Please do not review this story until the middle or end.
She settled down next to Nebula, smiling when she offered her fruit. “Thank you.”
“Are you okay?” Nebula replied in English.
“He means well. We’ll get over this.”
The guys started their own conversation to neglect the awkwardness that was creeping in.
“You should sleep. It’s been an insane day.”
“Yeah, you too.”
After pulling her sandals off, Kira rolled on her side. She faced away from the fire but felt its warm presence on her back. Vee got comfortable against her legs, and she rubbed his coat to distract herself from the pebbles that irritated her legs. She zoned out and entertained memories of her argument with Vrox until she blacked out.
It was the presence of male hands that woke her up. The sky was now lit with the hints of sun, and the fire had exhausted.
Wordlessly, Vrox pulled her off the dirt and atop his chest. Her groggy eyes scanned the camp. Vrox’s return seemed to have awakened the other men. They rose and began going about the day. Ni’ev was missing, and she figured he had relieved Ak of patrolling duty.
“Where did you go?” she whispered, nuzzling her cheek against his chest.
She sighed, her exhaustion making her feel heavier than usual. “We should get going,” she mumbled but found no strength to follow her suggestion.
“You should have not slept on the ground.”
“It wasn’t so bad. How are you?”
He rearranged them so she was sitting on his lap, dropping a hand to her belly. “I am well,” he answered as he watched his brothers erase all evidence that they had camped there. “I was thinking...”
She nodded, urging him on.
“Earlier, you said that education has never hurt anyone. I disagree. Education gives confidence. It fuels people to start revolutions, to put themselves out there and risk getting hurt. I fear that if I teach you about war, then you will charge into battle to fight beside us. I want you ignorant because ignorance inspires retreat. I want you to run as fast as you can from danger, not toward it.”
She blinked, stunned by the selflessness of his thoughts. Somehow, they made her fall deeper for him.
“I understand,” she murmured. “I do, but you need to trust that I will make the right judgment call. I recognize that I’m not a warrior, so I would never try to be the hero. I would never try to endanger what we have in here,” she paused to press his hand deeper into her stomach. “I know you don’t want to think about it, but the day may come that I get separated from everyone else. What will I do if I run into an animal or a man that wishes me harm?”
“I will not let it happen,” he gritted.
“I know you’ll try your best, but the Universe has ripped me from my home once, and it may do it again.”
He embraced her, trying to absorb her to protect her from all harm.
“I’m really sorry for stressing you out while you’re not feeling well,” she added, massaging her fingers into his hair.
“Do not be. You are not a child or an object. Your voice matters.” He stopped to groan. “I will listen to your demands and I will reconsider. What is it that you want me to teach you?”
A smile nearly tore her face apart. “Well, I can’t lift your swords, so... I want you to teach me how to use a dagger. We can remain seated at all times, so there’s no risk of me falling.”
He nodded. “Continue.”
“I would need to learn how to maneuver it and what areas of the body to attack.”
He lowered his head, eyes loyal to uncertainty. “Do you promise to only use your learnings for self-defense? That you will never run into a fight?”
He swallowed the unhinged part of him that wanted to smolder this conversation, throw her over his shoulder, and hide her in the nearest cave. Biology declared that males and females didn’t have the same strengths, but psychology didn’t discriminate. Although Kira wasn’t designed to survive in this wilderness, her mind knew no boundaries. Her strength couldn’t be identified by the naked eye, but it was there.
He hesitated before nodding. “You gave me a precious seedling, so I can at least give you my trust.”
Her smile widened, and she looked so stunning that he almost forgot the rest of his thoughts.
“We will start lessons when we reach The Ruins, but there will be no standing for you. We must be careful, yes?”
"Yeah,” she agreed.
“Please, Kira, your safety is important. I would follow my father to death if you–”
“That brings up our next topic,” she interjected. “Vrox, you need to stop being so hard on yourself. I didn’t stumble because you pushed me to the ground. It was an accident.”
“I should have not stopped walking in front of you. It is my fault for allowing frustration to get in the way of common sense.”
“No, its not.” She sighed. "There is a lot we have to figure out still. These conversations will keep surfacing but I'm sure we'll figure it out."
She stared into the distance. "I wonder what's happening on Earth."
"Do you miss it?"
"A bit. I'm lucky that I still have my memories. Um..."
"Go on, you can tell me anything," he encouraged.
"Your culture is beautiful, but whenever I think of an invention, I feel guilty. I don't want to be disrespectful by wiping away your architect and your ways of life. At the same time, engineering is my life. Without it, I'm just a body that births babies. I have no higher purpose."
"Stop," Vrox interjected. "I would never ask you to stop creating your curious things. They make you happy, and they enrich Ezron. You are not wiping, you are adding more color to our planet."
"What if others see it differently?"
Vrox sighed. "The old Ezron is dead. We will have to rebuilt whether we like it or not, and it would be unfair for us to ask you to save us by birthing children while forgetting all about your culture."
She pressed herself deeper against him. "Have your brothers ever showed annoyance when I try to modify things?"
He chuckled. "No. They are curious and excited about your ways. I wish you were more boring so I could keep you all to myself. Ask, test, explore, and create all you want, my Terran." He kissed the top of her head. "Paint this dead world with your magic."
She smiled. "I would kiss you if I wasn't nauseous right now."
"Is it normal for Terrans to throw their food out?”
She crooked her head. “Well, yeah. It’s how our bodies get rid of toxins. Sometimes when something gets caught in our windpipes, we throw up, too. It’s an evolutionary mechanism. What do Ezronians do when they consume something poisonous?”
He shrugged. “We sweat profusely. We do not regurgitate our food. That is strange.”
She chuckled. “You’re strange too, buddy.”
He tipped his head back to examine the sky. “We will have to get going soon. Did you rest?”
“A bit. I’ll be okay.”
“We will reach our home soon. Just bear with it for two more suns.”
The idea of having a home again sounded heavenly. She missed being surrounded by walls and seeing Kyros inspire frowns on his brother’s faces.
Just two more days.