Christein gave Amadhay a knowing look when she stumbled into him, grabbing his shirt as the ziptrain bounced over a bit of rocky terrain. She was much too stable for the slight bouncing to knock her enough to force her to need to grab him. She was only doing it to grab onto him and with a smirk, he squeezed her hands before removing them from his shirt. She didn’t even pretend to be embarrassed or apologetic, instead beaming up at him before grabbing hold of the pole that was just to the side of him. She smiled winningly at the man standing beside him, but when Christein cut a look to the man, the human backed away and hurriedly moved to the more densely occupied part of the train, away from the two of them.
“You didn’t have to scare him off,” Amadhay pouted, taking the opportunity to spin around the pole at a slow pace. Now that the last human had distanced himself from them, the two of them were the only two on this compartment of the train. As the only two non-humans on the train this morning, he wasn’t surprised. Humans rarely bothered non-humans before sunset (and it was well before sunset), since those that did had a habit of dying or becoming enslaved in some form. No self-respecting aelfe, elf, or vampire would take a job that would force them to be awake at this ridiculous time, and having a job was the only logical reason for being out and about.
“He was annoying me,” Christein offered, stretching his arms up so that he could hold onto the poles hanging vertically, the ones normally used by Halfers or elves. He smirked to himself when he looked down at Amadhay, who was eyeing the high poles with disdain. She could barely reach it if she jumped, which he honestly wanted to see. He thought it would be hilarious.
“Well, maybe I liked him,” Amadhay tried. Christein rolled his eyes at her obvious ploy. The day she lowered her standards enough to look at a human was the day he and Nolando had a civilized conversation. She was only trying to make him jealous, which wasn’t going to happen because he didn’t care.
She was his cousin. His little cousin, practically his sister, so he didn’t care if she was interested in someone else. She was allowed to be interested in others, in fact it would make his life easier if she were. What had happened the previous night couldn’t happen again, not ever. It shouldn’t have happened the one time it had. He had been in an altered mentality because he was feeling bad about having to leave her for the Extraterrestrial Colonization mission. In fact, he still was. He felt bad for lying to her about it being a quick mission. He had no idea when he would be back, or if he would ever be back. It was dangerous to leave Resor, and worse to go with the mission he had.
To top it all, he felt even worse that he was taking Ben with him. He knew that Amadhay cared for the phantom nearly as much as she cared for him. If there was any one else he felt comfortable handing her over to, it was Ben. He knew that there was something between the two of them, something Ben had been trying to cultivate for a year now. Only, because she was so focused on him, she continuously misread the situation with Ben, which he found to be disturbing. It was obvious that she loved Ben in a way that she couldn’t love him.
But they were both going on this mission, and had no idea when they would be back or what might happen to her in the interim time. That scared him. The idea of her being left behind, without him or Ben to watch her back scared him out of his mind. With what she had told him about the Lord Palnoki, he was worried that the man would take advantage of that time to take her again. He knew, perhaps better than anyone, how vulnerable she was to anyone who knew her weak points. She had a lot, despite how strong and put together she tried to be. Him and Ben both leaving would only open a set of wounds she had never learned to truly deal with, the ones that had never healed.
“Helloooo,” Amadhay was saying, waving her hand in front of his face to get his attention. “Resor to Monkey, Mayday calling in,” she said jokingly.
He forced a smile. She had no idea how ironic it was that she was saying that. “What?” he asked, reminding himself to be nicer to her. This day was about making her happy before he left. It was his only goal, the most important goal he could have after failing at keeping her safe from himself last night.
“So you never explained why we need to get you a whole new wardrobe,” she stated, letting go of the pole. She allowed the turning of the train to knock her into him again and this time he didn’t try to push her away, instead choosing to put his arm over her shoulders.
“I’m not sure if you noticed, but between you and our missions, I’ve lost a lot of clothes this last month or so. I didn’t have that many to start with,” he explained, though he wasn’t being completely truthful. He still had clothes, enough that he wasn’t in a bind just yet. He didn’t, however, have the clothes he would need for his mission. He was supposed to act his age, even though he was to have an administrative job. The crew was expecting a 20-something aelfe lord, a spoiled and young aelfe up to modern standards. He rarely fit that description. His clothes definitely didn’t. All he owned were black slacks, steel-toed boots, trench coats, and button down dress shirts. He needed Amadhay to choose a younger looking, more modern wardrobe for him. Even if he would have trouble acting the part, he could at least dress it.
“Okay,” she said, nuzzling her head into his side. “But why do you need me? You buy the same clothes. All the time.”
“I’m trying to try something new,” he said, choosing his words carefully. If he wasn’t careful, she would realize that it was for his mission, which would make her curious. A curious Amadhay only ever led to trouble.
“New how?” she asked, moving back from him when he gave no reaction to her overindulgent touches. She reached behind her for the pole and leaned back against it.
“I thought I might dress my age,” he suggested. Her face lit up. “And I figured there was no better person to help me do that than the person who pays the most attention to men my age,” he teased her. She didn’t even seem to catch the slight censure to his words. She was almost ten years younger than him.
“Oh my—Are you going to be my My Mystery Escort doll?” she squealed excitedly, jumping up and down. Christein looked away from her, over to the crowds of humans who were now watching them warily.
“I wouldn’t go that far,” Christein said, shrugging off the feeling that they were being watched. They were, but it was just by curious humans. Nothing to worry about.
She pouted. “But I’d let you make me your My Secret Goddess doll,” she flirted, fluttering her eyelashes at him. She looked ridiculous.
He rolled his eyes. “I can assure you that I’m not interested in playing dress up with you,” he stated, before thinking he might have been a bit too harsh and smiled at her to soften his words. She didn’t even seem bothered.
“Shame. I’ve been told that I’m a fun doll.” He frowned when a strange expression flitted across her face. She covered it with a flirty smile, pushing herself forward with the pole. “So I get to choose whatever I’d like to see you in?”
“As long as it’s reasonable,” he corrected her. “I still need to be able to move in it. Nothing too tight or too heavy.”
“But everyone’s wearing tight pants now,” she whined. When he gave her a long look, she huffed. “Fine. I guess I’ll figure something out that won’t make you uncomfortable,” she grumbled, making him smile. He gently ran his hand over her hair, careful not to shift her hair from its symmetrical loose bun. She shivered under his touch, pressing up, into his hand. She gave a gentle purr before flushing, pulling back from him and glancing back at the humans.
“Oh, so now you’re playing shy?” he teased her, gently brushing the back of his hand against her cheek. She purred, rubbing against his hand before taking back control of her cat and pulling back from him with a whine.
“We’re in public,” she whispered, nervously playing with one of the curls loose on the side of her face.
Christein glanced over her head, to the humans who were pointedly not looking at the two of them. “I doubt the humans care very much,” he muttered, but pulled his hand back to his side, reminding himself not to touch her like that again. It was too intimate, especially with her reacting as sweetly as she did.
“I don’t care,” she muttered, avoiding eye contact as she stared at her feet. He followed her gaze down from her face, to her graphic shirt and brown cropped jacket, to her denim clad thighs and finally to her black, mid-calf boots. They had a wicked heel to them, making him wonder how she even walked in them. Can she run in those? He asked himself, before looking away from her and out of the window. The scenery was moving past quickly, going from the wooded lands of Hartin to the sandy desert separating Ha’s Region from Ridden. They only had about ten more clacks before they were in Ratigattan again. The last time they had been there together had been on the mission where Hynnkel had nearly killed him. He was honestly, feeling wary about going back to the city, but it had the best clothes district in all of Roadesia, and he had been given a generous allowance to buy a new wardrobe for this mission. He was certainly going to take advantage of it.
“So what caused your new interest in clothes?” Amadhay asked after a few clacks of silence on both their parts.
He glanced back to her, watching her for a moment as she looked the crowds of humans over. On the past three stops, they had gained a few brave humans who didn’t let the presence of the aelfe push them into the other, crowded compartments, so they were no longer alone and that made him much more aware of what he was saying.
“I was thinking of getting out more,” he lied, “Maybe weving with some.”
He felt bad the moment Amadhay’s face fell. He shouldn’t have said that, even if he had meant it, which he hadn’t. This was all about making Amadhay happy before leaving, not reminding her that they could never be together. That wasn’t necessary. He knew she would come to that realization on her own. She was a genius, after all.
“Oh,” was all she said, turning to face another teenager. She smiled widely at the girl, showing off her sharp canines. The human didn’t even seem fazed.
“Morning,” the blonde girl stated, giving Amadhay a flash of a smile before focusing back on her DS.
“Whatcha doing?” Amadhay asked curiously, moving around from pole to pole to stand beside the girl and look over her shoulder. The human didn’t flinch or try to hide the screen, instead tilting it down so that Amadhay could see as well.
“The RA is sending out a bunch of colonizers,” the other girl said, glancing at Amadhay. While Amadhay’s eyes were focused on the screen, the girl studied her. A small curve came to her lips and she shifted a little so that their shoulders were touching. Christein narrowed his eyes. “They’re headed out at 8 tonight, so they’re showing all the prep here.”
“Cool,” Amadhay said, sounding honestly intrigued. “Where are they going?”
“Who knows?” she shrugged. “They’re going further than before, so it’s all a bunch of question marks. I’m Stalia, by the way.”
Amadhay fluttered her eyes. “Amadhay,” she responded with a coy smile. Christein held himself from pulling her back to him. Amadhay glanced at him with a smirk. “And that’s my cousin, Chris,” she said, gesturing to him.
He knew what she was doing. She was trying to make him jealous, trying to force him to decide that their blood relation didn’t matter. It did, though. It mattered a lot. Besides, she couldn’t make him jealous, he tried to assure himself. Beyond the fact that he didn’t care, he knew for a fact that she was neither into humans nor into girls.
“Hello, Cousin Chris,” Stalia said, glancing at him before turning her attention back to Amadhay. “So what are you doing up so early? I thought aelfe slept in til noon.”
Amadhay shrugged. “Different aelfe, just like different humans. I’m a cat, so I catnap all day,” she lied through her teeth. Christein tried not to laugh at the human’s gullible expression. It was so easy to convince humans of all sorts of strange things. “So why are you so interested in the colonizing?” she asked, taking the teenager’s attention away from what they were doing there. Christein wondered if she even noticed she had done that, or if it was second nature to her to be secretive.
“My brother’s one of them,” Stalia said, swiping her fingers over the screen of her DS. “See? That’s the crew.”
Christein aborted a jerk forward. He wasn’t in any crew picture. Arne Riff had personally demanded that information of him and Ben going on the trip be classified. Arne Riff always got his way. He might need to end their conversation soon, though. Too much information might make Amadhay able to piece it together. The last thing he wanted was for her to realize that his mission was on the interplanetary colonization ship. He didn’t want her to mope around or otherwise be sneaky and try to join them.
“Wow. It looks all human,” Amadhay stated, squinting her eyes at the screen. “No animal-kind?”
“Some, but mostly Logicals. Too dangerous to go out in space with a Natural, right?”
Amadhay laughed. “I dunno. Out in space, the sun doesn’t exactly rise and fall, does it?”
“I don’t think anyone’s tried it out before,” Stalia said drily. “They like the other people too much. And, ya know, morals.”
“Morals shmorals,” Amadhay joked. “But is that all? Animal-kind and humans? What if they run into hostiles?”
Stalia rolled her eyes. “They’re all very capable of taking care of themselves. They don’t need any aelfe to protect them.”
Amadhay snorted. “Not aelfe. No aelfe in their right mind would jump on a spaceship. Too closed in.”
“Well, maybe you should tell that to the noble who’s going with them.”
“What?” Amadhay asked, looking curiously at Stalia. Christein moved forward, but didn’t intervene, knowing that if he did, that she would be twice as suspicious.
“Yeah, some spoiled aelfe lord is going with them. Apparently his dad pulled strings and got him and a friend on.”
“Why?” Amadhay asked, looking bemused.
“Who knows,” the blonde responded with a shrug. “Alls I know is that the crew aren’t too happy about it. They’re gonna have to wait on him instead of doing their jobs. Lame, right?”
“Super lame,” Amadhay agreed softly, her eyes flickering over to Christein. When she smiled at him, not looking suspicious, he relaxed. She didn’t suspect yet.