The snow continued to fall outside, and the air became chillier. Kira changed Terra out of her thin onesie and replaced it with a thicker material. The infant was already asleep. It was easy to get her to sleep. All she needed was a tummy full of milk.
“Come on, big girl. Let’s take you to your room.”
She put her in her bassinet. Then, she straightened her dress and made sure that she was covered. If Vrox scrutinized her skin again, then Terra would be getting another sibling.
“We’re ready,” she whispered– partly because she didn’t want to wake up Terra, and partly because she felt suddenly shy. It was a ridiculous emotion. Vrox had been inside her, on her, around her, more times that she could count, but here she was feeling timid.
Vrox took the bassinet from her hands and led them to the bedroom. He picked up Terra with careful hands and placed her in her crib. He stroked his baby girl’s hair, and made sure she was belly up and not surrounded by any items, just like Kira and Nebula taught him. When he first learned about the threat of infant suffocation, he nearly suffocated himself.
When he looked away, he discovered that Kira joined Terra in dreamland. She was curled on the bed, and her bare feet were hanging off the edge. In this light, she looked as innocent as Terra.
He kneeled beside their bed, not daring to touch her and risk disrupting her peace. He couldn’t bring her back to the world, because when she was awake, she was living a nightmare. As much as he hated it, he was the reason she didn’t smile as much. His playful, sassy Terran was becoming detached. She used to dance around him. Now, she walked on eggshells.
He was split in two. He didn’t want to betray his ancestors or brothers, but he couldn’t stand what he was doing to Kira, either.
Kira or Ezron… his sun or his planet… which should he choose?
He scanned her body. It wasn’t the same anymore, he could see that. There was more to her– more weight, more designs. Was it normal that they only made him want her more? The woman was a warrior, her body tattooed with proof of her victories. No matter how much he sparred, how big his muscles got, he could never match her strength.
His fingertips flexed as they called for her. Before he could do anything stupid, he left and signaled for Draekon to look after his girls.
The snow fell furiously for 24 hours in fluffy, thick flakes that quickly accumulated. The temperature dropped dramatically, but Ezronians still walked around shirtless as if they were in a tropical paradise.
It took two weeks for the snow to melt completely. Kira and Nebula carried on as usual. They struggled with their morphine experiments, but refused to give up. Three weeks after the snowfall, the temperature returned to hellish degrees. Although Kira wasn’t a fan of the heat, she preferred it over the cold. It was harder for the men to hunt when the snow was piles high, and she had this irrational fear that someone would slip on ice and break their neck. As wonderful as motherhood was, it made her ten times more paranoid.
She only interacted with Vrox during the mornings and nights. When Vrox passed by, she forgot how to function. He wore his cape now, and the grey material flapped behind his muscular legs. His chest remained bare, but his shoulders were crowned by golden clasps that kept his cape in place. There was no mistaking who was the leader of the seventy people that now lived in The Ruins.
The distance between her and Vrox grew like a black hole, feeding on every passing day. With every flap of his cape, every longing look, they got further apart.
To distract herself from the growing ache in her chest, Kira looked after Terra and messed around with experiments.
“She looks so silly,” Nebula laughed.
The sun was shining brightly outside. To celebrate the end of the short winter, they filled their small pool with water. Terra was currently covered with a leafy skirt. The material was thin, so it didn’t irritate her skin. Kira and Nebula wore matching swimming suits. They wore bandeau tops, and their ridiculous leaf skirts. It took Nebula half the day to convince Kira to forget about her insecurities and slip into the pool.
She held Terra in her arms and gently washed her.
“I think she wears the swimsuit better than all of us,” Kira grinned.
“Here, let me hold miss Universe.”
Kira passed Terra to Nebula, accidentally knocking over a box of tools.
With a curse, she slipped out of the pool and chased down the wheels that rolled out of the room.
She stood straight and found Vrox standing with a group of men. Vrox looked so furious that he was probably hot to the touch. Reaching behind him, he ripped his cape off. Next thing she knew, she was covered from head to toe in the material, and thrown over a shoulder.
“We will continue this later,” she heard Vrox tell the men. “Akdronis, look after Nebula and Terra.”
She squirmed, trying to get fresh air. Thankfully, the trip to their bedroom was short.
“Why are you walking around in your undergarments?”
She pulled the cape off her head. Vrox was now hovering above her, his eyes liquid gold. Sensing that things were about to get ugly, she stood up. Her nature wouldn’t allow her to sit down and receive verbal blows when she had done nothing wrong.
“It’s called a bathing suit,” she said, gesturing to her leafy top. “Nebula and I were messing around with Terra in the pool. It was hot today.”
“Why did you walk outside?” he stepped forward. “Where every man could see you?” His veins were becoming starker against his arms, his jaw tighter.
“Because I dropped something.” She tried to push past him, but Vrox remained solid. He wasn’t done yet.
“You wish to go back outside looking like this?”
She hated that this was the lengthiest conversation they had in weeks.
She picked up his cape and tossed it around her shoulders. “Okay, fine. I’m covered. Can I go now, commander?”
She was just as frustrated as he was, because she missed the times where they laughed and teased each other. They were friends once. Now, they were practically strangers glued together by a daughter.
“Do not call me that.”
“Fine. I’m sorry.”
She slipped past him, but he clutched onto her robe and pulled her into his tantalizing domain. He clutched onto her tightly, nuzzled her hair, and whispered what he’d been holding back for weeks.
“I miss you so much, my Terran.”
“I miss you too."
He didn't tell her he was ready to listen.
She stepped away from his embrace. "I'll be more careful of my clothes, so please be more careful about your distance. That is... unless you're ready to hear my ideas?"
He stared at her painfully.
"We'll run the ideas by everyone so they can vote on them. I won't be dictating anything."
He only blinked. He wasn't ready to move on, and she was beginning to worry that he never would be.
Clearing her throat, she said, "Right. Well, in seven months, Terra will be nine months old. We can try for another pregnancy then.”
She pried herself away from him, clutched onto his cape, and practically ran back to Terra’s side. She needed to smile, and Terra was practically the only reason she smiled any more.