulder and resumed caressing her belly. Kira closed her eyes, lost within the serenity, not noticing that they had begun to sway to the beat of peace.
“What are you writing?” she asked when she noticed that his fingers were repeating a pattern on her stomach.
“Gift of the fates,” Vrox answered.