Amadhay jolted awake, gasping for breath even as she cried out in a strangled choke. “Ri—” she caught herself before she said the full name, sitting up and clutching her throat where she still had the scar from her fight with Ribbon. Still disoriented from her dream, she looked around, frightened of every shadow until her rationality caught up with her and she remembered where she was. She was in her house. In her room. In her bed. There was no canopy to her bed, no chandelier-like overhanging. There was no one there but herself.
Curling up in her bed, she roughly pressed her palms to her eyes, trying to convince herself that she was trying to rub sleep out, not keep herself from crying. Rubbing her scar once more, she took four evenly deep breaths to calm herself. She stared at the pine trees on the mosaic of her walls, focusing on them rather than the snow, beach, or sunset tiles. She chose not to focus on the cat the mosaic formed, a reminder of Indigo, feeling not for the first time that it looked too much like Mayday. She didn’t want to think about anything Palnokian. Not Ribbon, not Mayday, and certainly not Atlas.
It’s fine. I’m here. I’m in my house. Atlas is far away. Ribbon is dead. No one is going to hurt me. No one else is here. Just as she thought that, she heard movement downstairs. She tilted her head, her ear twitching as she listened harder. There it was, the sound of a stool’s legs scraping against the kitchen floor, the only floor (besides that in the bathroom and considering she doesn’t have chairs in the bathroom, she was going to say it was a pretty decent guess that the intruder wasn’t in there) that wouldn’t make a muffled sound from the carpet. Thinking that the intruder was probably Atlas or one of his, and determined not to be weak any longer, Amadhay pulled the switchblade from underneath her pillow. Moving nearly silently, as the cat of her aelfe was wont to do, Amadhay crept down the stairs.
Ruffling and shuffling came from the kitchen and Amadhay stayed silent, moving slower now that she was close. Her Gift would have been good to use right then, but she recognized that if the intruder were Sha’adahk, Tenshu, Atlas, or Ribbon, that it probably would do her better to be slow and unrecognized. Her breathing slowed to an almost even and calm pattern. Four clicks in, four clicks held, four clicks out. She stood just out of the kitchen, to the side of the doorway where she could see in but not be seen by whomever was in there.
Fingering the blade open, Amadhay narrowed her eyes against the dark. The cat of her aelfe gave her strong night vision, but not infallible. It was too dark in there for her to see very well. The figure was moving slowly through the dark, large enough to either have to be a man or a large female. She stuck the tip of her tongue out of the corner of her mouth as she steadied her hand. Thinking on it for a long click, she couldn’t think of anyone she would want in her house who would be there, rummaging around in the dark. It wasn’t an Arachin or a large Feral, which left her with a good number of enemies who could wish her harm.
Or worse, she realized. It could be Atlas.
That thought had her wrist flicking to send the knife into the room before she could draw another breath. Atlas had no room in her home, not now and not ever. He wanted to hurt her Benjy and Monkey. He—
Monkey! Christein had been in her house when she had gone to sleep. He had gone to bed with her. He would go through the house without the lights on because he had a strange aversion to false lighting. She had just thrown her blade at Christein. By the time she had fully realized that and moved to catch the blade, she could see it glinting in the dark but not moving.
She switched the light on to see her cousin holding the blade with one hand, his back still to her as he fixed a sandwich. He used the blade to cut his sandwich before glancing back at her, where she was still standing in the doorway, surprised but pleased. She hadn’t hurt him. He was still there.
“How rude,” he teased, smirking at her “And after all I do for you.”
She smiled at him, running across the room to jump at him with a hug. He grunted when she slammed into him, taking a bite of his sandwich before hugging her back. “I thought you’d left,” she muttered into his shirt, only now noting that he was fully dressed in his button down shirt, pants, and shoes. He had been leaving, and without saying goodbye.
He shrugged, choosing to eat his sandwich rather than say anything to her. She waited him out. Once he was done with the sandwich, he extricated himself from her arms and washed the plate and knife he had used, dried them, and then put them back in their places, all silently.
“Monkey, please say something,” she pleaded, following after him as he left the kitchen and headed toward the living room.
“Like what?” he asked, gathering up his bag from her couch.
“Something, anything. I don’t like the silent treatment.” She pulled at his hand, stopping him in his tracks as he gave a sigh and looked down at her.
“Mayday…” he said softly, before kissing the top of her head. She purred softly, holding the front of his shirt and inhaling his scent of mint chocolate. She sighed happily, inhaling again. She felt his chest vibrate when he chuckled. “What? Are you getting high off of me?” his tone sounded falsely amused, and Amadhay looked up at him, wondering.
“All the time,” she teased, making him look away and remove her hands from his shirt.
“I have to go,” he stated, backing up from her a step.
“Monkey?” she called when he turned from her. Slowly, definitely reluctantly, he turned back to her. “Did I do something wrong?” she asked, frowning.
A flash of something crossed his face before she could decipher it, but then she wasn’t interested in the look because Christein was right in front of her again, pressing her back into the arm of the couch with his body. She took a deep breath when he brushed her hair from her face, making her incredibly aware that her hair was loose and undoubtedly asymmetrical. She probably looked hideous.
“Did you enjoy last night?” he whispered into her ear, leaning down into her.
Pushing away her disgust of her own asymmetrical state, she forced a smile, nodding slowly. “Of course,” she told him, hoping he didn’t notice the waver in her voice. She had enjoyed being with him, even if it had felt so strange to finally get what she had wanted for so long.
“It won’t be happening again,” he told her bluntly, moving back from her.
The stubborn look on his face told her that she wasn’t going to make any headway if she argued right then, so she didn’t. Honestly, she had seen that coming. After all she’d had to do and say to convince him to love her the way she wanted, she’d known there was no way it was going to be as simple as getting him one night to make him stay with her. This was going to be a long battle. A long battle centered in her will and his wavering decision.
“I know,” she said lightly, smiling at him. She knew it looked like a forced smile, but she couldn’t convince her face to make it more realistic.
His smirk didn’t look forced when he moved back to her, hooking his arm around her waist and pulling her back to him. “I’m feeling up for some fun though.”
Amadhay frowned. “But you just said—”
Christein laughed at her, pulling her with him to the stairs. “Not that kind of fun. I really just need your help, so go get dressed.”