September 4, 2015 by Lyn
And I want (Take me)
And I need (Tame me)
And I lust (Make me)
Animal (Your Animal)
By Sunday evening, Kailani was deathly sick of chicken broth, even if Conrad had floated little purple chive flowers in the last bowl. She was feeling, if not her normal self, at least not completely enervated, and she was sick of lying in bed. Even doing homework had lost its charm; she’d gotten bored enough to read Conrad’s homework as well, and nearly bored enough to do it for him.
He wasn’t faring much better; even she could tell that. He’d been pacing back and forth between the living room and his bedroom since noon. He wanted to do something. He wanted, she thought, to hurt whoever had hurt her. Since they didn’t know who that was, and since he’d told her he’d stay by her side, he was stuck here as much as she was, pacing. Champing at the bit.
She giggled at him as he came in, again, carrying some cookies this time. He and Mabina-and-Cassidy had been baking.
“What?” he asked, setting down the plate full of cookies on her lap and offering her a glass of milk.
“Champing at the bit,” she explained, still giggling. It wasn’t all that funny, the image of him in a halter like her favorite gelding (which he certainly wasn’t!), but she couldn’t seem to stop laughing.
“Are you having a relapse?” He checked her forehead with the back of his hand, grimacing. “You’re not feverish. But I don’t know what your symptoms ought to be, either.”
She calmed herself down with effort. “I’m okay,” she reassured him. “That is, I’m not getting worse. I just had a funny thought.”
“I thought you might have.” He smiled gently at her and sat down on the edge of the bed, stealing a cookie from her plate to nibble on. “Care to share?”
“Um…” It didn’t seem all that funny when she contemplated how to explain it. “You didn’t like the wood shavings comment,” she temporized.
“Wood shavings? Oh.” He kissed the top of her earlobe. Her very human earlobe, not pretty and pointed like Mabina-and-Cassidy’s. “It came out of nowhere, that’s all. I’m getting the feeling you dealt with animals a lot more than you did with people, back home?”
“Yeah,” she muttered. “Animals are easier to understand.”
“It’s not that bad of a place to start, especially when you’re dealing with Ellehemaei.” He held up his tail, smiling a little bit at her. “And if it helps you figure things out, that’s okay.”
“Okay,” she echoed.
“As long as you’re the sort of person who lets their pets sleep on the bed with them,” he added. “I don’t like sleeping on the floor that much.”
“Oh! Oh, of course. It’s your bed, anyway.” She grabbed a cookie, just to divert her attention for a minute. It was delicious, warm and gooey. She couldn’t bring herself to be surprised that the fairy godparents made good cookies.
“So, I’m champing at the bit, am I?”
“You kind of seemed that way. Impatient. Ready to be doing something else.” She smiled shyly at him, glad he seemed to understand. “It was a funny image, that’s all.”
“Image? Oh!” His face turned purple and he studied his cookie as if it were really, really interesting, his tail curling between his ankles. “Let’s, ah, save that for advanced lessons in dealing with people, okay?”
“Save what?” She blinked at him, wondering what he’d thought she was talking about. Could he really… he was looking even more intently at his cookie, making a tiny little noise, almost a whimper. “Oh, oh god.” She looked back at the plate of cookies. “Really?”
He coughed uncomfortably, but she couldn’t help asking. “People really do that?”
“You could ask-” he coughed. “Well, I guess you could. Ask Ivette. She could probably explain better than I could.”
“I could ask the Thorne Girls.” She was already paying the Thorne Girls for their information, after all.
“Oh, god, no!” He shook his head, his ponytail thumping on his back. “Please, no. Ask Ivette. She’ll answer just to watch me squirm.”
“Okay…” She ate another cookie. “These are really good, thank you.”
“You’re welcome. They’re not too rich for you?”
“I’m not sick, you know.” She wrinkled her nose at him. “I’m just… enervated. Drained. The doctor said to eat, remember?”
He flopped a little bit, his tail going limp. “I know. I’m just worried. I don’t know what to do to help, and I hate that.”
She tugged the ponytail holders out of his hair and ran her fingers through the resultant poof. “I don’t think there’s much you can do. Someone stole my energy, and I just have to rebuild it. I’m feeling better already, so it’s working.”
“Good.” He leaned into her grooming. “That feels really nice.”
“It should.” She kept it up. “You have nice hair for this, too. It smells wonderful.”
“Thanks.” She watched the tension in his shoulders slowly release, and grabbed his hairbrush off the nightstand to really go to work. “You must have been really great with animals.”
“I was. “ She shrugged uncomfortably. “They don’t lie. And they’re not offended it you say the wrong thing. And they’re good at what they’re good at, and it’s okay that you’re good at what you’re good at.” She swallowed. “I didn’t mean to say all of that.”
“I have that effect on people.” He tried to shrug forward, but her hands in his hair pulled him up short. He went still and tense. “I could try not to, if you’d like.”
She tugged on his hair, pulling him back towards her. “As long as it’s just between you and I, I think it’s okay. You’re not…” She fell quiet as she noticed the small noise he’d made, a kind of swallowed whimper, and the curve of his spine as he arched towards her. She let go of hair hurriedly and began brushing him again, taking exaggerated care with each stroke.
“Not?” he asked.
“Not?” She traced the conversation back. “Not judging me. I mean, I don’t know if you’re judging me or not, but you don’t act like people do around me. You don’t laugh at me.”
“Well… no, Kaia. I like you for who you are.”
“Oh.” She blinked. “Why? I mean…” She shook her head. “That’s the bond, isn’t it?”
“No, Kaia,” he laughed. “That’s why I was willing to get into this at all.”
“Now you’re laughing at me.” She brushed a little more forcefully than was necessary.
“Sorry… I know, you’re still learning.”
“I’m not used to that, to things being hard to learn.” She calmed down, smoothing his hair with her hands and starting to pull it back into a ponytail. “I guess I should be. I’ve never been able to figure out social interactions. I don’t understand why you and the crew like me anymore than I could understand why people in school didn’t like me. It doesn’t seem to follow any consistent pattern.”
He twisted to look at her, his ponytail pulling out of her hands. “People aren’t consistent, Kaia. Not even to themselves, and certainly not between different groups.”
“They should be,” she complained. “Animals are!” She swallowed hard, and tried to remember not to shout. “All of the rest of nature is.” She sniffled, embarrassed to realize she was crying again. “Darn it, I just want things to make sense.”
He pulled her close to his chest, running his hands over her hair much like she’d been doing to him. “It’s okay, Kaya. You’re doing fine.” He cuddled her like she was a child, or a sick animal. “It’s okay.”
His hands on her, his warmth and compassion, released whatever hold she’d had on her tears. She cried into his shirt, sobs shaking her. “I… I…” She couldn’t stop, so she tried to pull away, but he just held her closer. He was strong, surprisingly strong. “I’m sorry,” she whimpered.
“Shhh.” He kissed the top of her head. “There’s no need to be sorry. You’ve had a really rough weekend.”
“Yeah,” she sighed, going limp against him. “At least, the second half of it was kind of hard. But that’s no reason to be getting sniffly all over you.”
“Hey, if you can’t get sniffly all over me, who can you cry on?” He supported her, gently, like she weighed nothing.
“Won’t ‘Bina yell at me?”
“For having a bad day? No, honey, of course not. Everyone has bad days.”
“Okay.” She didn’t know if he was right, but he understood his friends better than she did. There had to be a reason crying was okay and yelling wasn’t.
“Just relax, honey.” He rubbed her back in small circles. The simple assurance of being held, of acceptance, was more comforting than she’d imagined touch could be. It was like she’d imagined having a father would be, warm and protecting and understanding.
She pulled back, or tried to, but she was cocooned in his arms. It was her job to protect him. That’s what she’d agreed to.
“Calm down, Kai, it’s okay.”
He wasn’t going to let her go unless she commanded him directly, and she didn’t want to do that. He wanted to take care of her. She understood that much. He didn’t seem to understand or accept that that wasn’t his job, and he probably wouldn’t like it if she tried to tell him that.
She could distract him, though, and, at the same time, get out of this bed and feel a little better. “Conrad? I want to go outside.”
His whole body went still.