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Colliding Worlds

Discussion in 'Mixed-genre & Uncategorized' started by Silence, May 28, 2017.

  1. aryamajor

    aryamajor Curious Adventurer Benefactor

    Ehud was a gracious host at least and insisted that she stay in Sien's room while they slept in his room together. Using the wall as a brace, she slid her hand down the hallway and followed the two men, one little and one big, to the bedrooms in the back. When he explained about Sien still learning the manners of a household, she chuckled. "Ah, yes. Something Calysta is still trying to teach Cypher too. I'm used to locking the doors if I don't want any little visitors at this point," she replied, "Thank you for the advance warning though." He smiled at her a little then went to go get another ice pack along with an extra pillow and blanket, for which she was grateful. Once he seemed her set for the night, he announced he would be available if she needed anything then left without any lingering looks.

    Priscilla laid down on Sien's bed with a small sigh and used the pillow to prop her ankle up, which had gained some girth again at walking down the hallway. The boys bed was a little smaller then hers at home there was plenty of room for her to wrap the blanket around herself for sleeping. Normally, she would have taken off her bra and skirt before diving into the bed to sleep, but this time she remained fully clothed. All she she felt proper in doing was pulling her hair down from it's shaggy bun and then unlacing her shoes to leave them neatly beside the bed. Laying back on the pillows, Priscilla stared up at the ceiling and sighed to herself against the dull throbbing in her leg. What was wrong with her? She wanted to reach out and get to know Ehud more, but she felt like she couldn't ask him things really. They were dating...sort of...shouldn't she be able to ask? There were some things she knew. He was a work-aholic with a dry since of humor and a lack for details sometimes. His mannerisms with his son and herself often reflected his work. She knew for as shy as he was, he was a bit of a trouble maker on occasion. He hadn't asked very much about her either. What did he really know about her? She was a widow and a Terran. She liked fried chicken and had a penchant for falling in holes. Hadn't she tried? Or maybe she was hurting and missing Harry. His response would have been different from Ehud's altogether. He would have joked about her lightly, and made her laugh a little about it. How could she even think to be looking at someone else?

    It wasn't really fair to be comparing Ehud to Harry though, and she knew it. She and Ehud weren't that close. They were hardly what she would call boyfriend girlfriend at this stage and here she was staying in his house somehow feeling more lonely now than when she started. For a brief moment, she almost wished she was at Illya and Calysta's. There she would have heard Thomas snoring a bit through the wall, Cypher's feet pattering to the bathroom before the toilet flushing, Lohgan's giggle in the night and occasionally the twins cooing. Sometimes a brief note of love making could be heard upstairs if the flytr bugs weren't chirping and she happened to be on the second floor. Here in Ehud's house it was quiet and a bit chilly, making her wrap up further in the blanket, and she felt a bit like she wasn't supposed to be there at all. It was kind of them to let her stay the night at least and he had tried to take care of her in some way. The chicken had been a nice too, reminding her a bit of home that she hadn't had in a long time.

    For the rest of the night, Priscilla tossed and turned unable to find a comfortable spot while the distinct longing for Harry settled in deep. She was awake when she heard the shuffling of feet down the hall. First it was Sien because the footsteps were softer, and they were shortly followed by heavier thumps. A light filtered in from the hallway through the bottom of the door revealing passing feet as shadows. The sounds were accompanied by the smell of food cooking, which she assumed was her cue to start gathering herself. Priscilla, pulled her significantly less puffy ankle from the bed first and inspected it. There was definitely some blackened bruising around her foot but it wasn't nearly as swollen which was a good sign. Lacing up her shoes, she managed to comb her fingers through her hair, setting her light blonde hair down her shoulders in soft waves. Her make up was all but gone and she probably looked bleary eyed from lack of sleep. Wouldn't she be a lovely sight? Resolving to fix herself, she grabbed the bed post and hauled herself up, testing her foot tentatively before adding a little bit of pressure. "Youch," she grimaced. It was still nice and tender with the added bonus of being stiff from the previous night. She was going to have to get up and move though.

    A knock sounded at the door and she whipped around, a sense of dread striking her. She really didn't want him to see her with clothes wrinkled and make up smeared half from sleep and half from a bout of tears in the night. Sure, he had seen her covered in dirt from the fall, but this was different. "I...I will be out in a minute...thank you!" she called through the door. That answer seemed to satisfy him because she saw his feet moving away from the light filtering through the bottom. Relieved to find him gone, she hobbled over to the door and unlocked it before making a lurching dash for the bathroom.

    The mirror revealed that she did look exactly as she though. A nice wreck. Leaving all of her weight on her good foot, she washed her face and combed through her hair a bit more before straightening her clothes. That made her look more presentable, and she deemed herself ready to make her way into the kitchen where food was waiting. If it was one thing she could say, was that Sien looked very much like his father in the matching pajamas and his blond hair sticking in all directions. Priscilla's eyes traveled from Sien to Ehud who was putting plates on the table and she couldn't help the sight of the two of them looking so similar in their pajama's. Some of the gloom from the night before lifted almost automatically. Ehud was actually very handsome standing there in the morning light coming through the window. "Good morning," she said with a gentle smile toward the boy. He grinned and grabbed a seat at the kitchen table, pulling it out with great effort for her to sit in. "We made breakfast!"

    "Well, thank you." Stepping over to the offered chair, she settled into it and looked at the plates, "This looks wonderful. It's even smiling at me." The pancakes were each given a smile with egg eyes and a little cream grin. They ate in the quiet and she had to admit that the food was excellent. Ehud really could cook well and it seemed to be a natural sort of skill unlike with Calysta who occasionally ran aground of not knowing things about what she was cooking. "You've impressed me again," she told him honestly, "I haven't had good Terran food in so long. There's a diner on Kinte, but it just doesn't compare."

    With breakfast done, they sat around and Sien told her all about how Mickey Martian survived the pirates. "Sounds like he had a close one there but he saved the day in the end, huh? You know there was a hero on my planet like that. They called him Superman and he could fly...he would stand in the sun with his cape blowing in the breeze. He saved the world with his strength. He was strong like your father." After that, Sien had to know all about Superman and she told him until the morning inched toward early afternoon. She talked and chatted along until she knew that Ehud probably had things to do that didn't involve entertaining her. Despite that she felt like she didn't want to go just yet. Things had grown more comfortable with him now that he stopped following Illya's dating advice. The inevitable silence fell between them, and she nodded. "I suppose I should go," she said finally, "I could probably walk a little ways out to the flyer if you don't mind dropping me off?"

    * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

    Their morning was a good one following a good night, though it had started out a little stressful for both of them. She hadn't worn the last of her tempting outfits for him, but that hadn't stopped him from being enchanted some how. In fact, when they stayed on the balcony for a bit, he couldn't keep his eyes off her or his hands. It was a bit encouraging to know he was alright. That he was there with her and not some far away place with voices that were long dead. Their night was lively as ever and even at her teasing when they woke, he seemed to know just what to do. He drew her in with the song he had learned in Kaerelean, singing in his low, slightly raspy voice that she couldn't resist. Even he knew it had worked when he grinned and wrapped her up all over again making her giggle all the harder.

    After they had managed to get their shopping done and returned to their room for the first attempt at a short break, Calysta let her Chip do whatever it was he needed to relax while she packed away their new blankets for traveling. It was a good distraction from any sort of worry that might creep up about the reason for their 'break' time and she was focusing so hard on packing properly, she had almost missed when he said something about a package on the desk. Tilting her head, she paused in her task to inspect it, removing the lid with a curious gaze. Inside was a beautiful insignia set made for flyers bearing a silver bird. His Little Bird. Her eyes bounced around the box in wonder and a fair amount of surprise. She had never had something so nice for the inside of a flyer before. Her classic flyer she had built from scratch had been vandalized by purists on Pyrta when she was younger and it taught her never to invest too much unless she was willing to let it get ruined by them. Even her racing flyer Elian crashed on Kinte didn't have finery like this. Calysta looked up to Illya with a beaming smile and out of instinct reached up to give him an exuberant kiss on the lips. "It is good," she said, "Perfect even. Thank you, love."


    The zoo turned out to be a good trip in the end as well. It always made her happy to see Illya with animals and going to see the korybei was no exception. He had no qualms about jumping right into the pen with the scaled herbivores and petting over their smooth hides. Watching him visit with the creatures was peaceful. Illya was always gentle with them, ever since she had known him, and it something she enjoyed because he was at peace in those moments he spent with the creatures. She doubted he knew how long they had spent at the korybei pen in the afternoon. It was well over an hour, but he seemed surprised to learn it was so long. "We had a good time though," she told him taking his hand, "Let's get some food."

    They ate a nice dinner in the restaurant overlooking the waterfalls, and this time Illya seemed much better. He felt more relaxed and even sprang for a big dessert, their favorite chocolate cake with extra whipped cream. It was delivered with five inches of fresh cream on top by the waiter, making his eyes go a bit wide with delight. Neither of them wasted any time marveling though. She dug into the bottom for the chocolate cake, excavating from below, as he scooped from above until their forks clashed. Calysta just laughed and stole a bit of the cream before inviting him to a bit of the cake itself. They made a good team in most things, even when it came to devouring deserts and with these breaks it appeared things were better. She only hoped they stayed that way.

    * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

    Illya was on the quiet side for the rest of the afternoon and spend some time in the office, undoubtedly informing the Elders of the incident. It was something she somewhat disagreed with. She felt it should have been handled privately, but the more she thought about it, she knew it was a Chippeqouti reaction to something of the sort. She let him have it. In the end, it might be easier to work through Edgar on the issue anyways. While he was tending to the business with the Elders, Calysta walked upstairs with a glass of chocolate flavored milk and went into her sons bedroom. She found him with Hairy, Rose's rabbit, he was sitting on his bed patting the animal gently between the ears like his father had shown him. His eye was puffy and bruised along a few spots on his chin. Seeing him like that made her chest ache, and especially knowing the reason behind it. He sat up when she came in and looked at her with his big blue eyes before wiping his nose with the back his hand. "I'm not in trouble, Mam?" It was usually his mother who got on to him when things like that happened and he had expected no less this time. "No," Calysta replied carefully, "I brought you some milk and I want to talk with you."He sat back on his bottom and took the glass with both of his tan hands to listen to his Mam.

    Calysta sat on the bed and smoothed down her boy's fly away hair for a moment before looking at him. "Did what the Pithian boy do scare you?"

    Cypher wasn't sure how to answer at first. He knew it was his job to protect his sister because she was smaller, just like Dah said, and that's what he had done. "Dah Pitian boy made meh mad."

    "Because of what he said about Dah? And Lohgan?" she asked. Cypher nodded as he sipped his milk and a scowl came to his face. "He is a dirty Pitian boy. Dah said so." He knew immediately by the look on his mother's face that this was the wrong thing to say. But Dah said it all the time! Mam looked at him with something he knew wasnt anger but it wasn't happy either. It was his first taste of disappointment from his mother. "What makes him dirty?" she asked. Cypher had already chosen his opinion, though his Mam didn't like it. "He is a Pitian."

    Calysta could see things were already deeply engrained and she sighed in frustration. "And you think all Pithian's are mean. All Pithian's are not mean. Some are and some are not. It's the same thing with Terrans. I suppose you think all Terrans are bad too?" He nodded firmly. Of course they were all bad. His father grumbled about them too, so it must have been true. His mother seemed even more distressed about the answer and he wondered what exactly it was he had done wrong. "Do you think I am bad Cypher?" she asked him. The boys little brow pinched together and he shook his head. "No, yah are my Mam."

    Calysta looked over her son and nodded. "So, you don't think I'm bad, huh? You're sure?" The boy seemed adamant that was good. She tucked him in at night and gave him blueberries in the morning. She helped him with school and taught him games to play. He even got her to play the cowboy so he could be the wild indian. He loved his Mam, but all of that love was thrown in to shock when she said something he didn't know. "Did you know I'm part Terran?" she said, "That Rose is Terran? Papa too?" The boys eyes grew wide and he shook his head ever so slowly. "So, if all Terrans and Tannas and Pithian's are evil, how can I be good if I am one of them? What about Papa and Rose?"

    Cypher grew very quiet and he sat down his glass of milk in deep contemplation but didn't say anything else. Calysta let him stew on it and then continued. "I think this Pithian boy was starting a fight because he thinks that you are bad like you think he is bad. He was mean to you and that isn't fair because he doesn't know you, does he?And he doesn't know Dah either. It's called racism and it's not a good thing to do. I know Dah does that sometimes but he tries not to be that way and you should too, yeah?" She got a vague head nod from him as a reply and she could tell his he was still processing a few things. Maybe it would do some good or maybe it wouldn't. She still had to try. Leaning down she kissed the top of her little boy's head, but he drew away slightly. Calysta frowned and left her boy to play with the pet rabbit and to think for a long time on what they talked about.

    * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

    Calysta sat in front of Edgar in his home which had been added to since her last visit. They had gotten a new book shelf and filled it part way so far, which was something she was itching to browse out of curiosity. However, she was here more on business than pleasure, and while she had brought the twins for Edgar and his agreed to see, there was still a less pleasant reason for their visit. Tomas cooed from Edgar's arms and tugged at the man's shirt with his tiny fingers, making them both smile. "Illya spoke to you about what happened at school the other day with Cypher, yeah?" She tried to make it sound a bit lighter as if it was a simple matter that they could solve, or at least try to.

    It was always a special pleasure to have his great grand kids brought to his house. Edgar and his agreed couldn't get around quite as well as they used to and he enjoyed having his family come. No matter the reason it was good if they brought the little ones. Holding onto the baby he grinned. It seemed all of Illya's children had good sense and they loved the Dark Chippequoti as much as their people loved them. "Would yah look at dat grin?" Lifting the baby up slightly he blew on the boy's belly and watched as the baby giggled. After a moment he let the boy settle in and just rest in his arms. Looking to Kalizda he smiled and nodded. "Yes, Illya talked to me. He said that you have a plan and he wanted me to take it into consideration. I think that you are the council woman and it would be wise for the Elders to know what is on your mind. We would like to support your decision."

    Edgar watched his great grandmother with intense interest as she poured tea into ceramic, Chip sized cups and then walked back into the kitchen. Her boy was constantly hungry, and in this moment his hunger was no different. He smacked his tiny lips together and grunted as he tried to keep the older Chip woman in view. When Edgar replied, Calysta looked at him unsure of where to begin. What wasn't on her mind would have been a more appropriate place to start. Still, she took a sip of her tea, gathering her thoughts, and nodded to the Chip elder. "I think that there are tensions between the Chippeqouti and the Pithians that aren't likely to go away for the foreseeable future. I do think we can ease them though and the best way to start is by teaching the children. Alliance members aren't forced to agree with one another, Pithian's and Chips included, but it is in our best interest to respect one another. I think the children would do best to learn about one another from each other."

    "Hmmm." Edgar nodded a little when she spoke. It sounded like an age old problem that they had dealt with for quite some time. While he was busy thinking of what to do about it his agreed gingerly made her way over to sit next to Kalizda. Once she was seated she held her mug up for baby Edgar to try. "It won't hurt him to try it and see if he likes." She spoke in Quoti like usual and her brown face wrinkled with pleasure when the boy leaned forward to try and get a sip. Finally, Edgar lifted his head and he sighed. "What do you think would help?" He had a few ideas of his own, but he wanted to see if there was something she would suggest first.

    Calysta didnt mind if she let Edgar have a sip, though he was tiny and she thought it best if maybe a finger tasting was better. About the time she was going to suggest it, the woman was already gently bringing the cup to her baby's waiting mouth. He suckled on the edge of the cup, then made a grimacing face. That was not what he was expecting at all. Where was the milk? The taste of the herb tea rather than milk was such a shock that he began to cloud up, with great sniffling sounds of sadness. "Oooh," Calysta winced with a small chuckle, "Maybe he's a coffee drinker instead." It was a small joke the two Chips likely wouldn't get and she dug through the diaper bag until she found his bottle of milk. "Would you like to feed him?"" she asked. The woman smiled and seemed to look forward to the task. "Well," Calysta said to Edgar, "I think it would help if maybe the children were require to learn a little bit about each other. I was thinking of some cultural studies at the school. Where they could learn about all Alliance member cultures....Kaerelean...Terran...Pithian...and of course Chippeqouti. I think it would be prudent to ask our Tannas members if they would like to be included as well. I think if the children learned more about each other, and understood each other beyond what prejudices they might be exposed to at home, then it will help."

    Both Edgar and his agreed chuckled at the baby's reaction to the tea. Often times a baby didn't like the first taste of tea, but they were curious and more than likely the baby would want some tea the next time they saw a cup. With the offer to feed the baby Edgar's agreed nodded eagerly and she held out her old wrinkled hands for him. Taking the boy in her arms she gazed down into his little face and cooed gently at him. "Aren't you just as handsome as your dad was when he was little. You have your grandmother's eyes though. Lovely blue." Talking softly to the baby in Quoti she rocked him with the expertise that only a grandmother could and she smiled at the boy. Occasionally he would reach up with his little hand and try to touch her face and she would let him and then pull her cheek and chin away. While she played with the baby and fed him her agreed listened to Kalizda. Edgar nodded. "Very good. I will present this to the Chippequoti council and ask for funds from the people to provide a new school. If you are going to teach Chip custom then there will need to be a good room like Chip school room and we will need a Chip teacher. We will need a room for all cultures to be taught like they were in their own home and each race will have a teacher to teach the young about their kind. I'm sure that many Chippequoti will want to fund the school if they hear of the project and the reason that it is being proposed. There should not be fear for our children when they go to school to learn customs of those in our Alliance."

    She was more than happy to let Edgar's great grandmother enjoy some time with the boy. In some ways, it still amazed her that her babies had family that they could come to and rely on. They were a wealth of extra love that Calysta wanted them all to know of. Without too many further questions, Edgar seemed to agree with her and went a step further, adding that a new school should be built to accommodate the program. A new school building was a big deal. The on the Pyrtan's had now was small, and quickly growing smaller with the amount of soldiers they had living lives on the continent. Not to mention, the facility had suffered some damage during a raid by the Federation some years ago. Perhaps a new building would be in order. His last statement made her hands tighten together in her lap for a brief moment. "I agree. Fear should not be something children should have when learning about each other in school. This may not be easy in some moments but I think it will be worth it and successful if we make it a space for the kids to learn without fear of each other," she said, "If the Chippeqouti are willing to help fund the school, I know the Pyrtans would give what they can as well and we have several good Terran people who would gladly help. Dora and Priscilla would be excellent teachers. I would have to maybe ask Helen who she thought might be willing to fill the Pithian role, and the same for our Tannas members."

    Edgar nodded as he listened to Kalizda, but he was sure that there would be no need for the Pytran's to pay for the school unless they wanted to have part in it. He knew as well as anyone else that the Pytran's did not have so much money. "Perhaps we make small modification. There is still money from the offer of aid. We will use some of this to build a new school house if the Pytrans will accept that use of funds. Then we will ask each people that want to have their culture represented to provide a teacher and equipment necessary to make the school room like they would for their own classes. Chippequoti will pay for the building, extra land, and we will provide for our own class room and a teacher to be hired. Does this sound reasonable to present to your people? I believe that the Chippequoti council would agree with me."

    She thought over all the uses of those pledged funds. They could have gone anywhere...military...business...but this would be something important. There wouldn't be an Alliance if their children didn't understand what it was like to be equally allied. It was would never survive. This was an investment and Edgar understood that, at least she thought he did. Chippeqouti always had their own way of looking at things and she knew by Illya's reaction, and what he told her, that Chippeqouti consider Kaereleans their own. His insistence they go through the council on this matter rather than handling it privately stemmed from his own tradition. An attack on one was an attack on all. The same went in the opposite way though. An offer of peace was meant for all, and she had contracted with the Pithians living in Kaereal, offering safety and citizenship for standing against the Federation. There was very little choice but to work together even if it was hard and at times difficult. Mistakes would be made but with the chance to understand one another better perhaps less grievous ones could be made. "The Pyrtan's will likely do what they can. Perhaps the land can be donated," she said, "I know there are one or two fields some of the younger Pyrtan's might offer. I think it would help to have these cultural parts in addition to the schooling they go to." She gave Edgar a an assuring sort of smile, hoping that she didn't come across as tired as she felt that day. "Offer this to the Elders and see if they agree, Asha as well, since I know she is acting General and Admiral. Things aboard the Omebrey have been going well since Jaimye's decommission and her new first mate has taken over. She might have some insight as well."

    "I think that the Elders will find this agreeable. I will send you our final proposal for the use of some of the funds designated for Pytra. We will trust your judgment regarding the final decision. I hope that Pytrans will find the offer satisfactory." With the business out of the way he decided to move on to more pleasant things. "I have spoke with my agreed, Dahvine and we want to see our great grand children more. You will let us watch the twins for 3 hours once each week and then Cypher and Lohgan for 3 hours once each week. We want Rose to come see us when she can. She is almost a woman now and we must wait for a time that works for her. The Elders want to make contract with her to write our stories and history too. We will need translations if we build this new school. She will be busy writing in Quoti for us and translating if she likes the work. We will pay her well. Tell her to come see me and I will talk to her about this."

    "I will draw up the proposal and send it to my people," she replied, glad to have that part out of the way. His next statement made her bristle slightly, starting off with 'you will do this' but occasionally, he did that when they spoke. Though, this time he was sounding a bit more adamant about it and she took another sip of her tea before replying. "You're right, Rose is nearly grown and she is an excellent writer. She knows Qouti and we've spoken briefly before about having her work on projects for the Chippeqouti. I will tell her she should come to see you about working for the Elders on recording the Chippeqouti stories and history. As for the other children, I agree that you should get to see them more. I'm not sure we could have a consistent day, as Illya will be applying to Skycorp and we may be spending some time on Kinte in the next months, but I think it would be good." It would also give her the chance to help Illya study along with her a chance to spend time more singular time with him along with their other children.

    They visited for awhile longer until Calysta felt an incoming message on her pad which chimed on the higher priority channels. "Excuse me," she said, reaching into her bag. When she opened up her messenger she saw what the alert was and a kernel of dread slipped into her stomach. It was something she would have to deal with personally. "Edgar? Would you mind watching the twins for a bit right now, actually? Something has just been brought to my attention and I need to take care of it." The great grandparents didn't seem to mind being left in charge of the twins while she was gone and she nodded her thanks. "I'll be back in just a little while or Illya will come by to pick them up if this takes longer than I intend. Thank you." With that, she kissed both of her boys on the their foreheads and left the house to make her way towards town.

    * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

    Cypher knew his Mam had gone out for the afternoon and he had been doing some hard thinking while she was gone. Dah said that Pithians and Terrans and Tannas were all bad regularly when Mam wasn't around. His Mam said they weren't all bad when Dah wasn't around and Mam was a Terran. Mam was not like a Terran though. She was good. It left him a bit confused and since Dah would talk about it while she wasn't there, he was determined to find the solution to the predicament.

    Venturing out into the yard, he found his father standing in the yard with Cin loping around. The big bear was making chortling sounds, begging to be played with, but his father was on a mission to feed the chickens instead. Cypher walked up to his Dah and grabbed a handful of the grainy feed for the clucky birds causing them to gather around him like he knew they would. Even the chicks peeped around his feet. Normally, he would be delighted to have them so close where he could pet them, but he was on a mission of utmost importance. "Dah?" he asked as he threw the feed, "Did yah know dat Mam is a filty Terran?"
     
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  2. Silence

    Silence Anonymous Me Staff Member Benefactor Warden

    It had been a good day and when Lohgan laid down for her nap Kalizda took the twins and went to speak with Edgar. Illya knew it was going to be about the incident at school. She was going to make sure that the Chippequoti Elders and the Council came up with a good plan. Since Kalizda was the council woman she was naturally going to be more involved in the politics. That was her business and he didn't have as much say as she did when it came to these things. If he were still the General then he would certainly have something to say. As it was he didn't have place in this discussion.

    When Kalizda left Illya took himself outside to feed the animals. Lohgan wasn't going to be causing any problems and Cypher was probably fine to be alone in the house for a few minutes. First, Illya dropped a good sized lump of meat and some giant bear pellets around the yard. There wasn't any point keeping it in a dish for the bear. Cin would drag it through the yard first and then eat. Keysha was much more neat in her eating habits and Illya dropped her pellets into her dish and then returned her bag of food to the porch before he exchanged it for the chicken feed.

    Illya walked himself out to the pen and he let himself in to feed the chickens. As soon as he stepped in the entire host of birds came clucking and waddling. As soon as they reached him they began scratching at the ground and then tilting their dumb heads one way and then another. Illya dropped a handful of feed on the ground and then sprinkled another handful before he paused long enough to pick up his favorite chicken. It was waiting for him to feed it from his hand and he knew that. The bird didn't bother scratching the ground, or fighting the others for the pile of feed, it just waited near the big man. When his hand came down she nestled in close and let him tuck her under an arm.

    He had only had the birds for a few years, but Illya knew his favorite hen was getting older. She was laying fewer eggs and he knew that she logically was starting to outlive her usefulness, but he couldn't bring himself to move her over to the fattening pen. As far as Illya was concerned he would let her continue to roost till she died. The hen was good and she even followed him around the pen and through the yard if the bear wasn't out and Keysha was out of sight. However, the times that the other two animals were out of sight were rare and so the chicken would simply wait for him to come to her. When he had finished giving his favorite hen her feeding by hand he put her down again and she only scratched at the ground a few times and then lost interest in joining the pecking order and moved on. She was one hen that thought of herself as being above the pecking order and such things.

    The birds started the cluck and squawk louder and then flock in a separate direction. Illya turned slightly to see his son was helping him feed the birds. Somewhere in the middle of the feeding Cypher started out with a question and it quickly turned bad. Momentarily Illya froze and then slowly lowered the bag of feed and turned toward his son. "Yah never say dat about yah mum again. Hear meh?"

    His father's words were very serious and Cypher's brow furrowed in confusion. He had been sure his father would tell him what he wanted to know and now he didn't say anything. Some how he had gotten scolded instead. Cypher's little mouth quirked slightly before he looked up at his father and tilted his head. "But Mam said she was a Terran and yah always say they are dirty. Did yah know, Dah?" The bird peeped around his ankles but Cypher had forgotten about them in the effort of talking with his tall father whose expression he couldn't really see because the sun was beaming down on the both, blotting out the view.

    "Yes, I know Cypher. I know dat yah mum es part Terran, but she es nut dirty." Illya was having a hard time trying to figure out who would have told Cypher something like that. "Where yah hear someting like dat anyway?"

    Cypher squinted up at his father while his toe dug into the dirt. Even on a quest he stayed in constant motion without any thought at all. "You say so. You said deh Terrans, and Pitian's and Tannas are all filty. She told meh she was Terran. She told meh Rose and Papa are Terran too. Dat means dey are bad and dirty because yah said dey were." It was a simple answer and it still didn't make sense to him.

    What his boy said next was not at all what Illya had said. Somehow Cypher had determined that Illya meant all Terrans and part Terrans. "No! Dis es nut what I say. Yah never say dat about yah mum, papa, or Rose. Dey are nut filty. Yah have Terran blood too. Dis does nut make yah filty. What makes people filty es dah way dey treat oters."

    The sudden exclamation of 'no!' at him made the boy nearly jump out of skin. Dah hardly ever yelled and usually he got louder when he did something bad or didn't listen. This time it was unexpected and Cypher's jolted a little, before his bottom lip poked out. He had only been listening to what his father said! He heard him mumbling about it, especially the Terrans and Pithian's but now Dah was saying that it wasn't true. What was more, was Dah said he was part Terran too and that it wasn't dirty. What makes people dirty was the way they treated others? Now, he was was more confused than when he started and he stepped back from his father, nearly stepping on a chickadee in the process. "I'm Terran, but not dirty? Papa and Rose and Mam are Terran but nut filty an yah say what makes yah dirty is the way yah treat oters...den why yah talk about dah Terrans like dat, Dah? Why yah say dose tings?" His accent always got thicker when he got upset and he was thoroughly lost on how all of this works. It wasn't fair that he had gotten fussed at for asking when Dah was saying one thing and then another.

    It was easy to see that his son was confused. With a sigh Illya dropped to one knee so he could see his son better and so his son could see his face. Once they were at eye level he studied his boy's face carefully. "Cypher, et es nut dirty tah be Terran. I am learning dat nut all Terran are dirty. Dere are some good Terran and dere are some good Pitians. Maybe dere are good Tannas too. How about we make a deal eh?" Illya set one hand on Cypher's shoulder. "We dun call anyone dirty unless dey are bad and dey treat us bad. Dat means meh too. I dun say dat all Terrans are filty and I dun say dat all Pitians are filty. Yah understand now?"

    Cypher shifted back a little when his father knelt beside him and finally he was able to see his face. Rather than anger, he was met with a concerned sort of look filled with gathered patience. Dah was learning too? There were good Terrans like Mam and good Pithians too? Cypher's bright eyes scanned over his fathers face and at the offer of a deal, he nodded slowly. "We don't call people dirty unless dey are bad and treat us bad. I understand, Dah." It mean that the Pithian boy was just a bad one and he was still filthy but that Mam and Rose and Papa were good. He could be good too. That was something he could agree with and it made much more sense now. "I make a deal wit yah and tell mom I dun think she is filty anymore."

    With a sigh Illya nodded. "Dat's good. Yah tell yah mum dat and I tink et will all be fine. We jes work and remember nut tah call people filty unless dey are bad to us." Since it seemed the matter was taken care of Illya grinned at his son and then shifted to stand up and finish feeding the chickens.

    After tossing out a few more hands-full of feed Illya was done feeding the chickens and he decided to play around with Cin for a few minutes. The bear was practically bouncing with the effort of holding himself back and when Illya gave the signal they were going to play Cin lunged forward with a great cry for joy. There wasn't enough time to even move out of the way and Illya could only prepare for impact and the inevitable. He was going to get plowed right into the ground and he knew it. With a huff Illya hit the ground and he momentarily felt a bit stunned, but he was quickly brought back to reality by the fact that his bear was already rolling him around on the ground. With a little time between rolling Illya was able to get out of the way and pop up for a quick return attack. Cin jumped back and growled playfully before he stood up on his hind legs and swatted Illya over with one of his huge paws. Once Illya was sent rolling to the ground again Cin came running for him.

    The two of them played outside for nearly an hour before Illya finally had to give up and go inside. By now he was pretty sure that Lohgan and Cypher would both be wanting to eat. If Lohgan was awake. He might have got lucky and she would still be sleeping. There was no such luck. As Illya entered the house he was mauled by Cyher and Lohgan both and then assaulted with the pad. Apparently his grandparents were wanting to talk with him and Cypher and walked around with them aimlessly for who knew how long.

    "Illya, we need you to come get the twins. It is getting late and Kalizda said if she wasn't here in time that you would come get them."

    Whatever the plan was Illya didn't remember talking about it. Why had she left the twins at his grandparents? For the time that wasn't the important thing, he just needed to go get the kids. "Eh yeah. I'll come get them." Responding in Quoti he started to pick up Lohgan and try to think of the other things he would need if he was going to try and carry the twins home too. Strapping the double baby carrier to himself Illya figured he was ready to go.

    The walk to his grandparents wasn't a long one, but he knew that Lohgan would want to be in the stroller on the way home and Cypher would probably push her. More than likely he would push his sister into the weeds at some point, but that wouldn't be the end of the world. By the time he reached Edgar and Dahvine's house Illya was starting to get worried. Kalizda was somewhere, he didn't know where and when he asked his grandparents they didn't know where, but she'd left the twins. Kalizda didn't do that kind of thing.

    With a little help Illya got the twins packed onto his front and he loaded Lohgan into the stroller and let Cypher push it while he called Kalizda's pad. "Kalizda are yah ok? Where are yah?" He didn't even wait for her to answer one question before he blurted the next.

    ****************************

    It looked to Ehud like Priscilla was enjoying the Terran style breakfast quite well and she even engaged Sien on a lengthy discussion about superheroes. If there was one thing that Sien loved it was superheros and Ehud just smiled. He didn't have much to say about this. Personally, he wasn't such a fan of them, but there was nothing wrong with enjoying a story about a superhero either.

    There were a few reasons that Ehud had decided he liked Priscilla. She was kind, had a bit of fun in her, and she was excellent with children. If he had to guess, Ehud figured that she actually wanted to have a child of her own. Somehow she seemed like a woman that loved children and it showed when she spoke with Sien. There was a part of Ehud that worried perhaps he was looking for a wife for all the wrong reasons, but perhaps wanting a woman for his son wasn't so bad either. Ehud liked Priscilla for himself, but he also liked how she treated Sien. His son craved the attention of a woman and it showed whenever he was at Illya and Kalizda's house. Sometimes when Ehud came by to pick up Sien the boy would be with Priscilla outside in the gardens, or he would be with Kalizda trying to help her. Most of the time he was like any other child and he played with Cypher, but there were those days that Sien was interested in having a mother.

    When they finished breakfast Ehud washed the dishes and he was thinking of a few things that he could plan to do with Priscilla and Sien that would not be harder on her ankle, but Priscilla seemed to be anxious to get home after her superman discussion with Sien. At first a little frown came to Ehud's face and then he cleared his face again and he nodded. "I'll get ready to fly you home. Are you sure that you're ankle is ok?"

    Priscilla insisted that she was fine to go home and so he helped her out to the flyer and loaded Sien in with them before flying her home. Once they got to the street outside Illya and Kalizda's he stopped and then got out to assist Priscilla. "I'm sorry about your ankle. Maybe next time you won't have such bad luck." The look on her face was difficult for him to read. Ehud didn't know her well enough to tell if that was a good look, or a bad one. Was she upset, surprised, or maybe concerned? Instead of dwelling too long on her expression he nodded. "I'll come back tomorrow to see how you're doing." He would be back on the next day anyway to pick up Sien after he got off work. Sien usually walked home with Cypher after school, but Ehud could stop at the house for more than one reason.
     
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  3. aryamajor

    aryamajor Curious Adventurer Benefactor

    Ehud helped her out of the little flyer and she held on to his arm to use his solid weight as support up the stairs to the ugly front door. Her ankle was still tender, giving sharp little pains with every slight pressure she put on it, but with Ehud's help she was able to scale the steps. "Oh," she replied, her brow creased a little, "Luck is the way you look at it, I suppose. I got to spend some time with you and rather than sandwiches, I got to have fried chicken. I wouldn't altogether call it unlucky." Her next step caused a little jolt to go up her ankle and she looked away from him to hide the grimace. He helped her into the living room, then down the hallway toward her bedroom. It didn't appear that Illya and Calysta were back from their trip yet and the kids were playing the backyard. She wasn't sure where Thomas was, but she could only assume he was with the twins. On the way down the hall she looked to him through her wavy blonde hair, a stolen peak at the man holding on to her arm, and she had a thought before quickly averting her gaze.

    "Here, this is my room," she said, bringing them to a halt outside the door, "Thank you. I can get to the bed I think." Resting her free hand over his, she gave it a little squeeze then let go. "Come see me tomorrow. I won't be going anywhere, huh?" Smiling a little she let him go as she leaned against the door frame, watching his broad shoulders retreat down the hall until he was out of sight. When the flyer started up again, she hobbled her way into her room before easing down on the bed.

    As she undressed, she thought of the morning and how she enjoyed it. It hadn't been just the chat with Sien or getting to talk with Ehud so much as it had been feeling for the briefest of moments like she wasn't missing something. Illya and Calysta had been wonderfully kind and she felt as close to them as her own family, and they had filled that starving little hole in her heart for some time, but this had been something different. She peeled off her dirty smeared shirt and undid her belt before shimmying out of her skirt, leaving them in the floor for the time being. The last thing to go was something she hadn't taken off in a year. Something she had refused to remove even when battling alongside midgets on Demos and Christmas tree hunting on the Pithian cold planet. Her fingers wrapped around the silver wedding band along with her engagement ring and she tugged them from her knuckles. She had worn them so long they felt molded to her hand and didn't want to pry loose until she used a little lotion to ease them off. Once they were free of her finger, she put them on her bedside table with small clatter and glanced down at the red indentation left by the rings. Why had she done that? Her finger felt naked and all of a sudden tears began to blur the image of her own hands before she covered her face, leaning down into the pillow and cried.

    * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

    Calysta stood in the cold hallway pacing with her arms cross over her chest and her eyes trained on the floor. She hated hospitals ever since she was a little girl. The cold, clinical lighting that cast everything in sharp relief. It always made things look more grim than they were. The smell of antiseptic and bitter medicine filled her nose, making her stomach roll slightly. She'd been in enough hospitals on enough planets to know they all felt the same. Perhaps the grander question, was why she was even here at all to begin with.

    A ringing cut through her thoughts and she stopped pacing long enough to remember her pad in her bag. It could have been one of the Land and Continent Committee calling her back for the umpteenth time that day, but it wasn't. She rummaged through her satchel until she found her pad and saw that it was not only 19:00 galactic time but that it was Illya calling, no doubt worried about where she had been. A flood of guilt hit her as she answered the video call stream to see her Chips tan face. Before she could even explain, he was off to asking where she was and if she was alright. "I'm at the hospital but I'm alright," she assured him, "Something happened and I had to deal with it. It happened kind of fast and I didn't know what time it was. I, um, if you want to come down here..I'm outside room 394."

    In his usual fashion he didn't hesitate to say he was on his way. She tucked her pad under her arm and started pacing again, biting at her thumb nail in deep thought on what was going to happen. A call came in from the Land Chairman finally and she had to answer it too. "Yes, good...if you can get the surveyors here...assess the damage. Then we can go from there....no..there haven't been any reported tremors..."

    "MAM!"

    The familiar voice of her son accompanied his thundering footsteps down the hall and she quickly bid the chairman goodbye just in time to bend down to catch her boy. He had been avoiding her for awhile, but now it seemed he was glad to see her. His curls were a wild mess and his cheeks were pink when he hugged her around the neck. She hugged him back tightly, kissing the top of his curls. "There's my boy."

    "You're not filty, Mam. I know now," he said brightly before snuggling into her arms. She blinked a few times trying to figure out how that statement came about before just accepting it as a good thing. Another little form waddled over to her, and Lohgan grabbed her hands wanting some attention too. "Mam," she pouted. Calysta knew that pout well, and it was obvious they had come straight over. She hooked an arm around her girl, kissing the top of her red haired head, and then looked up to see Illya coming down the hall. His head came close to brushing the ceiling in some places and he carried the twins in their slings over his chest.

    At first, she wished he had left the children home with her father which would have been easier than bringing them all, but after seeing them she felt selfishly glad that they had all come. Illya came over and she stood up, leaning in close to give him a gentle kiss on the lips before meeting his eyes. "I'm sorry," she repeated to him, "I was called because...well...there was no one else." She nodded through the window of the hospital room door where a woman with a striking resemblance to herself laid in the bed. Her neck was bound in a brace and any visible inch of her we either bruised or cut. There was a big welt on her temple, half hidden by her long black hair which had been touched by just the smallest graces of silver. Her eyes were closed as a tube was fed down her throat to assist in breathing. She looked as if she might have been resting comfortably save for the fact that her arms were tied down at the wrist and her ankles were strapped to the bed.

    "There was a sink hole," Calysta explained, "A big one out in the north of the continent and she along with another farm house were swallowed up. They weren't sure if she was going to live at first and they called me because I'm the next of kin technically. I'm the only one who can make a medical decision for her. They found her half buried and her neck is fractured. A few organs were crushed. Calysta ran a hand through her hair and sighed. "Even then they had to knock her out. When they found her or to help her...she thinks anyone looking for her or coming into the room is Federation, I think. They said if she makes it through the first 24 hours the she'll live. If she doesn't live, I will have to make the arrangements for her funeral...problem is...I don't know my grandparents...and I don't think dad does either..." Her voice trailed off and she stole a glance at Illya before sighing. "The sink hole is another problem. There are some experts coming to look at it in the first light. Luckily, they seemed to be localized to the fields in the far northwest and only a few people have been relocated for safety. It happens from time to time on the continents. Heavy rains in the past plus trauma to the foundation from the debris caused by the attack on Kinte could have loosened it. Who knows, Pyrta may be looking at the beginnings of a lake, or it might even break apart like Kinte did a thousand years ago or so."

    She looked to her Chip feeling tired and glad he was there all in the same moment. It was strange to feel like she had to be there for a woman who had done nothing for her. Her mother had tried to kill her at least twice, sold her out to the Federation, and caused nothing but trouble...and yet, Calysta didn't want the woman to die alone if that was her fate.

    Cypher stood on his toes and peered through the window hoping to see whatever it was that his Mam and Dah were looking at. What he saw, surprised him and he gasped, before his tan brow furrowed in curiosity. "Mam? Who is dat lady? She looks just like you." Calysta swallowed hard, and glanced to Illya. "She's a friend who is very sick. I'll tell you what, why don't we go out to dinner and then we can come back to see if my friend is all better, yeah?" Cypher seemed in agreement with this idea and Calysta slipped a hand to her sons back, guiding him down the hallway. "They don't need to know," she said in Kaerelean to her Chip, "It's just better that way."
     
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  4. Silence

    Silence Anonymous Me Staff Member Benefactor Warden

    Ehud took himself home and he thought about the day. It was a good one. He'd had a little time to visit with Priscilla and she certainly made it sound like she wanted to see him tomorrow. All things considered that was a good sign. Slowly Ehud took himself back out of the house and he closed the door behind himself before he got into the ship. Sien was waiting for him with that expectant little look in his eyes.

    "Is she gonna come see us again?" Sien looked up at his dad while he clutched his little Micky Martian action figure in his hands.

    The man blinked a few times before he answered, "No, you're going over to Illya and Kalizda's tomorrow and then I'll come to pick you up. We might stay a little longer to visit with Priscilla. She hurt her foot and she can't come to see us. We have to go see her." That was the nicest way to put it without having his son terribly disappointed in him, or what he had planned for the future. Things weren't quite as simple as his son seemed to think. There was also that one question that Sien had asked a few times when they were home alone and Ehud wasn't sure what to do with it. For now, he could think of only one way to address that little problem. "Sien, I like Priscilla and I want to see her more, but this does not mean she will be your mom. Priscilla needs to decide that for herself. You can't ask her to be your mom ok? Do you understand?"

    Momentarily the boy's eyes widened and then they started to fill with tears. "B-b-but I wan her to be my mom." Sien's voice rose in pitch slightly and his little knuckles turned white with the effort he put forth into squeezing his greatest super hero. "Cypher has a mom. I want one too." Wiping at his eyes with the back of his hand he sniffled and looked at his dad with his watery big blue eyes.

    "I know you want a mom, but you have to be patient." Ehud wanted badly for Sien to have a mother, but he wanted the woman to be a good one that would love the boy as if he were her own. Then there was the challenge that the woman would want Ehud that much too. He was a bit out of practice, but he wanted a mother for Sien as badly as he wanted to have another agreed. Perhaps there would be a chance if he could just set the intensity of the situation aside and enjoy being in the company of the best prospect he had. "Let's go home and clean. Remember, tomorrow you go back to school, you go home with Cypher after school and I go to work."

    The next day Sien walked home with Cypher the same as he did on most school days. He still couldn't get the idea out of his head that he wanted a mom and he was determined that he was going to ask her. If his dad wouldn't ask then he would. Sien shuffled along behind Cypher as the boy raced for the front door of his house and nearly bulldozed through it in his rush to get inside. Just a few feet behind him Sien came into the house at a much more gentle pace. When he saw Priscilla he grinned at her shyly and then wandered over to where she was sitting. "I have a very important question for you." Setting one of his pale little hands over hers he looked deeply into her eyes. "Will you be my mom?"

    Illya almost flew out of his big chair when he heard the boy ask Priscilla that question. He had been quietly reviewing Cypher's school report from the day. It seemed the teachers were quite impressed with his manners in a good way for once. This was about the only way that Illya could think of that might inspire his son to do better in school. So far it seemed to do well. Cypher was coming right in to look at his report with him. However, in this moment Cypher was tumbling from Illya's lap the pad clattered to the ground and Illya barely caught his son before he glanced to Sien. "Sien dis es nut Chippequoti way. Dah man never asks dah woman. Dah lady must ask dah man because she sees he has good qualities and den he will accept if he cares for her. Yah dun ask dese questions."

    Even if the reprimand was given quietly the boy knew the intensity of Cypher's father's voice. It was always there and especially when he didn't approve of something. With a gulp the little blond boy nodded and then quickly moved away to the kitchen. Once he was in the kitchen he saw that it was empty and started to wander through the house to look for Kalizda. It would still be a little bit before his father came to get him and he wanted to sit with someone that felt safe for now.

    ************************************

    Whatever was going on it was hard to tell if Kalizda was having trouble, or if there was something else going on. Illya wasn't going to question her too much though. It looked like she was upset and he was going to get to the hospital as fast as he could move his kids along. "Yah put yah feet on dah little stand back here and I push dah stroller faster eh?" Usually Illya and Kalizda didn't let Cypher stand on the back of the stroller, but this was a time that Illya was going to encourage it. They had to move faster to get to the hospital. By the time they got to the steps Cypher got off and ran inside while Illya struggled with the stroller.

    The nurse saw Cypher and she already knew where his mother was. Pointing to Kalizda in the hallway she smiled a little as she watched the boy race past her and go straight for his mother. Within a few minutes she saw his father come in with two babies strapped to the front of him and another one in the stroller. They were a busy young Chip family and in a way they were the most troublesome, but joyful to have. "She's down there." Pointing down the hall she stepped aside as Illya pushed the stroller down the hall to join Kalizda and Cypher. While his boy was trying to look into the window of the room Illya glanced inside too. He was curious and he saw that Kalizda's mother was the one in the bed. The woman was in poor shape it seemed and Illya didn't remember much about her, but he did know he didn't like her. Whatever memory he had of the woman was enough to give him a general feeling.

    Kalizda never really spoke about the woman and Illya wondered why she was suddenly so upset. Was it something that he had gotten in the middle of? Had he forbidden her mother from seeing the children and Kalizda some time ago? These were troubling thoughts and he kept them to himself for the time. They all needed dinner and Illya nodded at Kalizda's suggestion. Then she spoke to him in Kaerelean and he frowned as he tried to put all the words together in his mind. From what he could tell she didn't want the children to know about their grandmother and that only spurred more questions in his mind. What had the woman done?

    They were barely out the hospital doors and Cypher had picked out the place they were going to eat. The boy loved the noodle and snake bowl place. It wasn't the best snake, but Illya found it tolerable. "I guess we have noodles and snake den." With a wink at Kalizda he leaned a little closer to her and wrapped one arm around her shoulders while he kept on pushing the stroller with the other hand. "Maybe we talk about yah friend later. We wait till tahnight when we get home eh?" There were a lot of questions and Illya was sure that he was missing something. Perhaps it was a memory that he did not have anymore and that concerned him. If he had indeed lost some memories permanently then what else was there? He couldn't begin to know what he lost and he knew that terrified Kalizda.
     
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  5. aryamajor

    aryamajor Curious Adventurer Benefactor

    Much to her relief the swelling in her ankle had gone down considerably the next day and Priscilla found herself able to sit in the living room with her leg popped slightly in the warmth of the heated couch. She had spent the time reading and helping Calysta keep track of Lohgan who still enjoyed her games of 'hide and seek' which included difficult places like inside the clothes dryer. Every now and then she would find herself playing with the empty space on her finger as if her rings were still there to turn on the digit. It would happen when she was thinking about it least of all in the middle of a paragraph or talking with Calysta. Her hand would simply search out what it knew was missing and she would scold herself silently before redirecting her attention elsewhere.

    It wasn't until she heard the heavy thumps of Cypher and Sien coming up the stairs that she put aside her book to prepare for the rush. Both boys came tumbling in in the usual order, first with Cypher exploding through the door and aiming for his father's lap with Sien following behind with less fuss. A back pack was flung into the couch as Cypher scaled up to his father's side and thrust a crumpled report into the man's hands with a grin that glowed with pride. It must have been a well behaved day because the boy never came in an immediately showed the report if it was a bad one. While Illya grunted from the weight of his son hitting what she suspected was a tender spot, Sien shuffled over with a shy little smile before placing a hand over hers. She had expected a variety of things to come out of his mouth as he was intelligent and liked to talk about things he's read in school or learned about, but nothing could prepare her for the innocent yet striking question that spilled forth. "I.." She wasn't sure what to say at first and any sort of reply she could muster was summarily cut off by Illya delivering a somewhat harsh lesson to the boy about some Chippeqouti custom she wasn't even aware of. When had he ever mentioned that she was supposed to be choosing anything or making the first move? He'd never said a word, and even if he hadn't, she had been more than showing interest.

    A new worry rose up along side the one about Sien being upset as he scuttled off to hide from Illya's scolding. How was she supposed to have known? Sien had presented her with such a complicated moment in such a simple question. It was maddening! And she was sure following the boy would make it worse. Running a hand through her hair, she sighed. "I...I'm going out to the porch before the rain comes." In truth, she wasn't sure what else to do with herself and she didn't want to be sitting in the living room across from Illya after such an episode out of sheer awkwardness. Limping her way to the beastly front door, she stepped outside to a blast of cool, damp air and made her way to the swing at the end of the covered deck. It was built for two, but she took up the extra space by propping up her bruised ankle, then stared out over the dusty red plains that made up Pyrta's harvested fields.

    On the other side of the wall, Calysta turned the page on her blue prints and sighed. Sure, she had designed this well, but there were a few changes she wanted to make before submitting them. As she flipped another large leaf a tiny shuffling came from the door and she looked up to see expecting Lohgan being a bit sneaky into her Mam's office. Instead, she was greeted with the pale little face of Sien. His nose was pink and he looked flustered as he padded over to her arm chair. "Is there something you were looking for, Sien?" She asked gently. He was a quiet boy, a bit rabbit hearted in some ways, and she always tried to treat him like her own.

    Sien stepped into the office almost on his tip toes. He wasn't supposed to bother Kalizda, but he needed to see her. Silently he nodded and stepped around her desk. He was almost as big as she was, but he still pulled at her chair and tried to make room to sit with her. Once he was comfortable he nuzzled in a bit closer and rested his heavy head on her shoulder.

    She felt the tugging at her side as Sien wiggled his way into the chair with her without a reply. His small, but heavy frame leaned into her, burrowing into her side in a way that clearly said he was seeking comfort of some kind but for what, she couldn't be sure. Had he and Cypher gotten into a tiff about who was going to be Mickey Martian and who was going to be the pirate? No, he wouldn't be looking so glum for that. Leaning back, she wrapped an arm around his tiny frame because it kept him close and gave her free use of her hand so she could keep working. With the boy tucked under her arm, she decided to let him stay there for awhile until he was ready to move past whatever was bothering him as kids often did or wanted to talk to her about what was wrong. Perhaps it was something to do with Priscilla, though she had thought the boy was fairly well enamored with his father's girlfriend. Nearly fifteen minutes ticked by as they stayed in the quiet and she kept looking over her blue prints until she felt him nuzzle in a bit further. "So, what brings you to see me?" she asked gently again, "Did you come on a Mickey Martian mission, just for me?"

    "So, what brings you to see me? Ddi you come on a Micky Martian mission, just for me?"
    Sien tilted his head slightly so he could see her eyes better. The boy licked his little lips and then whispered. "Illya is grouchy. He told me that I couldn't ask Priscilla to be my mom." If she was asking Sien was sure that she would want to help him.

    Illya was grouchy. Those little words combined with such a serious look on Sien's face made her bite back a chuckle. Of course, he would seem like he was grumpy, but he usually wasn't with the kids unless something trampled a nerve. The following sentence nearly made her choke, and in an effort to save face, she swallowed hard then looked at the boy. How in the Wilds was she supposed to respond to that? She knew exactly how her Chip would view a comment like that and she could see now why Sien had slinked into her office to escape. "Hmm...you want her to be your mom, yeah?" Calysta repeated the question trying to gather up her thoughts on how to deal with such an issue. "Maybe, she wants to be your mom too...but I think your dad will have a say in that too. He wants to make sure she is good mom for you and she wants to make sure that she will be one for you too. It takes a little time. Anything worth doing is doing right, yeah? And they want to make sure they're just right for you. Do you think you could wait for a little while longer so you get the best mom possible?"

    The boy nodded his head vigorously when Kalizda asked if he wanted Priscilla to be his mom. Her explanation was a bit lacking in the sufficient power he thought it should bear. "You're the council woman. You should just make her my mom and then I wouldn't have to wait on dad. He takes too long." Waiting on his father for anything seemed to take a long time and Sien was more than ready for his dad to ask the nice, pretty lady to come live with them.

    He seemed to understand a little more about how things worked when he nodded so confidently...and then he took a wrong turn with his next comment altogether. Calysta blinked at him for a moment in shock that he might be so forceful about the subject and then shook her head. "It doesn't work like that, Sien," she told him in no uncertain terms, "I know your dad might take awhile, but if I did that, Priscilla might be sad or scared she wouldn't be good for you yet. Your dad would be worried that it wasn't right for him either. You wouldn't want to make either of them sad, I know. They have to come together and decide this all on their own."

    Of course Sien didn't want his dad and Priscilla to be sad, but he still knew there had to be something that Kalizda could do. "Can you talk to my dad and tell him to hurry up?" Sien wanted to have a mom and then he could have a nice home and Cypher could come to his house to play sometime.

    Calysta smoothed down the boy's wispy blonde hair and nodded. "I'll tell you what. Let's make a deal. You give them some more time and be patient and I will talk with him. I can't promise it will work, but I will try. Hm?" She couldn't have him running around asking if she had talked to his father yet, and she imagined the conversation might go a little different than Sien was imagining in his head. "Do we have a deal?"

    It all seemed to be a bit better and Sien nodded. "Ok, I'll make a deal." He could wait a little bit longer and then Kalizda would talk to his dad about making Priscilla his mom.

    "Good," she nodded firmly, "Now, why don't you go find Cypher and play in the backyard before the rain comes tomorrow?" It was forecasted for the rainy season to truly begin and the clouds had gathered in the distance waiting for their time to strike for the next 4-5 months solid.

    With the most concerning matters settled and his life put back to right Sien pushed against Kalizda's chest with one hand and slid off her lap before he grabbed the Micky Martian toy that he dropped on the floor. Once he had the toy he raced back out of the office. "Cypher! Let's go play outside." Almost immediately the thundering of Cypher's feet could be heard trundling through the house and the two boys tumbled out the back door together.

    From the porch, Priscilla could hear the boys thundering through the house again and she leaned her head back against the wooden swing deep in thought. She had never had the chance to be a mother with Harry and Sien was wanting her to be his mom. From her understanding, he had lost his mother when he was 6 months old or so and with very little memory of her. It would be natural for him to want a mother and to attach himself to someone he thought would be good. Just because he thought she would be a good mom didn't mean it was true though. She liked children and little Sien was a sweet, gentle soul. Easy to love. It still didn't mean she was qualified for the task. Not to mention, she had no idea how Ehud felt on the subject. Everything was so new that even thinking about it was slightly overwhelming. Thunder rolled in the distance and the wind pushed her in the swing a little as she thought over what on earth she would say to Sien.

    The rain was just starting to patter down over the side walk when Ehud trekked up the path and scaled the porch steps. His blonde hair was wet making the locks stick to his temples which was not an altogether unpleasing look. "The forecasters were a little wrong," Priscilla said from her spot on the swing, "It wasn't supposed to start raining so soon." Shifting on her bottom, she made room for him to come sit with her and patted the swing bench carefully. "I'm glad you came." His weight caused the swing to pitch forward some and she reached out snagging his shirt sleeve in order to steady them before quickly letting go. "Today was good?" she asked, "The akle is a little better. It doesn't look like a fat sausage roll now at least." Nodding at his response she bit at her lip and tried to work up the nerve to ask what she needed to. The fact that she couldn't un-ring the bell once she said something was all too prevalent in her mind. Forcing down the worry, Priscilla met Ehud in his eyes. "Ehud, can I ask you something? What...what is it you expect from me?"


    * * * * * * * * * * * * *

    Dinner was a welcome break from the stress of the day. A little Chippeqouti-Kaerelean Fusion restaurant had popped up in the main square which sold snake and noodles combined, making it a go to place for them all. Cypher in particular had a love for the noodle bowls and it made him happy to tell her all about his day at school over a heaping plate of his favorite food. She tried to focus on what her son was saying, but her mind kept wandering to her mother and the sink hole problem among other things. Along with her lack of focus came a side dish of guilt for not being able to fully engage when her son was talking. At one point, he was calling her repeatedly and she snapped out of her thoughts after the 4th 'Mam!'. "Hmmm?" Cypher stared at her expectantly, a fork still gripped in his hand. "I learned about deh birds in dah old place called Rayla."

    "Oh," she nodded, "Is that so? I've ridden on before and so has Dah. Your Dah rode a great red cryn falcon right on top of his back." That started a whole new flurry of questions which were field by his father who looked like he was doing his best to answer.

    Once they had made it home, Calysta tucked in Cypher with the promise she would tell him more about the falcons tomorrow, then let Illya put Lohgan to bed while she tended the twins. Luckily they didn't take long to feed or send off into sleep, though Edgar did have a tendency to fight it sometimes. A full stomach always took care of that problem. With the twins in their crib, Calysta peeled off her belt and then reached for the hem of her tunic top, pulling it over her head with a fluff of black, silky hair fluttering behind her. It had been a long day, though she'd had longer in the past by far. Mostly she wanted to stretch out in bed with her Chip and relax just a little in body since her mind wasn't likely to slow down at all during the night. She unplucked her bra from her chest, and then pulled her robe on before shimmying out of her pants along with the rest. Illya was already tossing off his clothes too, aiming for the hamper, and she picked up his cargo pants when his toss went a little sideways. Holding up the pair of pants, she realized there was a hole near the rear pocket. Her Chip always managed to end up with at least one hole or grass stain somewhere in his clothes before she retired the article to the donation bin. This time it looked like a bear claw had snagged the pocket. Piling the clothes into the hamper, she used the tiny stool on her side of the bed to climb up into their soft Chip mattress and half melted into the covers before letting out a long breath into the pillow. Illya settled beside her and she rolled over to face him, popping the side of her head on her hand and allowing her long hair to flow down where it wanted. "The doctor may call me if she gets worse," Calysta told Illya, "If I have to go up there in the night, do you want me to wake you?"

    It was finally time for bed and Illya carefully pulled his shirt off. He had a few little scratches from the bear and while none of them were bad enough to bleed there were a few tender spots on his back. Once the shirt was off the rest went quickly and he tossed his pants toward the bin. Kalizda picked them up and briefly examined them. A grin came to Illya's face and he pulled his boxers off. He had a feeling that she either patch the pants or tell him to keep them as bear only pants. He'd forgot to put on one of his bear pants before playing with Cin. Instead she stayed quiet until she got into the bed with him. All of his worries from earlier came flooding back and he pushed up on one elbow. "Yes, I want yah tah wake meh." With one hand he combed his fingers through her hair. "Why dun I know dat yah moter her? Why does she nut visit us? Es et someting I did?"

    His broad hand came up and played with her hair using gentleness that always surprised her, and yet she had come to enjoy at the same time. When he asked if her about her mother and why things were the way they were, Calysta's eyes widened some. He thought it was his fault? He didn't remember? it dawned on her that maybe he didn't really remember what happened on Terra or before that and he had been a bit lost the whole night, thinking he might have done something. "No," she assured him gently, "No, you didn't do anything at all." Tilting her head, she kissed the tops of his fingers playing in her hair. "My mother..." Her voice trailed off as she thought best how to sum up everything, and she met Illya's eyes, searching his face for a minute. "Kiya...she never wanted children to begin with and gave me up to my father...she worked for the Federation as a doctor and it was her who helped them frame me for the Cirellant diplomat murder. She's the reason I crashed on Qouti. When we went to Terra looking for answers, we found her and she was placed on house arrest indefinitely though, some of what she did was forced." Clearing her throat, she swallowed and shifted a little closer to Illya. "She was in Belen's custody for awhile but the woman passed some time ago and Kiya has been on her own. She's...she's...somewhat cruel and wants nothing to do with me, but her mind has been slipping and I've sort of been looking after her since Belen died. She doesn't know that though and she's as likely to rage about it as she is to make wild accusations that the Ehaui are Federation in disguise coming to experiment or kill her." By this point, her cheeks were pink with embarrassment over her mother's actions and her eyes dropped to the mattress between them.

    Some of the story was making sense. Illya remembered parts of Terra, but not her mother. "Oh, so yah moter es dah reason yah get put in maximum security in dat prison. When yah tell meh dat jails are supposed tah be broke out of and nut into." He was certain that her mother had turned Kalizda in as soon as they got to Terra. "So we bring her back here and she es still rotten. Dat es nut yah fault. I guess et es good ting yah nut crazy too."

    Calysta let out a small snorting laugh, remembering when he came crushing through the wall and she'd popped off with a small scolding. "Aye, she is the reason and she's still as rotten as ever. Time hasn't done much for her attitude." Scooting a little closer to her Chip, she felt the usual heat radiating off him and smiled a little more. "It's a good thing I'm not crazy. She had gotten to the point now where I think she needs more help than I give alone and I am a bit worried. I wished it hadn't happened to her and I wonder sometimes if it was the guilt of what she's done, or maybe just from being alone too much. Of course, sometimes things like that are genetic and can be passed down. I hope I never become that way."

    Naturally all the worries came out and Illya was relieved to hear that this was not his fault. "Ah...well even yah get little crazy I tink I will love yah anyway. Yah love meh when I'm little crazy too." He grinned a little and winked at her. "Dere es someting else dat I tink about. Very serious." Looking down to the edge of the bed and then back up to the top he sighed, "I tink we have small bed. Maybe we get closer. I dun want tah fall off dah bed." With one arm he pulled her closer and took a deep breath. "Kalizda I know yah worry. What happen? Yah worry dat maybe dis es yah fault wit yah mum and yah watch her all dis time. Dun yah have enough watching when yah take care of all yah people?"

    He was trying both to get a rise out of her and make her smile at the same time and she chuckled a little when his arm wrapped around her, pulling her small frame to his chest all in the name of making sure they didn't fall off the bed. Her hands tucked against him out of natural habit right over the scar left by his heart surgery a few years ago. "Ooh, I'm glad you warned me. I wouldn't want you to fall off. Better now?" she replied, kissing his cheek. When he continued about her mother, she gazed up at him and nodded. "I wonder if there is something more I could have done. Maybe I should have tried harder to connect with her. Let the children meet her maybe. I was worried she might hurt them though and I wouldn't be able to stand it if she had done that. Even if I have the rest of the Alliance to take care of, I didn't want her to die alone if she did. I used to imagine what she was like when I was a kid and I always thought she was just kind, and beautiful and funny, but wasn't ready for a child at the time. I know better now, but after everything, it would still bother me if the woman who birthed me just vanished like that. If she does live, Is that strange? I'm not sure if I should put her in a home or continue trying to help on my own. She'll likely be an unholy terror wherever she is."

    "Yes, some better." Illya mumbled a little through the kiss. With his few questions there was a whole tumble of answers and a few questions of her own that came out. Listening to her he nodded a little. "Mmm I tink yah make right choices. Ef she es nut dah woman yah imagine as girl den she would hurt our little ones. Kalizda, maybe yah get home for her. Et would nut be cruel. Dey would make sure she has proper food, and she es taken care of even ef she tinks badly of dah care. Et es nut good tah let her suffer because her mind es sick." Carefully Illya rubbed her back and worked at the tight muscles in her shoulders. "I dun know what all yah job requires, but I know dere a lot on yah mind. I worry when I only take care of Chippequoti and yah have many more people. Share yah worries with meh and I can help yah."

    All the questions on her mind about what to do with her mother had been building up for some time and Illya seemed to think putting her in the care of a home might be best. Calysta had been leaning toward the option for some time as things had gotten worse but with the prospect of her being so ill and hurt, the woman wouldn't be able to live on her own anymore. In the end, Kiya was in her mid life and might hate her for placing her somewhere for people far past their prime, but it was the best thing to do. Illya seemed to think so too, which was relief. Illya's warm hand circled around her back and rubbed with light pressure that felt nice. She started to relax a little more with him, simply enjoying the touch. "I think you're right," she admitted quietly. He wanted to know more it seemed and he almost never asked about her work.

    Normally, she didn't mention it because he usually had more on his plate than she did and she wasn't the kind to make her Chip worry when he didn't have to. Of course, he sounded worried about her right now given that he didn't know alot of what she did. Should she say anything? Calysta's little fingers played over his chest, her thumb stroking absently at his smooth, tan skin as she thought for a moment. He really wanted to know? Biting a little at her lip, she nodded again to confirm that he was right. "I've been working on a few things," she said, "I have to fix this sinkhole issue on Pyrta here and I have been working on the details of a deal for a new school which will include rooms for cultural studies for each Alliance member...Kaerelean...Terran...Pithian...and Chippeqouti along with the rest...Oh and I have been working for months on organizing my tour of Kaereal. Normally it happens ever 2-3 years for a council member's tenure, but with the war it hasn't happened at all since I started. That's been taking alot of time. I've also been in contact with the Terran colony to continue to help them organize. They want an entirely separate seat on the council, which is up for vote along with a seat for the everyone else. There have been letters and messages constantly coming in, both good and bad over that. Then I've helping Rose with starting her translations for the project the Elders have given her. She's been working on translating Chippeqouti history and stories commissioned by the Elders and is having an issue every now and then with syntax between Kaerelean and Chippeqouti. Oh, and I've also been trying to finish up my own little project too. I was asked to help with the design for a new engine to be used for the fleet, and the first few test flights have gone well. We should be receiving commission for that work soon too though and most of that first payment to us will go to pay for-" She cut off her words for a moment, debating whether or not to tell him about what she had done yet. Would he think she was crazy for doing it or lose faith in her ability to run things if she told him? "It's going to finish up a safe house for us. It's money I earned as a private consultant and separate from my work as a council woman...I used it to purchase land on a planet on the fringe under a false name. With the war...and after what happened on Terra...if everything fell apart and I couldn't keep it together...I wanted a place where we could be safe."

    Somehow the offer to help seemed futile. The more Illya listened to what she was doing the more he realized he couldn't quite help like he thought he could. Translating from Chippequoti to Kaerelean was something he couldn't do, but if she needed a word in Quoti he could have helped Rose. Anything with a school Illya wouldn't know much about. Voting was something he couldn't change and the Terrans wouldn't want his help. Perhaps the only thing he could do anything to help with was the safe house. "Oh..." His statement fell flat and he searched her face with one eyebrow raised. What was going to do to help her now? "Eh...maybe yah give meh history of old travels for dah tour and I make plans for et and I help wit safe house. Safe house es someting dat I know. I plan entire bunkers for hundreds of Chippequoti before."

    Calysta knew he wanted to help her, though he wasn't exactly sure what to do that might of assistance. If she honest alot of it were things he couldn't do, but she just had been holding in the entire time so he didn't have to worry about her own work. His offer to help with the trip and the safe house was a good one though and she smiled up at him tentatively. "That would help," she told him earnestly, "The trip spans all 90 continents, but I have to make a schedule and itinerary to turn in soon. Following Henaiah's trips to see what she did would be good. The safe house is something you would know better than I would, and I've had a few plans for it. If it's never needed we can always keep it for traveling some day. I hope that's all we'll ever need it for." Her hands slowly slipped from his chest and settled on to his side. "I know it probably seems excessive, but with the children I wanted to make sure you felt safe along with them just in case."

    At least there were a few things that Illya could do for her. "Den I will take care of dese tings." Giving her a little nod he smiled slightly until that last sentence. Slowly the smile faded and he frowned slightly. "Ef we have tah use dat safe house et will nut be jes mehself and dah children. Yah will have tah come wit. Dah agreed dun leave each oter. Dey may send children wit oters for safety, but dey do nut separate in danger like dat. Dis war es someting we fight togeter and I would nut leave yah alone tah die when I could be dere."

    Calysta saw his smile fade a little. She wondered if he knew that she was dedicate everything she could to hold the alliance together for him and the children. She would fight tooth and nail to keep the Alliance a place where her children could grow up unafraid and she worried that he might take the safe house as a bit of a cop out but didnt. Instead, he said that he would be there standing beside her. Her throat tightened a little and she wrapped her arms tightly around him, drawing him close as she could and kissed him. "Thank you. We fight together no matter what." She knew she was so lucky to have him. For as lonely as her mother must have been, she had support ten fold in her husband, her agreed, and she loved him endlessly. Her hug turned to slow kisses, just to show him how much she did love him.

    * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

    By the time she woke in the morning to the sound of Lohgan pushing open their bedroom door, Calysta was curled against Illya quite comfortably. Her only move was to check her pad before making room for her daughter to wiggle in behind her. It appeared Kiya had stabilized and had made it through the night. There were still other concerns, but for the moment the woman was doing as well as could be expected. That was some small relief and the following message gave more decent news. The geologists were on Pyrta and would be meeting with her at noon to work up an initial assessment. It meant she could sleep in a little more.

    Calysta shifted slightly, gathering Lohgan up in her arms then kissed the top of her head before closing her eyes again. She was glad her daughters had a mother with them, even if she wasn't perfect. There would have been a time where she would have given anything for someone to be a mother for her. Henaiah had almost been that person, but it hadn't worked out in the end. Maybe she didn't know much about being one without a proper example growing up and maybe there were better moms out there. Illya seemed to think she was doing a decent enough job at it though and she loved her children. Surely, that was a good sign. Hugging Lohgan close, Calysta smiled to herself with the thought that she hadn't turned out so bad.

    Eventually, she had to get Cypher up for school. It wasn't a hard task given how active he was at any time of day. He bounded with fresh energy in the mornings with the prospect of his favorite berries for breakfast and the hope that he would get to walk with Cin to school. She sent him off to school with the bear loping on one side and his dog trotting along the other, both bigger than him for now. Illya came into the kitchen to help finish up breakfasts for the rest of their troupe and she walked up beside him, rubbing gently at his back. "Morning," she said. They exchanged a little kiss and she smiled up at him. "I forgot to mention last night. I came up with a study schedule for you. You've only got a few months before entrance exams and we've got some work ahead of us. " Inching her pad over to him, she let him look over the regimen. The mornings consisted of a brisk walk, then a study session of hour increments with break times and meals in between. Each study session was divided by subject and she had focused heavily on language and law related issues out right. "We can work on it together and you still have your nights free," she told him happily, "What do you think?"
     
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  6. Silence

    Silence Anonymous Me Staff Member Benefactor Warden

    The first time Illya woke up it was near 3 a.m. and he didn't want to get up. A spasm shot through his spine again and he rolled to his back to see if it would relieve any of the discomfort. Sometimes laying on his side too much got his back feeling like it was twisted. After a few minutes the spasms started to subside and he gradually fell asleep all over again. Only a few hours later the door to their room creaked open and Illya rolled to his side and lifted his head just enough that he could see Lohgan coming into their room. He'd made sure all the kids knew they could come to the room whenever they needed and he wasn't going to scold the girl even if it was entirely too early to come into their room. Putting his head back down on the pillow Illya closed his eyes and almost immediately fell asleep again. If Lohgan needed help she would ask for it, otherwise the girl was going to help herself.

    A while later Illya woke up to a strangely empty feeling bed. Patting the bed down on his side first he moaned a little in his half sleep state and then started to frisk Kalizda's side of the bed. All he discovered were a few of her pillows and the blankets lumped up. Pushing himself up, Illya yawned and rubbed at his face before he pulled the covers back and made the mad scramble for clothing. In many ways it was the worst part of having to get up. Getting out of the warm blankets and then meeting the cooler air of the room was never much fun. Once he had his clothes on Illya decided to go see what he could do to help Kalizda with the morning chores.

    Mornings at home were not the time that he worried about his hair and it was obvious when he came down the stairs. Illya was wearing clean clothes, but his hair stuck out in wild curls and waves. There were still sheet marks on Illya's face and his eyes were half closed. A gentle hand rubbed along his lower back and Illya lazily lifted one corner of his lips into half smile. "Eh, morning." Lohgan would be wanting her breakfast soon. The girl liked to get up, but she enjoyed moving slower in the mornings and then eating her breakfast. The twins were another story. Kalizda would need help holding one of them at least while they tried to have breakfast. Illya usually held onto the more rambunctious of the boys and fed him his bottle while he stabbed at whatever his breakfast was with a fork in his spare hand. It irritated their son to see that dad would eat while feeding him instead of focusing solely on the bottle feeding. However, it didn't matter. While Illya was still trying to get his morning brain put together Kalizda handed him a drill of sorts for study. Raising an eyebrow he smirked. "Oh, yah have meh walk first. Dun want tah roll a fat Chip into Skycorp tah take test eh?"

    Illya was looking his usual sleepy self in the mornings but it was the half smile that made her reflect the same expression back to him. He looked over the pad as she waited somewhat eagerly to see if he would like the schedule. It had been crafted with care and with special focus on what he would need. When he smirked back at her and asked if she was worried about rolling a fat Chip into Skycorp for the test, Calysta's cheeks turned pink and she gave him a bit of a shy look. "Well, I wanted you to have an easier time during the physical and...I...well...I wanted to get back into better shape myself. I thought it might be good to train together."

    It was always worth those awkward comments to see Kalizda turn red. Chuckling a little Illya got closer to Kalizda and kissed her on the top of her head. "I tink maybe training wit meh Kalizda would be best part of meh day." He wasn't looking forward to the study time, but he wouldn't mind the little bit of extra attention.

    He pecked the top of her head gently and she smiled, though her cheeks were still hot from having to admit that the physical training was as much for her as it was him. It made her happy to think that spending time with her was something he would call the best part of his day. She was a lucky woman to hear things like that. It did spur her into attempting to be a bit more bold with him since they were the only two in the kitchen. "Mmm," she hummed as her hand rubbed at his back again, "It will be my favorite part too and then...we always have night." Of course, now that she had started blushing, her comment managed to make it all the brighter though she had been more bold than that in the past.

    It was impossible not to chuckle a little bit at Kalizda's next comment. "Dats meh favorite part of dah day too. Yah make sure everyday es good day." It was slightly entertaining to watch and see how red she would get when she spoke about these sort of things with him. "Maybe we just start wit fun stuff today. We walk little bit and den tahnight we spend time togeter. I tink I get some extra oils and I massage yah back and yah feet and legs. In dat order." He knew if it wasn't in that order he would never get to all of it. "I help meh Kalizda relax. Yah have long days and too much work."

    Calysta gave her Chip a shy, but knowing smile and nodded. He was trying to flirt and to help at the same time, both of which she appreciated. In fact, the idea of a massage from him sounded good in more ways than one, even if she knew by the time he made it to her ankles that would be all the more he could stand before getting into hard work. Smiling a bit more playfully, Calysta stood on her toes and stole a quick kiss from him. "I think that would be a wonderful idea in that order."Her days might have been long with tons of stuff to do between everything for her work as a council woman and also trying to run a house hold while helping Illya in his studies, but her agreed is someone she would always make time for.

    ************

    The day was long and Ehud knew that tomorrow would feel longer. With the colder weather coming on he could tell that he was close to getting the cough. When he got the cough he could stay at home and he probably would because he knew that Sien wouldn't be far behind him. Sien tended to get fevers a little more easily and that was because of his age. For most of the Light Chippequoti the fevers got to be less severe and far less frequent to accompany a cough as they got older. Unfortunately their darker cousins didn't get the same benefit. They were more susceptible to the cold and usually they got fevers a bit more easily, but that was likely due to the slight difference in their bones. Light Chippequoti bones were not quite as dense and it was the reason he had been able to hide for as long as he did on Terra.

    When he started winding through the streets into the Chip district Ehud could smell the familiar scents that reminded him of the war. There was a reason that he chose not to live directly in the Chip district. Sometimes the memories were good, but he had almost as many bad ones living among his people as he did living on Terra. He was torn between the people and despite what the Terrans did he liked most of them. Many Terrans didn't know what the Federation was doing and even fewer knew that the Federation existed. For the most part they were a good people and Ehud almost considered them his own.

    A stiff breeze pulled at the sleeves on Ehud's jacket and he could feel the wind's tendrils creep up his arms. Folding his arms in front of himself he gave his best attempt at blocking cold air. Just as he started to turn the corner and then step onto the sidewalk leading to Illya and Kalizda's front door he looked up to see that Priscilla was sitting out on the front porch.

    Priscilla beckoned him over to sit next to her before he got to the front door and Ehud walked over to where she was and he sat down next to her. The swing rocked gently back and forth a little and he planted his feet firmly on the ground, but used them to keep the slight momentum. It was nice feeling to rock like that. Only a few seconds after he was seated Priscilla threw an odd question at him and Ehud blinked a few times. "Uh...Priscilla this depends partially on you." Ehud wasn't about to try and force anything and he had been trying to grapple some with his own feelings and he'd overcome most of the. "I don't want to hurt you by forcing anything. If you want to know my intentions then I'll tell you, but how far this goes depends on what you're ready for."

    For what felt like a long time Ehud stared out at the sidewalk and continued rocking before he said anything else. "I decided that Sien will need a mother and I would like to find a woman that I can love too. These are my intentions. I am not haphazardly running about and trying out women just because. If you cannot see any of this for yourself then my expectation is that you will tell me. If you think that you can possibly be that woman then I would like to know. " Glancing at her he shrugged a little, "And, if you think that perhaps you will need time to know if you are a friend, or this woman I will understand. It is difficult to lose someone. Priscilla, I like you. If you need time I will wait."

    ********************************

    "Uuugh..." Illya groaned with the first alarm that went off. He'd gotten used to not having alarms and waiting for the kids to wake him up. This time they were getting up earlier than the kids and he didn't want to get up yet. However, this was the new plan for his success and entrance into Skycorp. Since he was starting a new exercise regime Illya knew that either his leg would hurt where the prosthetic was attached, or his back would ache. No matter the case, Illya took the lozenge he could have in day and stuffed it into the side of his cheek. From here on out he figured he'd sip tea to see if he could get ahead of the pain and stay ahead of it. Eventually he would get used to doing the kind of exercise he would be doing with Kalizda again and then it wouldn't hurt quite as much.

    Before they left the house Illya grabbed his thick green sweater that Kalizda got him while he was on the Pithian planet. Once it was over his head Illya opened the front door for Kalizda and stepped outside. "Should we take dah dogs and dah bear?" The animals would need an outing and Illya knew that Quroz needed it too. Since their first morning was more likely to be leisurely compared to what it would become they let the animals out to get some play and exercise too.

    Pytra was quiet this early in the morning. While they were walking Illya reached out and grabbed Kalizda's hand with his. For the moment it reminded him of the gold ring he had on his left hand and he grinned. Perhaps it was a good time to tell her about the dream he had. "Kalizda, I dream last night. Et was good dream. We went back to dat place yah like wit dah glass floor. We were eating dessert and den yah get glider wings and we go jump off dah top of dah restaurant. I tink maybe we try dis next time, well, maybe we jump first and den have dessert."

    ****************
    Somehow the language part was the worst and Illya knew it would be, but he didn't think it would be so hard. He had forgotten how much he struggled to even read Trader's Tongue. Normally he had a translator on his pad read stuff to him and he had gotten lazy enough that he hadn't followed along for some time. It was near the end of the day and Illya glanced at the clock again. It had been nearly an hour. He had only about 20 minutes left to finish out his 1 hour and 15 minute session in language. Even if he was supposed to try and finish making the translation using Trader's Tongue to determine the Kaerelean text he was feeling frustrated.

    Illya's eyes glazed over as he continued to stare at the book. There were plenty of thoughts running around in his head and he didn't even notice when the timer went off until Kalizda placed her hand on her shoulder. "Ooh.." Almost too quickly Illya shut the book and he grinned. "Yah make dinner tahnight and I make surprise for yah and den I can do dah dishes wit yah after dinner."

    Scampering up the stairs Illya started off setting up his plan for the night. First he needed to have some nice oils set up for the tub and he was sure to get some vanilla for Kalizda to put in her hair and call Asha to make arrangements for her to watch the kids. Then Illya turned on the base heater for the tub. The heater kept the tub itself warm so that when they ran warm water in the tub it would stay warm for a bit longer and that would let them indulge in a bit of soaking. Not to mention the fact that it felt nice and Illya liked to rub Kalizda's back and shoulders and her feet when they were in the tub. She liked it the last time they did that and somehow along the way with life they had forgotten to use the tub. It would be a nice change of pace.

    Focusing on dinner was hard, but Illya made it and then he quickly cleared the table and started the dishes rather than waiting the usual couple of minutes afterword. Thomas noted the hurry and Illya winked. "I have special night planned wit Kalizda. Asha said she would come help watch dah kids." It wasn't fair to always assume that Thomas would do it, but he could help if he wanted. As soon as Asha arrived Illya showed her where the bottles were for the twins and then held a hand out to Kalizda. Illya let her take one hand and then winked at her. "Yah like tah hold meh hand, or maybe I carry yah up dah stairs to yah surprise."
     
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  7. aryamajor

    aryamajor Curious Adventurer Benefactor

    Priscilla stayed quiet for a moment considering his words with a fair amount of relief replacing the boulder of tension in her stomach. Along with that relief came something she didn't quite a expect. A warm sort of feeling that she thought was gratitude , but it felt like a bit more and she wasn't entirely sure what it was at first. Her hand drifted over to Ehud's as they rocked gently on the porch swing and settled over it, fingers curling into his palm protectively. It was warm there between his fingers and she wondered if warmth like that was a Chip thing or just a man phenomena in general. What he was asking for was fair, and not unexpected when it came to what he needed for Sien and himself. She knew that beyond a doubt. What was more was that he liked her and he was willing to wait because of that. Leaning over slightly, she placed a chaste kiss on his cheek then retreated back again, though her hand stayed where it was. "You are a good man," she said, "And you're trying to be a good father too. I like you. Ehud. I think Sien is intent on having a mother and I could be that woman, but I also want to be the love you deserve and I'm not sure we're there yet. I want to try though, even if I need a little time."

    Taking this step to tell her what he felt was difficult. Ehud didn't really want to have this conversation yet, but she seemed to be asking him to have it. Expectations, those were a tough subject. It was hard to wait for her answer and he was almost afraid of what she would say. Finally, Priscilla slipped her hand into his and then she started to speak slowly. For a moment Ehud's heart sank. Starting out saying he was a good man was likely going to lead to her saying that it would never work. However, there was an unexpected turn and his head jerked up and he stared at her for a long moment before he spoke again. "You do, you want to try? I can wait, we'll work together to see if it would be good for all of us."

    His head snapped toward her in surprise and he stared at her with blue eyes the color of a clear sky. Was he that shocked that she would want to try? Apparently so, because his next comment came out a little quickly with an almost tentative tone at first. A smile broke out over her lips and she nodded as her fingers squeezed his. "I do want to try, Ehud. I want to work on it together and all I ask for is your patience. Some days are still...harder than others." She knew that he would understand that feeling in its entirety. "But I want to move past those and try for Sien, and for you. For me too." A bigger smile came over her face and she nudged him slightly. "And I can't think of a better way to start than to stir up a little trouble together. I happened to talk with Calysta this morning. How soon do you think you could get that goat?"

    It sounded like he was going to have a few things to think about and maybe do a little cleaning before he invited Priscilla over to fry some chicken with him again. While his mind was whirring with good ideas she skipped merrily along in the conversation and went right to the goat. "Oh uh....I can get it for you tomorrow if you want."

    He didn't sound particularly keen on the idea anymore if tone was anything to go by and so she just chuckled. "Only if you still want to." She wasn't about to force him into something he didn't want to do given the conversation they'd just had. It had been a simple attempt to lighten the mood and get him to smile. A cooler wind swept through the porch carrying some of the rain with it and she burrowed her fingers a little further into his palm, searching for the warmth out of habit. The move was something she used to do with Harry when it was winter in Japan and he usually wrapped an arm around her or found a jacket, but she knew not to expect anything of the sort from Ehud. It simply wasn't his style.

    "No, no, I was just busy thinking. Maybe you'd like to make some fried chicken with me next time. Providing you don't fall in another hole." A gentle smile came to his face and he hoped she knew he was teasing a little bit about the hole. "Otherwise we could plan a little walk around the town and I'll have Illya and Kalizda feed Sien dinner. Then we'll get something that strikes our fancy along our walk."

    Priscilla caught the little smile he gave her and she reflected it back to him. He was handsome when he smiled with a gentle look like that which made her heart flutter slightly again. She took the tease about the hole in stride and giggled at him. "Not my most graceful moment," she admitted, "And why not both? We could spend a little time out together just the two of us on a less rainy day. Take a walk and find ourselves wherever we end up. Then one evening we can cook fried chicken together with Sien. I'll even show you how to make my mothers peach turnovers while the oil is hot."

    "Hmm...I was only planning one day at a time. You're ambitious." Ehud couldn't help the smile staying a little longer on his face. He wasn't much for revealing future plans and he liked to take things one day at a time when he could. Priscilla was apparently more of a planner and she liked to share her ideas. "One thing I can think of is uh...well I'm Chip and you're Terran. How much Chip culture do you want to know? I don't live in the center of Chip village and I know as much about the Terran culture as the Chip."

    His smile stayed, but seemed to grow a little more strong as he called her ambitious. A tease? A general truthful comment? It was always hard to tell with him and she took it as both given he was smiling. She didn't think it was overly ambitious at all. In fact, it would be rather simple to arrange both evenings over the next two weeks if they wanted. He went on to mention Chippeqouti and Terran cultures, asking if she wanted to know more about it. Just the mere comment of him bringing that up made her cheeks turn pink and she gave him a some what apologetic look. "I think maybe I should know a little bit more," she admitted, "Illya...um...told me about the woman's job to pick the man earlier. I had no idea that's what Chip women did." Her eyes dropped to their hands and she cleared her throat. "Maybe I should hear a little more about it. I know there is that bath house thing, right? Harry mentioned that. And some sort of massage parlor? Illya and Calysta go occasionally...she even mentioned some sort of festival and Four Winds?"

    Ehud wasn't sure how to interpret Priscilla's reaction to his question about Chip culture. "I wasn't saying you had to learn more. Illya is a bit of a traditionalist. It was more of an offer if you wanted to spend more time in Chip village, or if you'd like to explore outside of it. The bath house isn't quite all it's cracked up to be. Just two spigots that stick out of a wall and a bunch of naked guys on one end with buckets and then a bunch of naked ladies on the other end with buckets. They all stare at the wall and nobody is supposed to look at the other side, but I can guarantee you that every guy and girl has at looked at the other side at least once. The private bathroom from the Terrans is an improvement. As for the pleasure house, or massage parlor it is just as good as they say. If you want to know about the festivals there are many in regards to the Four Winds. Just they don't always happen every year. Festivals are usually linked to an event and sometimes a year."

    Apparently she had misunderstood the intent he had behind asking how much Chip culture she wanted to know, but at least he answered a few of the questions she raised. "Oh," she said a bit sheepishly, "We could explore inside if you wanted. Just because I'm Terran doesn't mean I don't want to learn about your culture too. Though, judging by the sound of it, we can skip the bath house tour. It kind of does sound awful." The idea of having to bath across from every Chip make in the village was not an appealing one, particularly when the dark Chip women were so exotic and pretty looking in comparison. "Calysta mentioned the Fertility Festival actually and a few others." She simply hadn't wanted to say that out loud. "Four Winds is the religion, correct? Do you...practice?"

    It sounded like Priscilla wanted to know more about the Chip life. In some ways it was surprising that she didn't know more and at the same time it wasn't. Illya wasn't much for forcing his culture, but he did expect his children to abide by some rules. "Four Winds is a religion and uh...I can't say I've actively practiced. Probably should be a little more devout. As for the bath house, good choice to skip it. I don't really go there. Only ones that go are the Dark Chippequoti and a few of the older Light Chips that are more traditional. Rest of us would rather not." Ehud was avoiding the fertility festival subject. That was one of the festivals that he knew foreigners were highly interested in and it was a great festival, but sometimes strange to talk about. "There was a peace festival because Kalizda and Illya had twins. It is a big deal. Chippequoti don't usually have twins. Twins are kind of a big deal because the Four Winds unite and agree for one night. A wind for each parent and a wind for each child." There was also the added fact that Ehud didn't remember all the festivals as well as he could have. "Uh..the fertility festival is just about what it sounds like. For about a week those that choose to take part go to the pleasure house and get scrubbed down, massaged, soak in tubs of oils and eat nothing, but their favorite foods and then the women drink teas that aid in fertility. That festival is about once every 7 years. Pretty big festival. Uh...otherwise I haven't really practiced that much Chip culture myself. So, I'll try to answer your questions, but there is a lot of stuff I can't think of right away."

    He explained a bit more and it was interesting to hear him so relaxed about some traditions, including religion. Some of the festivals sounded fascinating, even if it wasnt likely that she would ever participate in anything like the fertility festival. "It is a little different than Terran culture when it comes to...well...most things," she admitted, "I am part of the Christian sect, its a religion...well you probably know that...I was practicing until about a year ago."

    She trailed off for a moment then returned her gaze to Ehud's with a gentle look in her eye. "What about holidays? Thanksgiving is coming up and I know Illya and Kalizda participate. They do Christmas too. It was one of my favorite times of year on Earth."

    "Holidays are good. I practice some. Sien looks forward to Thanksgiving. He came home with a little card inviting both of over for dinner. Cypher scribbled in the card, but I am sure Kalizda wrote it. Christmas isn't anything I have ever tried. Are you sure Illya practices it? Christmas is a direct violation of the Four Winds religion and it has gift giving. Giving gifts is prohibited in Chip culture."

    "Oh." The word slipped out of her mouth betraying her slight disapointment and a little concern to boot. He had admitted he wasn't particularly traditional, but he had made it sound like maybe it was a big deal in the Chip culture to practice the holiday or even give gifts. Not to mention, she might have just gotten Illya in trouble some how. She hadn't intended to do that at all. "They had a Christmas tree and gave the children gifts. It's part of his wife's tradition," she shrugged casually, "But if he's not supposed to and someone else asks. I didn't see anything. I didn't realize it was that big of a deal." And she meant it. She wasn't about to get her host in trouble over something so silly as not being able to practice a tradition his wife had in his own home.

    Ehud glanced at her and he shrugged. "Well, he's not supposed to. I know what Christmas is and I've never really tried it because Haza was Chip too. I can see where it could be something you might try privately in the home if it was the tradition of your wife." This was dangerous ground and Ehud wasn't going to outright say that he would do it, but he would let her know in his own way that he would try it. "But uh...You're right about one thing. It's better not to say anything about him practicing Christmas. By Chip tradition and the Dark Chips are very traditional they may consider him doing that bad luck. Punishment for something that defies the gods so openly is uh...They take the offender out of town, break their back and leave them for 3 days. If they survive then their agreed can go help them. If not, then it was justice taken by the gods."

    "What?!" The word came out a horrified squeak as her hand left his and clamped over her mouth to stifle any other exclamations that might come out. She stared at Ehud, eyes wide as saucers as the thought of what they would do really sank in over something so trivial as practicing something different, bad luck or not. She had almost gotten Illya into serious trouble because she had no idea that it could cost him his life. Slowly, she removed a shaking hand and her brow knit together. "That's...that's...terrible. It makes no sense to kill someone over something like that. And I almost...I'm sorry."

    Knowing it as a matter of fact was one thing, but apparently discovering it for the first time was shocking. Blinking a few times he stared at her in confusion. "Don't worry about it. Times are changing and you know now. Besides, I'd be the last person to turn him in on something like that. Can't say that I haven't broken the rules a few times myself and if you didn't know he's broken a lot of rules even if he does seem excessively traditional at times." Carefully he reached for her hand when it lowered some. "Who knows. I might want to take some of the same risks if I have the right lady."

    Priscilla struggled to see how breaking someone's back could ever be justified, but Ehud acted as if it were just a part of life. For him, it really was just another fact of reality. Perhaps it was good that she had this conversation, though it was awkward in its beginning and even now after he explained that he wasn't such a stickler for that rule. It was hard to see Illya as the rule breaker and at the same time very easy to see it. He was a wily one and Ehud was a bit more straight laced. At least she had thought so, until he captured her hand with a careful grip. Tilting her head at him, she studied his face and a tentative smile just barely pulled at the corner of her lips. "If she's worth the risk, I'm sure she would be a good partner in crime. No word said."

    "Well, I wouldn't be considering courting her and taking her traditions if I didn't think she'd be worth it." Honesty was going to be the best policy at this point. He had worked hard to be straight with her on everything since the time that Illya had said something to him and it was working out well since then. "We might try a Chip version of it if you'd fancy to help me. Don't have much experience with those things."

    His hand was warm over hers and she smiled a little more when he said he wouldn't be seeing her if he didn't find her worth it. He sounded honest when he said it, genuine even, and it felt like the first moment she could let a little guard down in earnest. "I think I can help with that. I have been known to fix up the...holidays...very nicely. " Her hand relaxed in his and she leaned back against the swing still smiling faintly. "I think you'll like it and if you don't, you have my word that I will participate in the next Chip event that comes up."

    It was obvious that she had spent too long in Illya's house. "Making deals huh? Why don't you help me celebrate a Terran holiday and then I'll help you celebrate the next Chip holiday that peaks your interest?"

    Her smile grew and she ducked her head slightly in a shy attempt not to be over eager to spend time with him before looking up to him once more. "That sounds like a deal, Ehud-" she almost said his last name and then realized that she didn't know it. Her brow raised and she looked at him curiously. "What is your last name, now that I think about it? Everyone calls you by your first."

    It was going to turn into an interesting conversation for sure. Ehud could hear the pause in her voice and then she asked him what his name was. "Chippequoti don't really have last names. We just have a name about the size of the Eiffel Tower." He knew she'd get the slight exaggeration. She was from Terra after all. "So, my name is, Ehud Grey Leopard Dahmoy 85 of Valous."

    When he said his name she she couldn't help but start to giggle a little. There was no way she would remember a name like that without hearing it multiple times and she wondered vaguely if Illya had a similar name and if he did, how on earth Calysta remembered it. "Now, that's a name," she giggled, "You weren't kidding with it being the size of the Eiffel Tower. And I thought Priscilla Elizabeth Heroldson was too long when I was younger." Smiling broadly now, she bit her lip and tried to recall the entire name just for him. "We have a deal Ehud Grey Leopard...Decoy...ah...85..of...Valoose?"

    "I guess you finally met someone with a longer name." Nodding along he let her get the first bit of his name out and then he stopped nodding when she butchered the end. "No, it is Ehud Grey Leopard Dahmoy 85 of Valous."

    She closed her eyes and nodded before repeating the words carefully. "Ehud Grey Leopard Dahmoy 85...of Valous." She would endevor to remember it well and when she opened her eyes, she met his gaze and squeezed his hand. "I have it now, I think. Thank you for coming to see me today. I'm glad you did."

    This time Priscilla got his name right and Ehud grinned. "It's ok if you forget. I don't expect most people to remember my name in its entirety." When she finished he slowly got up from the swing and offered a hand to her. "Maybe you'd like to go in with me. I still have to collect Sien."

    "Of course I would," she smiled. Carefully, she planted her good foot onto the porch and took his out stretched hand. Pulling herself up, she lurched in close to him and smiled. "Let's go get Sien." She didnt let go of his hand before making her first wobbly step toward the door. Her ankle had stiffened up since she came to sit out in the cool weather and the next step was equally jolting as she walked with him toward the door.

    * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

    The first morning they tried the new study routine wasn't too hard. She heard Illya groan and she rolled over to give him a gentle kiss on the lips. "Hmmm...morning, love." Her hands rubbed over his back, waking him up a little more gently than the blare of the alarm had, and she kissed him again. A few more sleepy kisses were exchanged before she fumbled around for her robe. The exchange from nude to robed was fast because it was chilly in the open air without her Chip to keep her warm and then she walked down stairs to get the children up for school. Luckily, Rose was already awake and walking out of the bathroom on the second floor in her own bright pink robe and fluffy slippers. "Morning, Kalizda," she yawned.

    "Good morning," she said, regarding her eldest daughter with a sleepy smile, "Big day?"

    "Mmmhmmm," she nodded, "School...then I'm going to Papa Edgar's to work on the translating and then..." Rose yawned again and rubbed at her eyes. "I'm going to meet Sam for dinner in town."

    Her daughter had become almost self sufficient at this point and Calysta was proud of Rose. She had become a smart, quite wonderful young lady and it gave Calysta no end in joy to see her so confident. It also made her a little wistful for the days Rose was the tiny girl she had found on Nuen too. Sweet, percocious and altogether hers. Did every parent feel like that? Smiling to her daughter, Calysta shuffled over to Cypher's room and opened the door to just a crack. "Time for school, little man. It's show and tell day." The room was dark but she could see the lump on the bed begin to stir. Show and tell day was Cypher's favorite day and he was always ready with something.

    The rest of the house began to stir in short order as Calysta went down stairs and began to get Cypher a breakfast of oats and berries ready. Priscilla and Thomas came in nearly back to back both looking sleepy. However, there were varying degrees of sleepiness. Priscilla always managed to make the early morning hours look as though she had fallen asleep and woken as a movie star. Her hair tumbled down in just the right way and her pajamas looked as though she'd never slept in them. Both of them headed toward the coffee pot where Thomas set to work making them a large carafe full. Rose came around the corner fully dressed now and picked up a mug before lining up behind Papa Thomas with an expectant look.

    "Is it the Colombian roast?" she asked curiously in Terran.

    Thomas grunted and shook his head. "Italian today, kiddo."

    Rose perked up a bit more and held her cup at the ready for a nice drought of coffee. "That one is the best."

    Calysta watched the exchange with a fair amount of surprise. Since when did Rose drink coffee? How had she missed the formation of that little habit? Apparently, it had been going on for quite some time and it was almost funny to see her daughter standing there waiting to fulfill her need for caffiene. "Just don't drink too much," Calysta said in Terran as she stirred the oats for Cypher's breakfast, "You'll get jittery."

    Rose smiled knowingly and kept her cup out with out hesitation. "I figured that out day one."

    Thomas started to chuckle alongside Priscilla as he filled up her cup, then went back for his own mug.

    It wasn't long before Cypher was off to school with his show and tell item in his bad. This time he was taking Monster the Dog who stayed by his side no matter where he went. Calysta knew she would likely be called to take the dog home after show and tell was done, but she wouldn't mind doing that. Thomas was off to the school alongside him and could watch over him from there too.

    Illya came downstairs ready for his first day of walking and she smiled up at him before dashing upstairs to get ready. She put on her sweater along with her thick, water retardant workout pants and her boots. Her hair went up into a haphazard pony tail as she trotted back down the stairs to meet up with her Chip. "Ready?" Priscilla would be looking out for Lohgan and the twins if they woke up so they would be all set for their hour walk. When Illya suggested they take the dogs and the bear, Calysta nodded. It only took a single whistle to call Aymos and Elijah to their side. The two dogs had grown to their full size nearly and were probably the most well behaved of the bunch. Daisy and Gemini trotted behind them, curious to see where the other two were being called, but took one sniff of the cold before deciding their masters were in doors and that was the best place for them to be too.

    Illya let Cin out of the back gate and they started out into the cool, misty morning walking with the three animals toward the northern edge. "Don't worry," she told him, "I've been speaking with with geologists and engineers. The sink hole is there, and it was partially caused by the impact of debris a few years ago, but it is otherwise natural and doesn't extend to the foundations. Pyrta will be the home to a new lake by the end of the rainy season. Apparently, that means I get to name it too." It was an easy pace and she enjoyed getting the chance to simply be out with her Chip. It wasn't until they were walking toward the north side of town that Illya's hand captured up hers. "Oh?" she chuckled as she laced her fingers with his, "Now, that would be fun. We could just fly right off the edge like two birds. An cryn and a sparrow. Of course, if we eat enough of that cake, we might just be too plump to fly anywhere." Sure it was a silly dream, but she liked entertaining fantastical ideas with Illya. Particularly when he held her hand. Being close with him is what she had missed and they were closer now than they ever had been. "I'd fly anywhere with you." Her tiny fingers squeezed his gently as they continued along the path.

    They walked toward the northern fields though the expanse of harvested ground was obscured by a curtain of grey mists. "You know, there is a continent on Kaereal that flies like that. One of the most ancient cities on the planet," she told him with a grin, "You strap in to a little glider and jump off the cliff." He didn't seem particularly keen on the idea and she laughed before letting go his his hand. "C'mon..." Her grin told him him everything that he needed to know about what would happen if he caught her. She dashed out a little ahead of him and let him come to her only to dodge away again. By the time he caught her they were both grinning from ear to ear with pink cheeks, hers a brilliant pink and his a robust crimson against his tan skin. "You caught me," she laughed from his arms, "Now what is it you intend to do with me?" They kissed on each other a little more in the quiet hours of the morning until some of the scientists there studying the sink hole arrived. Calysta took that as their cue to make their way back to home with the dogs and Cin having a nice trot beside them.

    Illya's studies went about how she expected. He struggled with reading in traders tongue, which was the language the test was meant to be administered in, and reading the laws was hard enough even when you were fluent in traders tongue. "Hmm..no...you've mistranslated there," she told him honestly as she looked up from her work, "It's the list of rights given to all Alliance citizens. That one is the right to a trial by peers...." That sparked an entire discussion on how the justice system worked. It had a few nuances that the Terran system didn't possess and in her mind it was a good thing. Besides that conversation he seemed slightly distracted over all. Was it the material or just his usual need to move around that kept his knee bouncing? By the end of the day he was more than ready to end his studies for the evening. At this rate he would fall behind, but this was the harder part for him and she had no doubt once he learned a bit more he would be passable.

    He eagerly shut his book and dashed off to their bedroom talking of dinner and surprises. Surprises? There was no telling what he had cooked up and now she was all curious. All the way through cooking dinner, feeding the twins, and cleaning the dishes Calysta worked through the possibilities in her head. Her curiosity only grew when Asha stepped through the door and announced she would be looking after the twins. What in the Wilds had he been up to?

    Her Chip gave a hurried explanation of where the bottles were for the twins and Calysta looked at Asha then nodded to the book shelf. "There's hologram movies for them in the case...the milk is in the fridge...and Lohgan's crayons are in the bag under the desk...best not to let her around markers. She gets decorative..." She had no idea what to expect. She knew he got this excited when he had something up his sleeve or was thinking of sex. Maybe it was both this time? He had gone through the trouble of getting Asha to watch the kids, which wouldn't have happened if it was just sex. When he offered his hand with a big grin, Calysta slipped her hand into his calloused fingers and giggled a little. "I'll follow you."

    Illya lead her up the stairs to their bedroom and she half expected some set up on the bed or for him to dash off to put on the Ira costume again. Instead, he lead her into the bathroom where the tub was waiting surrounded by a few candles and sweet smelling oils. She could feel the steam in the air and knew had come upstairs to arrange all of this just for her. Her cheeks tinged a little pink at the thought he'd put behind it all. How is it she had gotten so lucky? Pulling her Chip close, she wrapped her arms around his waist and beamed up at him. "You did all of this for me?" Her tiny hands rubbed at his back then slipped up under his shirt to do the same without the cloth barrier. The scars from surgery and whippings were still etched into his skin, but she didn't notice them at all. Her fingers continued to caress over the small of his back gently. "Mmm...thank you, love."

    They took the time to undress each other which was always fun on it's own. It was a moment they could attend to one another in a way that was intimate and gentle. The water was perfectly warm and Calysta had no qualms about letting Illya take some of the vanilla scented oils to rub into her shoulders while they soaked together. "Mmm..." she hummed, "How did I get so lucky?" Leaning back, she kissed at his jawline and then let him continue rubbing at her shoulders. "You are the best agreed I could ever imagine. I'm glad you're mine." Sure, she didn't sound as poetic as he did when he spoke sweet nothing in her ear, but she tried. At one point, he brushed a hand over her side and she let out an involuntary giggle. He looked confused for a second and she gave him a sheepish look. "I'm a bit ticklish on my ribs. I always have been. You never had a ticklish spot?"

    This was a new discovery for him it seemed. How he had never noticed before she wasn't sure, but then he took to it as an excuse to explore a little more in the effort of finding another ticklish spot. Eventually, they settled down long enough for him to massage her feet and she knew by the time he works his way to her ankle that he would want to take things further than just soaking in the tub. When it looked as though he might night be able to stand it much more, she leaned over and wrapped herself around him for a nice, slow kiss. Her fingers tangled in his hair as she took her time to love on him from his lap. It wasn't until their lips parted and she looked him in the eyes that she really took note of the glint in them. There wasn't just lust waiting there but a gaze that told her she was something more. Whatever it was that he held in that moment, it made her heart skip some and she kissed him all over again.

    * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

    The next morning, Calysta shuffled down stairs and was surprised to see Rose coming down the stairs with her clothes on. A cup of coffee sat encircled in her hand as she greeted Calysta with causal sip. They exchanged good mornings, but there was something a bit different about her daughter. She seemed like she was on the edge of something. "You look like you are having a good morning for sure," Calysta said, as she tossed her long hair over her shoulder. It smelled like vanilla from the night before and she smiled at the thought of her Chip upstairs. "I have alot of work to do today and Sam asked if I wanted to come over for dinner."


    They spoke back and forth a little more before there was yell from upstairs. The bellow ran through the whole house and Calysta put down her tea cup before heading toward the stairs. "What in the wilds?" Taking the stairs by twos, Calysta made it to the third floor only to bump into something hairy at the height of her knees. It let out a bleating sound before clomping over her bare toes to escape the sounds. "Ow...ow!" the animal...Was it a goat? Stumbled down the stairs to the second floor as she hopped up to her bedroom to find the strangest scene. Priscilla stood in the corner with her eyes wide and hand clamped over her mouth.

    "What in the wilds... a goat?" she looked to Priscilla. The woman nodded, unable to speak from either shock or laughter. It was hard to tell.

    Calysta had said a small prank was fine so long as it didn't involve explosives or permanent injury to her Chip or the house. It had been a mere request for permission. Never could she have guessed that the woman would stuff a wild animal into their bed. Priscilla had probably gotten more than an eye full of Illya considering they had gone to bed naked from their night before. "Good morning?" she managed to say finally.
     
    Last edited: Nov 17, 2018
    Silence likes this.
  8. Silence

    Silence Anonymous Me Staff Member Benefactor Warden

    Illya felt the covers lift slightly and he figured Kalizda was getting back in bed with him. Turning on his side he moved a little closer to her and felt the covers drop quickly all over again. Wrapping his arm over her side he got a bit closer and he noticed she didn't smell as good as she had last night. About that time he felt her grab his hair a jerk hard. "Aaugh! What dah hell!" Throwing the covers off Illya jumped to his knees in the bed and then he saw it was a goat and there was someone else in the room. Scrambling for the blankets Illya tried to get himself covered and he just kept on fumbling. After a moment he spluttered, "Cover yah eyes, or turn around."

    Priscilla had thought perhaps the goat would lay still for a few minutes before waking Illya up. What she never could have guessed was the critter taking a plug out of the man's hair and him leaping up out of bed in all his glory. She stared wide eyed at the Chip man before her and couldnt really process what to do with the visual until he sputtered at at her to turn around. Priscilla squeaked a little and spun on her heels, covering her eyes and her mouth. "Oh my god. I...I..." The words came put a mumbled mess as she felt a distinct blush rising to her cheeks.

    Within a matter of seconds the sound of feet coming up the stairs sounded and Illya sank back into the bed and grabbed a pillow to hold in front of himself. If it was one of the kids it could certainly get much worse than it already was. Instead, Kalizda burst through the door and she stared at Priscilla a brief moment before looking to him. "Aye, ets a good morning." Grumbling a bit Illya set the pillow aside and reached up to the top of his head. There was a rather tending feeling spot near the right temple. When his fingers reached the sore spot he noticed that it was also missing hair. "Et ate part of meh hair." His voice rose in pitch slightly and his eyes widened. "I dun believe it."

    Calysta stared at her half covered Chip as he felt around on his head where a distinct bare patch sat on his temple. The wayward goat had taken a few curls, leaving him sheared short. Illya was a bit touchy about his looks from time to time and the patch would take a few weeks to fill in. Unsure of what to say or even do at that point, she hesitated before inching forward. "Um...well its not so bad...if I give you a hair cut...it will blend faster." She glanced to Priscilla who still had her back turned, except now her shoulders were shaking. Was she laughing? Calysta bit her lip and looked back to Illya fighting a small smile. "Pris...maybe you should go for a minute." The woman let out an explosive snort and mumbled an apology as she scuttled down the stairs. "Im sorry about your hair."

    Glancing to Kalizda when she spoke Illya narrowed his eyes. She had that slight twist to her mouth. The one that said she was trying hard not to smile and he sighed. "Et's bad." Even if he acted like he didn't care, Illya did care a little bit about his appearances and having a little notch taken out of his hair was not on his list of great things. Priscilla was snorting and shuffling away and Kalizda got a bit closer to take a look. "Well, et could have been worse. I'm glad dah goat didn't try tah eat someting else of mine."

    Calysta half jumped to settle on his side of the bed and reached up to take his hand away from the bald patch. "It could have been worse," she said, her voice squeaking slightly, "It could have been...it could have been something more...important." At this point her throat was tightening up in the effort of not laughing and she leaned over to inspect the spot. "I think the goat was just as surprised."

    It was obvious what Kalizda was thinking, or at least Illya thought it was obvious. "Yes, yes I know. Why dun yah jes laugh. Et's worse watching yah try nut tah laugh den ef yah would jes burst out in meh face." At this point he felt annoyed with her attempts not to laugh and he was sure that it would only be proper for her to give a good chuckle since it was likely a great spectacle. "Yah know, I tink Priscilla might have seen more dan she meant tah. I uh...I didn't keep dah blankets on meh when I felt meh hair get pulled out."

    Calysta could see her attempts had failed and she couldn't fight a good natured laugh as she inspected the spot. "I'm sorry..." she laughed, "Its not so bad. I can fix it." She couldn't quite stop laughing until Illya added that Priscilla had seen more than she meant to. Her cheeks turned pink at that thought and the laughing faded some. Wiping at her eyes, she searched his face with a gentler sort of look. "That wasn't really your fault. I would have jumped up just like that, pants or not. You covered up quick at least. Not like you went parading around with everything out." Her fingers came up and brushed over the spot. "Lets put some oil on it and that might take the redness down."

    Sometimes the way Kalizda acted about these things was more than Illya could take. "Well, yah dun have tah be so serious. I'm pretty sure dat et's better someone got an eye full of meh rater den yah. Dey see meh and dey dun want meh, but I tink ef someone saw yah dat I would have fight on meh hands." Catching her fingers when they rubbed over the sore spot he winked at her. "How about after yah help meh wit meh hair maybe I have little time tah take yah for a walk. Dere es someting I want yah tah see."

    He called her a bit too serious, but she was still giggling a little despite the fact she had been sure he would be upset over Priscilla seeing him. Apparently, he wasn't too upset because he made a quip about it better they see him than her or it might cause a fight. That little comment made her grin turn sheepish and she gave him a shy look as he captured up her fingers. "I don't know about that," she replied, "You could make a few women swoon yourself. I might have to remind them who I am." Leaning forward she kissed his knuckles. "Oh? Something to show me? Well now I'm curious. I'll fix your hair first...and.." She broke out into a wayward fit of giggles again, "We'll find the goat too."

    Since he was still buck naked Illya decided to get something to put on before she trimmed his hair up. "Ok, yah get ready wit dah hair cutting stuff and I put on some boxers eh?" By the time he had his boxers on Kalizda had barely pulled out the box with her hair cutting kit. Illya grabbed the short stool and he sat himself down. With the dark curls that tumbled down his chest and then hit the floor Illya was surprised to see how much hair he was losing in this cut. It was always hard to tell how long his hair actually was. If it curled most of the time it got longer before it touched his ears.

    When Kalizda was done Illya felt all along his head. It felt shorter than she usually cut it. Standing up Illya walked over to the mirror to look and he saw that it was almost as short as it was when he was in the military. In many ways he had gotten used to having his hair a little longer. Cautiously he felt along the part of his head that he knew had a few scars and he glanced in the mirror and saw that he still had enough hair to cover the scars. That was the part that mattered. Turning toward Kalizda he winked. "Yah wanna have shower wit meh now?"

    ****************************

    They couldn't just leave the kids behind and Illya knew that. "How about I put on dah carrier for dah twins and we let Cypher push Lohgan in dah stroller?" Illya was getting stuff out for the walk in town. Today he was going to try and do something different. He had heard about a new place that opened in heart of the Pytra. It wasn't in Chip village and he was going to make it a small family outing. The place supposedly made special chocolates and served teas.

    Once the kids were packed up Illya checked on the twins one more time before he had Kalizda tuck a blanket around them and wiggle the corners of the blanket under the straps to hold it securely. Illya had the twins ready and they were nestled in close to his chest and sweater. For extra protection Illya slipped a jacket on and he left it open, but if he needed he could pull it off and hold it over the twins to protect them from the rain. They were still small enough that it wouldn't be good for them to get rained on.

    Cypher was dressed up in his little boots and he was already excited to help push his sister in the stroller. With the kids all ready to go Illya waited for Kalizda to get her things and then they stepped outside into the brisk air. Illya pulled his flat cap on and grinned at Kalizda. He knew she liked this hat with his sweater, even if the sweater was mostly covered by the twins. Briefly the twins stirred and Illya rested one arm over their little rear ends to give them a little extra support and they started to settle down again. They liked it when he carried them and they slept well when they went on walks. The lumbar strap didn't start to hurt until they were almost to the little chocolate shop and Illya ignored it for the time. With Cypher still pushing his little sister Illya reached out with his spare hand and captured Kalizda's fingers. "We're almost dere."

    Rounding the corner revealed the new Terran Chocolatier Shop. "Dere es dah surprise. Yah like tah go in and get someting tah eat and maybe little tah drink too?" Of course Cypher didn't wait for his mother to answer and he nodded eagerly and shouted a yes before he started to charge along the sidewalk with his sister in her stroller. The girl giggled and people began trying to dodge the dangerous pair. Illya had to let go of Kalizda's hand and he let her go slow Cypher down. A few people gave disapproving looks, but most of them grinned and shook their heads. Some of the women seemed to get doe eyes when they saw the twins tucked away underneath the blanket and one of them even gave an audible, "awe."

    By the time they got into the chocolate shop Illya could see that it was going to be an exciting trip. Cypher was plastering his little face to the glass as he stared at all the candies and Lohgan was already working an unbuckling herself and she quickly imitated her brother. Walking over to the larger table that Kalizda had picked out already Illya saw her finish propping the stroller against the wall next to the table and he helped her take off her jacket. Kalizda helped him take his off and then they each went to take the jackets off Lohgan and Cypher. Once they all had their jackets off Illya picked Cypher up and held him off to the side so he wouldn't squish the twins and let him look through the glass at one of the taller counters so he could see everything, including the chocolate mixer.

    "Ooooh." Cypher's eyes got wide and he licked his lips. "Do I get some?"

    The woman behind the counter chuckled a little and offered a plate with some samples. At first Cypher tried to grab a handful, but Illya stopped him and had Cypher take only one. While they all savored some of the sweet chocolate Illya noticed there were caramels and he already knew what he would get. "Yah each get tah pick a special candy and a drink. Den we go sit at dah table before we walk home eh?"

    Cypher clapped his fat little brown hands together with sheer glee and he pointed to a chocolate truffle filled with mint. "Dat one, please?" While the lady at the counter got the large truffle Illya set Cypher down and then waited for Kalizda and Lohgan to pick out their candies. Rose was gone for the afternoon with Sam, but Illya had Kalizda pick something out for Rose too. She would be disappointed if they didn't remember her. After everyone had their treat Illya handed the special truffle to Cypher and Lohgan's to her and then Kalizda's to her and he took his little bit of caramel and they went to the table. A few minutes later the lady at the counter brought out the teas and cocoa's that had been ordered.

    With his family sitting and enjoying a small outing together in a safe place Illya couldn't help feeling satisfied. Glancing at the twins he pulled the blanket back slightly and he grinned a little. Once they were covered again his eyes roamed over Lohgan, Cypher and Kalizda. This was what he wanted, his family to be content and to enjoy the small things in life. By the time they were done the kids were wound up and ready to run. Illya let Kalizda push the empty stroller home while Cypher and Lohgan burned off their extra energy running and clomping their way through rain puddles.

    ************************

    It was nearly a week of studies and Illya was used to getting up in the mornings now, but the studying with the language wasn't any easier. Staring at the page he shifted in his seat again. His back was hurting after this many hours of sitting for study. After about 15 more minutes Illya stood up and walked into the living room to lay on the couch. If he was going to study this many hours he knew he couldn't sit for all of it. Once he was on the couch Illya kept on reading and translating as best he could until he fell asleep. A little hand on his shoulder woke him up and he looked at Cypher. The boy wanted him to look over his school report with him.

    Sitting up Illya made room for Cypher and the boy crawled into his lap. Lohgan suddenly felt jealous and wanted to sit with her dah too. Now with both kids he read the report and congratulated Cypher on his great day at school. The teachers had started to praise him more regularly for being a bright and still 'energetic' student, but he had exemplary consideration for the children smaller than himself.

    With the little report done with Lohgan jumped off his lap and went to retrieve a book. She liked it when her dad read to her. Illya ended up reading nearly 4 books before Kalizda said it was time to eat. When they finished with dinner Cypher almost instantly went to bed and that was odd, but Illya had to admit he wasn't feeling his best either. The next morning Cypher came into their room with a fever and he fussed a little until Illya helped his son into the bed. Cypher was too big for Kalizda anymore. Illya barely helped his son into the bed and the boy's back arched and he started to seize. Moving a little further away from Kalizda Illya got out of the bed and laid his son on his side. He wanted to make sure Cypher wasn't close enough to hit his mother by accident. Illya went and put on his boxers before he came back to the bed and made sure Cypher was rolled to his side. Within a few moments the boy slowly stopped seizing and Illya rubbed Cypher's back. "Yah ok, maybe we tell dah school dat yah nut go today."

    Cypher took a while before he started to wake up and when he did he started to cry. "Et's alright. Yah jes have little seizure. I tink maybe yah dun feel good eh?" Getting back into the bed Illya let Cypher sleep between himself and Kalizda for the rest of the morning and then he wrapped Cypher up in one of the spare heated blankets and took the boy downstairs to lay with him while he studied.

    Part way through the morning Illya had to admit that he was feeling lousy too, but it was mostly cause he was just having trouble breathing. It was mid afternoon and he set his books aside. It was a good idea to take a nap for now. In many ways it felt like maybe the Chip cough was starting to catch up and if he got a little rest it might not get so bad. He was on the inhalers and perhaps it would be easier this year.
     
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  9. aryamajor

    aryamajor Curious Adventurer Benefactor

    Calysta let Illya pull on a pair of boxers as she went into their bathroom in search of the hair clipper kit. She found it in the usual spot under the sink and plugged in the device before pulling up their little bathroom stool for her Chip to sit on. He could have sat down in any chair, but the stool was just low enough to allow her to reach his head with ease. Anything taller and it was difficult to reach that high unless she stood on a stool of some kind.

    As soon as he was sitting in front of her, she fired up the clippers which buzzed to life with a metallic hum before she started in on the 'munched' side of his head. The guard she was using wasn't quite short enough to matched the missing spot to the rest of his hair. Frowning in disappointment, she changed out one guard for the shortest one. A fair portion of his curls fell away and tumbled in thick clumps to the tile floor with each passing swipe of her hand. She had to be careful of the scarring on the right side of his scalp. Illya had never complained before, but she always took that side of his head with a gentler hand than she would otherwise because she didn't want to catch on any of the pockmarked scars that were hidden in his black hair otherwise. Illya's hair hadn't been that short in over a year, making him look vaguely like his old Alliance General self. He was handsome in uniform, sure, but it wasn't a look she particularly liked now that she saw what his hair could look like with out a military cut along with the rest of him. At least now he wouldn't have a bald patch.

    "All done. It looks much better," she announced, dusting off his bare shoulders. He turned around eagerly to the mirror to inspect himself and grinned a wily smile as he asked if she wanted to shower with him. Calysta laughed at the mischievous look in her Chip's eyes and wrapped her arms around his shoulders from behind. "Hmm...I think that would be good." She said the words a little close to his ear to see if it might tickle him just a bit. Since his discovery of her ticklishness, she had made it a small personal mission to attempt to find a spot on him. If it did tickle, he didn't show it and she let him go to lead him toward the shower.

    They washed each other with a fair amount of distraction and it took her well over thirty minutes under the steaming shower water to remember that they were meant to be on a study schedule. That had gotten thrown entirely with the advent of the goat in their bed. At this point, it was easier just to enjoy the day and each other with whatever surprise was in store. They could refocus on studying later.

    The rain was coming down in misty sheets along the wind as Illya put on his flat cap and strapped the twins to his front. Whatever this surprise happened to be, it was apparently good for the entire family and that was exciting. She dressed the kids up in order. Cypher was the hardest to wrangle into his rain jacket and matching boots. At first he was too busy chasing the wayward goat around the kitchen island with a pilfered bushel of sweet grass from the fridge. Calysta had solved that problem quickly with the dual solution of announcing they were going somewhere special and scooting the hungry goat out the back door into the yard with her foot pressed against it's furry bottom. "Go on...go...good goat." Quoraz perked up from his hutch as did Cin and Keysha when the animal popped out with a long bleat into the weather before trotting toward the chicken coop to find a place out of the rain. It would be fine there until they returned. The next challenge came when she realized at Cypher's jacket was a little snug over his shoulders and his belly. "You've gone and grown again," she hummed as she struggled with the zipper. He grinned at the thought of having grown more. If he kept growing he would be as big as Dah! "There we go," Calysta chuckled as the zipper finally went up. She gave him a little poke in the belly, making her son giggle then turned to Lohgan. "Let's get you all fixed up little girl." Lohgan was altogether an easy child to dress up. She simply let her arms be guided into whatever she was wearing so long as she had a crayon clutched in her hand. "Where go, Mam?" she asked. Calysta snapped Lohgan's raincoat on and gave a final tug to the girls matching rain boots. "Dah says it's a surprise. Let's go see, hm? Go get in your stroller and brother can push you."

    With her own raincoat thrown on and the hood flopped over head, they ventured out into the continent. They walked along the outskirts of Chip Village and then further into the main square. It was amazing to think that less than ten years ago there had been nothing there but a small grocery store, a traders post, and an emporium. Now, there were dozens of shops selling a wide variety of items from all over the Alliance along side restaurants and novelty stands. The area reminded her of Kinte a little, though it was nowhere near the size of the continent turned city. There were plenty of people out along the side walk given the break in the weather and Calysta wondered if Illya was going to be alright in the more crowded areas. Was it going to be too much? As if he could tell what she was thinking, his warm hand captured up her fingers and he announced they were almost there with a tone of excitement. He seemed relaxed and she followed suit, trusting that he would say something to her if things became too much.

    Around the corner there was definitely a surprise waiting, though she could smell the Chocolatier Shop before she saw it. There was a light sugary smell to the air around the entire area and Cypher wasted no time in taking off down the side walk with his sister giggling wildly in her stroller. "Whoa!" She followed behind the wake of her children, giving apologetic looks to those passing on the side walk but the grin on her face ruined the effect. "Hang on there!" Before she could do much more, Cypher was in the door with his face pressed against the glass, oogling the sweets and Lohgan was bailing out of her stroller to do the same.

    Calysta laughed and chose a large circular booth in the corner to fold the stroller into as the kids looked at what the wanted to get. "Eeeh! Mam!" Lohgan was dancing around and trying to push her raincoat hood back from her face only to have it drop right back down. "Can't see! Help!" Calysta walked over and knelt next to her daughter. "What do we say?" There was an errant little whine from beneath the hood before her barely visible bottom look poked out. "Pease help?" Calysta pulled the hood from her daughter's head, releasing her shock of auburn curls, then unsnapped the coat to remove it entirely. "All better. Now what do we say?" Lohgan grinned a toothy smile. "Tanks Mam!" Her squeaking little voice was one of the best sounds and Calysta couldn't help but smile the entire time they were picking out their chocolates.

    Most of the people on Pyrta knew her family in some way or another now, and while that once might have been nerve wracking, she wasn't afraid to let her half breed children roam some. She would always keep an eye on them, however, the purists had become rather silent on the matter. It probably had alot to do with her being the council woman. Of course, it didn't hurt that she had a former general for a husband either and nobody was willing to put themselves in his cross hairs by attacking his children. Calysta sat next to Illya and saw the grin on his face as he checked on the twins. The crowds didn't seem to bother him so much today. Something she was entirely grateful for in more than one way.

    Their hot chocolates came along with piles of whipped cream dolloped on top. She knew Illya would like the cream if anything and she offered him a spoonful from the top of hers, keeping a hand cupped under the spoon. Lohgan wiggled in her seat as she prodded at the cream and picked up the cup to take a sip. Her brother had no such reservations, diving his nose into the cream and taking a good swig before smacking his tongue in delight. "Mmmm!"

    By the time their coco was gone all of them had a puffy cream mustache, much to Cypher's delight and he took great pride in wearing his around the shop. Calysta wiped at her own mouth and looked around at her children and her Chip at the table altogether. They were all smiling. There wasn't anyone sitting in fear or pain and they were enjoying the time together. That thought alone lifted something from her chest that had been carried for as long as she could remember. Calysta's eyes caught on Illya's and her smile broadened before she leaned over, planting a kiss on his cheek. "This was a good surprise."

    With the empty stroller in her hands, she watched as Lohgan and Cypher made their mark on every puddle between the chocolate shop and their home. Little feet stamped causing big splashes all the way home. A warm and dry couch was waiting for them when they arrived and with the rain coats put away, they all curled into the couch for a hologram movie that steadily turned to a family nap.

    * * * * * * * * * * * *

    The week passed faster than Calysta thought it would. Between Illya's study regimen, her own work, and the usual workload that came with a large family, time seemed to flash by in a blink. Watching Illya work while she tended to her tasks as a council woman was a surprisingly nice view. He worked hard at whatever he did, and she could always tell when he was taking on a challenging part of the language. His brow furrowed as he looked over the pages and occasionally his knee bounced. Sometimes he would have to change positions because his back would hurt and she would make sure he had a new spot to roost for awhile without breaking his concentration by making sure the couch was clean or the chairs were free of toys. At one point, he looked particularly frustrated and she walked over to his side, taking a gentle hand to rub at his back. "That's a harder one. The word itself isn't originally Kaerelean, but it was adopted from Terra...here...try this." Leaning over, she marked down a translation for him to the Chippeqouti equivalent for the term, though nothing was quite precise enough to a true translation. He would have eventually gotten it, but every now and then she wanted to help him, even if it was in some small measure. Cypher had been doing well in school and that was pleasing to her. He seemed to have discovered that when he did well, he gained positive attention. He showed off his good reports everyday to the point where Lohgan would copy him. Their green-eyed girl would scribble on her coloring pages then hold them up for inspection just like her brother. "Good too?" Calysta had 6 of those little tokens tucked in her desk drawer.

    It wasn't until her father walked through the front door holding up a 25lb turkey bird in his hands like a trophy that she realized it was nearly the holidays. They had sent out invitations to Thanksgiving, but where the weeks had gone between the invite and the actual day, it was hard to say. She made plans to go grocery shopping the next day while Illya watched the kids and fell asleep tucked under her Chip's arms. At some point in the night she heard a groan and the bed shifted, making her roll over some in a half asleep state of awareness. There wasn't any yelling and the bed wasn't moving as if Illya were sick, so she curled a little further into herself and drifted back into sleep.

    A few minutes later the bed shifted again, this time it a rhythmic bumping, feeling and Calysta rolled over and out of bed. Half stumbling from the long drop on the other side of the mattress, she popped back up with a wild look in her eye. Was Illya having a seizure? Flipping on the light, she found Illya was getting up and it Cypher who was thrashing in the bed. Calysta snatched up robe and put it on as his father tried to soothe him out of it. Of course, her boy cried just a bit and that was understandable. He didn't have seizures often and when he did it was usually because of a fever. She ran a hand over his forehead, wincing a little at the heat she found there. "Mmm..I'm thinking no school tomorrow too. I'll message the teachers."

    They spent the rest of the night with Cypher wedges between them while they slept. His chubby fingers curled in her hair and his feet pushed against her side in a subconcious attempt to make more room for himself. She could hear the familiar wheezy sound in his lungs and she knew it was probably a bout of the cough coming on. Usually, Illya caught it first, but it appeared their son had beaten him to it this year. Calysta kept a close watch on him through the morning, letting Cypher sleep as much as he wanted and letting Lohgan color in her books so it was quiet. Every hour she would check his temperature and eventually she got him to eat a little broth soup with noodles. She could tell he truly didn't feel well because he clung to her hand and wanted nothing more than to curl into her lap whenever she came to his bedside to check on him. He was far to heavy for her to haul around now, but she let him rest his head on her lap until he fell asleep. When she heard the stuffy snores, she stopped petting at his hair and carefully rolled him back to his bed before tucking him into his heated blanket.

    It wasn't until she found Illya asleep on the couch with his study guide flopped open on is chest that she thought to check his forehead too. Her cool hand ran over his forehead and she clucked her tongue. "You're warm too." There were more serious complications when Illya got the Cough. Without waking him up, she pulled his heated blanket over him up to his chin and turned on the heat to high. At least he wouldn't get chilled that way and she could make a peremptory message to the Ehaui for medicine.

    Cypher bounced back quickly from his bought of Chip Cough by the day before Thanksgiving. For the first two days, he was miserable with a high fever, but it eventually quelled to only a phlegmy cough and a bit of grumpiness because he wasn't allowed outside to play in the rain. "It's too cold and you might get sick again," she informed him for the tenth time that afternoon. All she got was a grumpy groan from him before he plopped down on the couch, arms crossed. "Turn on Mickey Martian, yeah? There's a new episode on." That offer managed to get him satisfied for a bit and she finished heating up the tea for Illya.

    It wasn't hard to take the tray of his favorite tea upstairs to their bedroom and slip inside. Her bedroom had become somewhat of a sick ward. Lohgan was working through the remnants of her own fever and Tomas was piled into his crib with his heated blanket running a fever as well. Her children's Cough was not has severe as Illya's however. He was miserable with a fever border lining on high and he was cocooned into his heated blanket, each breath wheezing in and out. It hadn't been quite that bad the night before, but some point during the dark hours he'd gotten worse. "I brought some tea," she said, "You should try to drink something. We're going to the Ehaui to get you some medicine along with Lohgan and Tomas." It wasn't a request so much as a statement and she rubbed his back. "I've got a pair of sweat pants and a sweat shirt in your chair along with your rain coat." He needed to get up so she could help him to the flyer as much as she could. She could hardly lift Cypher and there was no way she could carry him the entire way, even if she wished she could.
     
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  10. Silence

    Silence Anonymous Me Staff Member Benefactor Warden

    Days of studying got slower and longer somehow. Illya knew they hadn’t, but he didn’t feel good and he could feel himself sweating even though he felt like he was freezing. This wasn’t quite what he had planned for the week. Getting Chip Cough was bad enough, but having it during Thanksgiving wasn’t going to be any fun. Sleeping for almost half his study time hadn’t done him any favors and he thought that it should have.

    Cypher was more than ready to be buzzing about again. The boy still coughed every now and then, but he was almost ready to go back to school. He would be ready when Thanksgiving was over and for now he still came to snuggle a bit when he got tired. Laying out on the couch Illya let out a huff of breath it was hard to breathe. It was still the first day of the prescription and the tea, but Illya figured he would feel better by tomorrow. Perhaps if things were bad it would take until about the day after. Half way through the page Illya set the book aside. “I dun tink I can study anymore.” Catching Kalizda’s gaze he gave her frown, “I feel too sick. Maybe tomorrow I study more eh?” With that he took his blanket and wrapped it a bit tighter around himself before slowly heading up the stairs.

    By the time Illya reached the upstairs he felt about as miserable as he could get. Wheezing the whole way to the bed he put a hand out to catch himself when he reached it. Illya flopped into the bed and he choked and coughed a bit. He was going to have to sit up some if he wanted to breathe. When Kalizda brought Illya the tea he took it from her with a grateful nod. Kalizda wanted him to get into some sweat pants and a sweat shirt to go to the doctor. Normally Illya didn't like wearing the sweat shirt and pants, but he was willing to make an exception. They were easy to put on and comfortable.

    When Illya finished the tea he got himself into the clothes Kalizda had laid out. Cypher didn't have anywhere to stay, so the boy had to go with them. By the time they were all piled into the larger flyer Illya was breaking into another coughing fit and Tomas was crying between his snuffles and cough. Somehow when the kids got the cough it was much more concerning to Illya than when he got it.

    With their arrival at the clinic the Ehaui ran a few basic tests and handed Kalizda a bag with a few bottles and another bag with more tea. "Looks like Chip cough for all of them. Illya's cough is bad, if it doesn't improve in a couple of days bring him back and we'll make sure there aren't any other issues that could be creating complications." That was the end of their visit to the clinic and Illya figured it would be as much. The Ehaui weren't worried about it yet. Kalizda could have gone to get the medicine if she'd just described the symptoms, but she wanted the doctor to actually see them.

    Getting home was relieving in more ways than one. Illya was ready to go back to bed and he was away from extra noise. Somehow being shoved into the flyer with the kids either, bouncing with energy or crying and snuffling was more noise than he had tolerance for when he felt sick. Back in his own bed Illya closed his eyes to rest for just a few minutes, but he ended up sleeping all the way through dinner and beyond.

    Part way through the night Illya started to twitch and he jerked through his whole body for about 30 seconds before he lapsed into a deeper state of sleep and snored between his wheezing breaths. He woke up with coughing fits several times and when morning came he was too tired to even try getting up. “I jes sleep little longer.” As the day wore on he coughed more and gradually felt even sicker. Whatever was going on the medicine didn’t seem to help. Even taking the inhaler didn’t seem to do anything. Illya had determined that if he didn’t feel better by morning he was going to ask Kalizda to take him to the Ehaui. The medicine should have worked by now if it was going to.

    ****************

    Illya sat up in the bed coughing for the sixth time since Kalizda had got in bed with him. He felt badly because she had rings under her eyes yesterday due to his coughing all night. No matter how hard he tried not to cough it kept happening. She’d rubbed his chest down and that helped a little, Illya drank plenty of tea and sucked on all the cough lozenges he could and he was still coughing. It was getting to the point that his ribs hurt and he was almost puking he coughed so hard. Finally the coughing fit ended and he laid back in the bed trying to catch his breath. “Uuugh…” Glancing toward Kalizda he could see she was sitting up in the bed slightly. It was dark in their room, but her silhouette was enough to tell him that she wasn’t lying down anymore. He didn’t want her to panic and so he rested his hand over hers. “Et’s ok. I jes needed tah cough a little.”

    It felt like he barely got any rest and he was sitting up in the bed coughing all over again. This time Illya turned to his side and he coughed into his pillow. It was an attempt to keep himself more quiet. There was just a hint of daylight showing through the slit in their curtains and it was probably the last of the sleep Kalizda would get before the kids were awake. Poor Tomas was coughing and the baby was the most delicate of all the children right now. Even if they both had the cough Illya was afraid to hold the boy in case he somehow made it worse.

    Instead of the usual dry hacking cough Illya felt a little something come up with his cough this time and there was strange metallic taste in the back of his throat. His pillow was slightly damp and he wiped his mouth with the back of his hand before he swallowed. What was left in his mouth was definitely not the usual phlegm, it was blood.

    For a short instant Illya’s heart started to pound and he wheezed a little more. Images from the war began flooding into his mind and he froze in place staring at his pillow. Even in the early morning light he could see the bright red stain on his pillow. To make sure he wasn’t just freaking out Illya got up and took his pillow with him into the bathroom where he turned the light on and stared at the stain for a few more minutes. Since he was up Illya got himself washed and he coughed most of the way through the steaming shower. Some of the time there was blood and other times there wasn’t but he still felt sick.

    When Illya came out of the bathroom he was sweating all over and shivering. “Kalizda...I need…” between wheezing breaths he tried to talk to her, “dah doctor. Please...take meh soon.” They had been to the doctor only a few days ago, but this was definitely worse. While Illya waited for Kalizda he rested his hands on his knees and wheezed through each breath. Though it didn't take Kalizda long, it felt like nearly an eternity. Slipping an extra sweater on over the one he put on after the shower he followed her down the stairs and sat on the couch while he waited for her to get the flyer. It was still early and he hated to think that the kids might wake up and not find them in their room. While he was waiting for Kalizda he stumbled over to Thomas' door and knocked on it gently. When her father opened the door Illya nodded to him as if that should say everything. After he caught his breath he frowned some, "Kalizda es taking meh...to dah doctor." Half wobbling his way back to the couch he was ready to flop on it when Kalizda came through the door ready for him to get himself out to the flyer.

    ***********************

    The Ehuai stared at the result for some time. It was a strange development, but it was certainly going to be interesting to see the longer term results. This was not something that they had anticipated. Going back into the room the specialist looked at Kalizda and then Illya. "Well, he didn't get the cough as early as he normally does. That's certainly an exciting development. Um...We have another interesting find. It seems that the inhaler has worked very well, but there was one problem." Pointing to the x-ray on the lighted board the Ehaui explained, "There were some bits of shrapnel that have been hanging out in his lungs a little too deep for us to pull out for a while. With the decreased inflammation on a daily basis they started to work their way to the edge. Then the Chip cough started and got a whole new inflammation." All the while that the Ehaui was explaining the issue his eyes danced from the charts, to the x-ray and his voice carried an excited sort of lilt to it.

    Illya wasn't entirely sure what made it all sound so exciting. All he wanted was the doctor to get the point and help him breath better. "Would yah...jes get to dah point?" Illya grumbled at the doctor.

    "Basically, the infection got out of hand and you've got pneumonia too. Good news is that we can do a minimally invasive surgery to remove the shrapnel and drain some of the extra fluid out of the lungs." The Ehuai doctor nodded with some excitement, "We've developed a new procedure that can be completed in about half an hour and then you should be able to go home." Almost with meaning to the doctor got a bit louder in his anticipation of possibly trying the procedure. "Would you like to try it?"

    It sounded like the man was offering him a toy, or candy of sorts. This was the sort of situation with the Ehuai that annoyed Illya. "Yes, jes do et."

    Within two hours they were back home and Illya had more tea, more chest rub, a little dressing over his right side and some heavier medication. When he got upstairs to the room Illya gingerly laid himself out on the bed. "Maybe I have Asha come help wit dah kids tomorrow eh?" His sister was busy, but she had always found time to help when she asked. Maybe she'd bring Riyan too. Riyan liked the kids and he would be good with them.

    **********************

    Over the next 3 days while Illya spent most of his days sleeping Asha and Riyan took turns checking in and helping with the kids. Asha came in on the second morning with a covered basket. Lohgan and Cypher were already trying to see what was inside and then Riyan came in behind her with another covered basket. "Go sit down at the kitchen table. I will show you what's inside." The two Chips carried the baskets in and set them on the counter.

    Asha could tell that Kalizda was tired and she smiled at her. "I brought favorite Chip food for children to make." Opening her basket she pulled out a bowl with some bread. "We'll make snake bread first." Cypher and Lohgan both squealed with excitement and ran off to wash their hands. They already knew that they couldn't help make any food unless they had clean hands. Once the kids were back she had the table set with the herbs for the bread and she already started to roll the bread out and cut it into strips. "I'm going to show you how to make the snakes."

    After the snake was cut Asha would cut little designs into the snake's back and then the kids would place the herbs into the cuts. It didn't matter that the children were taking painstakingly long with the little task, they were happy and it allowed the bread a little time to rise and it occupied them. "After we're done with the snakes we're going to make desert monster soup." With that Riyan appeared in the kitchen. He'd been off cleaning up the living room and it was his turn to help with the kids since Asha was done with the bread. Asha slid all the little snake breads onto a cooking sheet and placed them in the oven. Before leaving to pick up some more of the house cleaning she set a timer and then winked at Riyan. She knew he missed having little ones and they needed a little practice anyway.

    Part way through Asha's cleaning in the living room she stopped and took a deep breath. She was sweating a bit more than usual and she caught Kalizda's gaze. "Don't worry it's not the cough." A soft grin came to her face. "Can I tell you some good news?" Everyone needed good news every now and then. Beckoning Kalizda a little closer she whispered to her. "I'm pregnant. Riyan doesn't know yet." She was overjoyed with the idea, but she wanted to keep her little joyous secret a few days more. "Just promise not to say anything for a few days. I'm going to tell Riyan when the East Wind blows again." The East Wind was her birth wind and it would be a good time to say something. For now there weren't too many Eastern winds. There were some in the forecast about 4 days from now, but it was almost impossible to hold back the good news that much longer.
     
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  11. aryamajor

    aryamajor Curious Adventurer Benefactor

    The trip to the clinic was an affair all it's own. She managed to get the children loaded into their skimmer. Lohgan was already starting to sniff and snort, wiping at her nose as she sat in her carrying seat. Then Tomas already had a full blown fever. His snuffling came between cries of discomfort he couldn't express any other way. "It's alright...shhh...shhh...I'm going to fix it," she cooed as she flew to the clinic. Illya sat curled in the seat in his sweat pants with his arms crossed over his chest. Every few minutes a racking cough would hit and she could hear the deep rattle in his lungs. It concerned her, and she knew she could come pick up the medicine but with Illya's inhalers and Tomas being so young, she wanted the doctor to look at them all.

    They filed in to the clinic like a strange set of ducklings following after a mother duck. Lohgan clung to her legs while Illya shuffled behind her and Cypher zoomed around at his feet, happy to be out of the house for any reason. Tomas whimpered in her arms between snapping fits of coughing. Pushing her flyaway hairs out of her face, Calysta walked up to the counter top and flashed a somewhat tired smile. "I think we need to see the doctor." Thankfully, it was a quick check over for all of them and the result was as she suspected. They all had the Chip Cough and she was meant to bring Illya back if there were any other complications. "Thank you," she nodded to the doctor before marching them all out in the same order they arrived.

    When they got home, she put them all to bed with their first dose of medication except for her Chip who decided to take himself upstairs. She let him go where he wanted. If he was feeling any at all better he probably would have stayed on the couch for a little company but he retreated to the bedroom instead. The day passed in a carousel of medicine, tissues, and cooking. She stepped away from her council work and any other distractions to hold Tomas for the better part of the afternoon between feedings and medicine doses. He made pitiful faces every time she fed him liquid cough medication from the stopper, then cried for the better part of 20 minutes before the medicine took hold and he fell asleep. While Tomas was asleep in her arms, she fed Cypher his lunch and Lohgan her soup along with the doses of medicine meant for her. By the time lunch was done and Cypher, Lohgan and Edgar, her youngest twin was snuffling all over again.

    Her father was there along with Priscilla at least. They helped with Edgar and Cypher who were feeling rambunctious in anticipation of Thanksgiving. Cypher stood next to his Papa in the kitchen and naming things as they were cooked. "Do we get tah do the turkey dance?" he asked with a little cough, "We can't do et without Dah and he's sick."

    Thomas stopped in his work at the cutting board and nodded at his grandson. "Aye, we'll do the Turkey dance when your Dah feels better, huh?"

    That was a satisfactory answer for now and Thomas sat a bowl of breadcrumbs in front of the boy. "Now, why don't you help me stir this up for the stuffing. We can't have an empty turkey. He's got to be full. Big and fat."

    Cypher grinned as he took up the wooden spoon and began to stir up the mixture with excitement. "Fat..fat..turkey..." It became a little song while they worked and when his mother walked by he held up the spoon in triumph. "We are making dah turkeh fat! Et will be good!"

    "Oh, I bet it will," she chuckled, "You and Papa will make it a good one." Of course, while he was holding up the spoon, globs of stuffing was plopping down to the countertop. There would be more mess by the time it was over and she let her boy have his fun. They could clean later.

    Their afternoon was spent by starting the prep work for the Thanksgiving meal along with cooking a delicious smelling snake stew along with fresh flat bread for dinner She had tried to get Illya to eat something, but he had slept off and on through the day without much of an appetite. All of the children were in their beds, fed, and medicated as needed before she crawled in along side her Chip. Whatever rest she hoped to get before tomorrow wasn't going to happen. Around every fifteen to thirty minutes Illya was up coughing and even seized once. Calysta stayed up with him through the night, checking his forehead and making sure that if he did seize again, that she was out of the way. The first time he seized from the fever he'd tossed his hand into her hip, leaving behind a nicely sized welt.

    The next day passed similarly to the first with more preparation for Thanksgiving. Cypher was fascinated with the kitchen and that was a good thing as far as Calysta was concerned. It kept him busy and he learned good skills when he stood beside Priscilla and Papa at the counter top. Tomas wasn't coughing nearly as bad and Lohgan was feeling good enough to waddle her way into the kitchen to watch Cypher cook with a nub of a red crayon clutched in her hands. Illya was the only one who wasn't feeling better at all and Calysta kept a close eye on him. At least once an hour she walked up the stairs to check his temperature and get him to sip on glass of water whether he liked it or not. She rubbed his chest down in soothing gel, making sure to spread it up to his throat which might offer a little bit of relief too. "Mmm.." she hummed, "Just think. That medicine will be working soon and when you feel up to it, I can rub some of that cedar oil you like instead." Her attempt at a come-on was accompanied by a wink and a gentle kiss on his lips.

    Bed felt nice to slip into but she knew it wouldn't mean much rest for her. Illya was still coughing like he was set on a timer and she still needed to check his temperature every now and then. There was a small window of time that her Chip was asleep and she managed to lean back against the head board with Tomas snuggled against her chest. Her baby boy was nuzzled into her shoulder where it was warm and that seemed to keep him happy between the smaller coughing fits that the medicine hadn't fully taken away. Every now and then Illya would sit up to cough. His coughing had gone from a thick, gunky sort of sound to a dry one and she hoped that meant the medicine was starting to work. "Easy..." she whispered in the dark, "Here." Reaching to her bedside table, she pulled a measuring spoon and a bottle from the drawer between her fingers. At this point, she was a near expert in balancing a baby on her chest and pouring anything. The couch medication was viscous, globbing out into the spoon before she offered it over. Once he had the medicine down that seemed to help for a few hours. He stopped coughing and finally laid down to rest allowing her to lean her head back against the head board and drift off with Tomas to keep her warm.

    When her eyes cracked open it was because Illya's coughing jarred the bed. It sounded rough enough that he might actually retch, and she peeled herself from the bed, gently moving Tomas to the opposite side from his father just in case he did throw up or seize. He managed a few words, letting her know he was just coughing a little. "Mmm...it's not time for more medicine yet though," she mumbled, "Water on the bedstand might help." Her eyes would hardly stay open and if he needed something he would let her know. She felt the bed shift and the shower start, prompting her to lean back against her pillow again. Sometimes a good, steamy shower helped with a cough and she let him do what he thought might make him feel better.


    “Kalizda...I need…”

    His voice sounded terrible. The words were barely recognizable through the heavy wheezing sound and she was up as soon as he asked to see the doctor. He never said those things lightly and she would take him whenever he asked. It took her all of three seconds for her to flip on the lights and slid out of bed. A shock of worry went through her when her eyes fell on a bright red patch splattered on the sheets where Illya slept. He had coughed up blood? Swallowing hard, Calysta placed Tomas in his crib then folded the heated blanket over him. "We're not going soon, we're going to the doctor right now." While Illya got some clothes on and headed down stairs, she sent a quick message of warning to the Ehaui before dashing down the stairs behind her Chip.

    * * * * * * * * *
    It seemed to take ages for the doctor to come to some sort of conclusion on why Illya had gotten worse and not better. They were taking a strange sort of fascination in diagnosing the issue and she couldn't help but feel a small part of the irritation Illya usually had when visiting. She was standing in her pajama bottoms, a sweater, her raincoat, and rubber boots with her hair damp from the rain. Her all of her babies were at home without her nad her Chip looked terrible after coughing so much that he'd produced blood. Then there was the overarching worry that something major was wrong. What if he'd damaged his lungs worse with he Chip Cough? The thought made her growing kernel of worry feel like a heavy stone in her stomach.

    Dark circles hung under her eyes as she sat next to Illya's bed waiting to the doctor to stop marveling at whatever he saw on his pad and deliver the news. "Shrapnel?" All of this had been caused by shrapnel that they hadn't been able to remove along with inflammation and pneumonia? Apparently there was a fix for it, a surgery involving a drainage tube, and before she could say anything Illya was giving his permission. It didn't take long for them to go at their work and she was allowed to stay by Illya's side for most of it. They fished out the shrapnel using on the smallest of incisions and then set up a drainage tube which was the more graphic part of the procedure really. The liquid flowing from his lungs was tinged pink with occasional darker pink bubbles indicating that there was still blood in his lungs.

    However, within two hours the Ehaui had him patched up and she had him in bed with menthol gel on his bare chest. As he laid back, he mentioned something about Asha and Riyan coming over to help and the sentence registered about ten seconds after he said it. "Hm? Oh, yeah. That would be good...mhm..." She fluffed up a pillow behind him and then rubbed at her eyes. "It will be Thanksgiving tomorrow night...Ehud, Sien and...ah..Sam are coming over too." They were coming alright and she was already realizing that meant she had to clean. "Dad has the twins and Priscilla is helping with Lohgan and Cypher right now...it's about noon. I think I'll just take a little nap and then I'll get up to clean, yeah?" Leaning forward, she kissed him on the cheek and then she kicked off her boots before slipping into the bed beside him.

    It was dark when she woke for a few different reasons. Somehow she had pulled one of the heated blankets over her head to block out the sunlight through the window and that light had long since faded to darkness. Her stomach growled with a long groan, making her emerge from the hot cocoon to find Illya only half awake. What time was it? Better yet, when was the last time she ate? She didn't know the answer to either question. Her hair was a fly away mess and she ran a hand through it with a sleepy smile. "I think I over slept," she stated. Rolling over, she checked the time to find it was midnight. Not only had she slept the entire day but halfway through the night while she was at it. A wave of guilt passed over because she had missed so much, but she really hadn't mean to sleep so long. Calysta glanced to her Chip then slid a cool hand over his forehead to see if he was still warm. "Feels a little better." About the time she spoke her stomach let out an angry grumble and she chuckled some. "Don't suppose you'd like a midnight snack?"

    * * * * * * * * *

    Apparently sometime during the course of the day she had given permission for Asha and Riyan to visit. That part was a little fuzzy, but she was grateful for the help nonetheless. They helped pick up the house before Thanksgiving guests arrived, though she was certain they didn't know about the Terran holiday. She watched as Asha taught Cypher and Lohgan how to make 'snake bread' which was an exciting activity for her son especially. It made her smile to see her son and daughter having a little fun with the craft with their Aunt while it was pouring rain outside. When the bread was baking, she and Asha migrated to the living room which looked like a half-formed tornado had ripped through it. There were toys here and there while coloring books and crayons sat wherever they had been dropped in favor of something else. While they picked up the living room her sister in law talked on and off. Given the conversation, she would never have guessed for the woman to divulge a secret.

    Calysta's tired eyes managed to widen some as Asha relayed her exciting little secret to her over the plush couch. A baby? A few different thoughts struck her all in the same moment, the first being a small pang for Maks which was replaced by the thrill in knowing her sister in a law was going to have another baby which would be wonderful. That was almost matched by the sudden feeling of responsibility she felt for Asha being on her feet all time whether it was as the Admiral and General along with simply helping whenever they needed it. Despite the influx of thoughts, her smile remained broad and genuine across her face. "That's great," she whispered back quickly, "I won't tell him, don't worry. How far along are you?" She could tell Asha was happy about the news and was bursting to say something about it though she didn't think the moment was proper yet.

    The next question was the expected if you were speaking with a woman. If it had been her husband he would have simply been happy for her and forgot to ask when it was expected. Asha smiled more softly. "3 months now." She barely showed when she was pregnant. It wasn't until near the end that she got big. Normally her hips just got a little wider. There was plenty of room inside her body for the little one. "Can't see it yet, but with last two I didn't show much until the 9th month. I carried them heavy into the 11th month and it was a relief to be done when they were born a few weeks later."

    It was hard for Calysta to fathom being pregnant 9 months much less making it to an entire year and she looked at Asha with a appreciative gaze. "After an entire year, I bet you would be relieved. I couldn't even get to 8 months without popping," she replied with a quiet chuckle, "When will you know if it's a boy or girl?" She had no idea how that worked for Chip women and if she wanted to plan a little something that wasn't a gift but would be nice for the new baby then she would need to know about when they would find out about the sex. Asha and Riyan hadn't had little ones for a long time and surely they needed a few things.

    "Ooh, sometime after the Eastern Wind. I'll go to the Ehaui after that and have them take the pictures." Asha shrugged, "There's no rush to find out. I have a long ways to go." With that she simply resumed some of her cleaning though she did catch the wary eye of Kalizda. "Not to worry. Yvonne went on missions with Markus up until 8 months when she was pregnant with Illya. It was not until she started getting much more pregnant that she had to return home from the campaigns."

    Calysta had no idea when the 'eastern wind' would change but she could figure it out. They went back to straightening things up a bit and Asha made a bit of a strange comment about Yvonne and Markus, alluding to her own work in the process. "I figured you would say something when it got too much," Calysta admitted, "I always worked for as long as I could, until the Ehaui told me I couldn't anymore. Of course, you've got a fair bit on you. Daya could always take care of the Omebrey whenever you need it." As she spoke, she scooped up a handful of crayons Lohgan had left behind on the floor, then dumped them into the bucket at the end of the coffee table. "And of course, you've always got Illya and I to help too. You're family and all you have to do is say it and we'll be there."

    "Just because a Chip woman can no longer perform difficult duties does not mean that she cannot care for her home." There were troubles with Kalizda's pregnancies and Asha knew that, but apparently Kalizda seemed to think that things were more difficult for Chip women. "I will perform lighter duties until the 10th month and then the 11th month I will stay home and prepare and for the last few weeks I will rest."

    She had simply been trying to extend the same kindness she had been shown, but it seemed Asha was adamant that they were fine. Feeling a bit stung, Calysta retreated a bit and dropped the subject with the reply of. "That's not exactly what I was suggesting. Either way, I'm happy for you." Asha could or leave it as she wanted to.

    Stopping in the middle of the small task Asha looked at Kalizda. "What do you mean? I don't understand what you suggest." Somehow she had missed something because it seemed that Kalizda was not nearly as chatty as she had been before.

    Some how they had come full circle and Calysta paused with a handful of coloring books in her arms to look at the much taller woman. "I wasn't suggesting that you couldn't care for your home even if you can't perform more difficult duties," Calysta said, "If it sounded that way it wasn't the intent." She shuffled the books in her hand, making sure they were stacked neatly before placing them on the bottom shelf of the book cabinet. "I only meant that you and Riyan have helped Illya and I would gladly help if the need every came up or you wanted it."

    Suddenly it all made more sense and Asha smiled, "Oh, I see now. Yes, I will want help after my 11th month. I will rest then until it is time for the baby to be born." The pregnancy was very different for Chip women as compared to others. "Maybe I will have some help after the baby is born and then you will come see your new cousin."

    Asha's smile reflected some sort of new understanding one what had somehow been lost in translation and her answer was much softer this time. Calysta smiled back and nodded. "That I can do. I think we will all be excited to see our new cousin." She may be on Kinte or in the middle of her tour on Kaereal but for Asha she would come back without hesitation. There was no way she would miss the birth of a family member.

    * * * * * * * * * * * * *

    Asha and Riyan enjoyed a good lunch with the kids. Riyan particularly liked holding Edgar who was the more energetic of the twins. His eyes followed every movement his uncle made and he grinned whenever the man made a particularly funny face. Once they were gone, it was only a few hours before their guests would arrive. Her father made it his mission to arrange the table with Cypher's help and Lohgan trailing behind trying to copy them. With the kids occupied, Calysta took a moment to walk upstairs for a much needed shower and to check on Illya who was still in the bed.

    She hopped up to the side their mattress on Illya's side and checked his forehead before sliding her hand down his chest to see if he needed more gel. "Hey there, love. It's Thanksgiving. We can have our own little dinner up here later if you want. I'll even bring some of the turkey gravy and mashed potatoes you like." She knew it wasn't a good idea for him to go down stairs with his chest still filled with pneumonia. It would be better for him to stay in bed where it was warm. Giving him a small wink, she let out little turkey gobble which quickly degraded into a giggle. "I'll summon dah bird for you, yeah?"
     
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  12. Silence

    Silence Anonymous Me Staff Member Benefactor Warden

    Even after the procedure to drain some of the fluid from his lungs it was hard to breathe. Illya went right back home with Kalizda and she had him all set in the bed and propped up. Laying flat on his back was not a choice at this point. The Ehaui didn't want more fluid to settle in his lungs, so he had to almost sit in bed even to sleep. Despite the small procedure Illya felt a little better and he felt Kalizda wake up part way through the night to check his forehead. She didn't seem to rest well even when he was doing better. At one point he felt her turn toward him in her sleep and he rested one of his hands on her hip. For now that was more than likely all the closer they'd be getting.

    When Thanksgiving came just the next morning Illya couldn't help feeling a little disappointed. He was going to miss one of his favorite family holidays. It was perhaps one of the few amazing things that the Terrans had come up with. Within only a few hours he woke to hear that Asha and Riyan were at the house. That meant that soon there would be Thanksgiving with everyone downstairs and he was going to miss it. Ehud was coming over and it was going to be a nice party that he wouldn't get to take part in. Illya was half tempted to get up and try to enjoy the party, but he knew that nobody wanted him to be coughing all over the food even if he felt better and they certainly didn't want him to share the pneumonia.

    As if in response to his little moment of dismay Kalizda came up the stairs and jumped into the bed. Her cool fingers plucked at his blanket and ran over his chest in a sort of tease. Kissing her was tempting, but he didn't want her to get pneumonia and he knew he couldn't breathe well enough to actually hold a kiss long enough to be satisfying. "I tink dat maybe dat would be a good idea. Yah jes bring some gravy for meh tah sip out of straw and cup eh?" The last few days had been hard enough to try eating. It felt like he would suffocate every bite he took, even if it was a small one.

    Calysta pulled the covers higher over his chest once she had made sure there was still a decent amount of gel still there. When he mentioned what he wanted to eat from the thanksgiving day table, Calysta sat back on her heels and raised a brow. "All you want is gravy...in a cup?" Surely he would want something more than just plain gravy in a cup with a straw. Was he really going to drink it like a salty, turkey-flavored shake?

    "Mmhmm. Dats et. I can't breat when I eat oter foods. I tink when I breat better dat I will be hungry. Maybe 2 days and I will eat eh?" That brought a thought to mind and Illya's grin got a bit wider. "Yah keep some left over for meh and I eat et when I feel better. I like dah turkey bird."

    He wasn't going to eat for 2 days and he wanted to drink gravy instead? Just the thought of it made her want to cringe she blinked at her Chip before swallowing down the idea of it. Was she really going to do this? "Alright, I'll bring you gravy in a cup with a straw," she said with a sigh, "And I'll make sure there are plenty of left overs for you. In the mean time, I can make you fruit smoothies, yeah?"

    Illya nodded. "Fruit smootie sounds good." He'd forgot about those and she knew how to make a good meal out of something liquid. As long as it wasn't ground up meat and bread and with things called french fries. "I come down stairs tomorrow night and I have some smootie wit dah family. I get better. I feel better." With that small announcement he smiled.

    The smoothie idea seemed to go over well and she smiled back at him gently. "Come down tomorrow night and we'll all eat together." Her hand came up to smooth down his short cropped hair more out of habit than anything and she trailed over his ear to cup his cheek. "Maybe the kids can come up to show you something later tonight too."

    "Dat would be good." Illya wasn't sure if he would be awake if they were too late, but he would try to stay awake for whatever it was. Turning his head away from her slightly he covered his mouth with his hand and coughed. That was about the way of most conversations they had had lately. When Kalizda got up to leave Illya decided to ask one last question. "I study little bit please? Yah bring..." Breaking into another coughing fit he pointed to his books and pad sitting across the room on his dresser. Illya wanted to make some use of the time he would be sitting in the room sick. Having Kalizda bring the study materials was much more comfortable because he didn't have to get up and be cold to do it. When she brought the pile over he grinned at her. "Tanks to meh little bird."

    Once Kalizda was out of the room Illya picked up his pad and his notebook. This wasn't exactly for the purpose of study, not all of it. He was going to finish planning that flight for Kalizda's tour of the Alliance. She needed less things to stress about and he was going to do his best to make sure she had something to show for all her efforts. Looking over the previous notes and travel plans from Heneniah was difficult with translation, but the map seemed to suffice for the general layout. During the translation Illya noticed that there was a hospital that the woman made a special visit to during one stop. Illya looked it up and found that it was a hospital for half breed children. Children that suffered the same as Kalizda and it was run somewhat off charity and then in part due to funding it received from the Alliance.

    There wasn't so much that Illya could do for them. He didn't have enough money to make a difference anymore and if these children were as despised as Kalizda had been then it was unlikely anyone saw reason for them to receive any of the funding. That was a special trip that Illya knew Kalizda would make and he gave it the same allotted time as it received in the past. The plan that Illya developed was almost the same plan as Heneniah's previous trip, but it included some of the fringe that was friendly to the Alliance. If the fringe was included in the tour it may help to solidify the relationship.

    By the time company began to arrive for dinner Illya was getting tired and he set his books aside and saved the plan on the pad. He would show it to Kalizda later on and ask her for suggestions, or changes. She would have the final say on this since it was her duty and her work. With the progress on the plan saved Illya set the pad aside with the books and leaned his head back. It was still a few hours till he was supposed to get more medicine and he wheezed some. Soon enough he'd be feeling better.

    *************

    Thanksgiving dinner with Kalizda, the kids, Thomas and Priscilla was nice. In a way it was odd without Illya, but Ehud understood the reason that Illya was not going to be joining them. However, it could have been worse, Priscilla might have been the one to be unable to join them at the table. "This looks delicious." Ehud smiled a little and he glanced toward Priscilla. "I'm glad to eat a familiar meal again with good company."

    As hard as Ehud had tried to flirt in his own way he wondered if it fell flat. That was until his son promptly swallowed the food that he had in his mouth and yelled, "Yeah! You make really good company Priscilla. I like you. I wish we could have dinner with you every night." He was forbidden from asking her to be his mom, but he didn't see anything wrong with telling her what he liked and how often he'd like to see her. Sien grinned broadly and nodded. "Just like Kalizda spends everyday with Cypher." He wanted that. A mom of his own.

    A bright red flush washed over Ehud's face and he cleared his throat. "That would be nice. You'd better finish eating though." Somehow his son managed to outshine and at the very least say more than he could manage to make himself even hint at. For the moment Ehud wondered where such brazen sorts of remarks were coming from and then he looked toward Kalizda. Of course, it was Illya. Illya was teaching his son to be outspoken and even in ways that a boy shouldn't be speaking. He was going to have a talk with Illya about the kinds of manners his son was learning. Whatever made Sien go from such a quiet boy to an outspoken one he was sure had to be the doing of his friend. The man that never seemed to have a problem saying what he thought.

    After dinner Ehud nodded to the women and he grinned. "Thanks again for the meal. I think I want to go see how Illya is doing." He knew that Kalizda would let him go at his own risk. Heading up the stairs he listened to the ladies start to order the boys and Lohgan to clear the table. He would go down to help them finish the dishes in a few minutes.

    Ehud was barely in the room and he saw that Illya was turned on his side and staring at him. It smelled heavily of medicine in the room and he walked over and leaned over Illya. "Ooh, I see that little notch. Heard about the goat helping itself to some of your hair."

    Of course it was all said in Quoti to keep the conversation a little more private. Illya coughed, "Ass, of course you'd come to admire the goat's grazing." Shifting to sit up a little more straight Illya frowned at Ehud. He was still having a hard time breathing and it was only about half hour till Kalizda would come up and give him some gravy and more medicine.

    A smirk came to his face as he watched Illya scowl. "One more thing. You need to stop teaching my boy bad manners. He's saying stuff that he thinks and wants and it's not appropriate when he does."

    "It's not my fault that you don't think its appropriate for Sien to say what he wants. He asked me what to do and I told him to ask for what he wants because people will not know otherwise." So far as Illya could think there wasn't a problem with that. "If you think he lacks manners it's because you don't take the time to be his father and tell him what is right to speak about. Sien should be able to ask for what he wants and you should teach him when to speak his mind. I'm not the same as his father and I do my best to help him, but you're his father. Act like it."

    Ehud took the extra pillow from Kalizda's side of the bed and hit Illya with it. "Of course you're going to blame me. It's my fault I don't have a wife to care for him when I'm working."

    "That's not what I said. I said that you need to act like his father. Teach him. I'll know you teach him when he starts to tell me what is acceptable. Right now he doesn't now, so I tell him what is acceptable in my house. When you teach him then I won't contradict it, but until then you better accept what he learns from me." The two men stared at each other for a long moment.

    At length Ehud dropped Kalizda's pillow on her side of the bed again. "Alright, I'll hold you to that. When I teach him and he tells you different than you think, then you'd better honor it."

    "I will." A long second passed and they both grinned before Ehud turned to walk back down the stairs to help the ladies clean the kitchen.

    It was near the time that Illya expected Kalizda to be coming up the stairs and so he set out his tablet and prepared to show her the plans and maybe work on some of his Kaerelean. The more he learned her language the easier it would be in the classes. At least that was what he understood from reading the entrance exam hack guide. It advised some words were not translated so well in Trader's Tongue and knowing Kaerelean words and roots would be helpful for the exam and classroom experience.

    **************************

    Edgar shuffled toward the school house. It was just as school was letting out and he was sure that Thomas would still be there. His great grandson, Cypher sped past with a quick hello and then ran all the way home with a paper flapping in his hand. The old man smiled and poked his head around the corner to be sure he wouldn't get run into by any children before he stepped inside. "Tomas?" Edgar's voice cracked some. His age was beginning to show even in his voice these days. When he heard a response he made his way toward the man's school room. Once he was in the room the old man sat down promptly at one of the desks. "Yah heard of new school?"

    He had just finished telling Cypher to wait for him without much success in being heard as the boy zoomed past. They were meant to walk home together but when he was excited that rarely happened. Monster and Lady would be waiting outside the school house to run all the way home with him at least. With that being the case, Thomas took his time gathering up his paperwork into his satchel then turned off the hologram projector. About that time, he heard his name being called in a heavy accent that he recognized as distinctly Chippqouti but he wasn't sure who it belonged to until Edgar appeared in the door way. The old Chip shuffled inside and settled into one of the desks looking tired already and Thomas paused in what he was doing to address the Elder whom he had known for some time now. There was no exchange of pleasantries, something that was typical from some of the older Chips he'd discovered. Of course, some of the Chips didn't care for Terran's either and they knew he was from Terra for the most part. Luckily, Edgar didn't seem to be one of those who minded chatting with a man from Earth. "Good to see you Edgar," he said leaning against his desk, "Aye, I think Calysta mentioned it to me. Something about starting construction soon and wanting to make the facility new along with a program of some kind. She was excited for it."

    In the fashion of the Chippequoti Edgar made his momentary statement of pride. "Yes, dis es good program dat Chippequoti help tah create. We show our gratitude to Pytra wit new school and we agree tah better program." With the brief opening out of the way he continued with the plan. "I am in charge of many tings wit dis new program and I come tah ask yah tah be director of Terran studies. Yah may teach all studies, but ef yah know oter Terrans dat should teach dey will come if yah ask. As director yah choose all materials for yah class and yah tell Chippequoti architect and counsel what yah need tah make yah class like room on Terra."

    Thomas looked to the Elder Chip trying to decipher exactly what he meant by better program until the man explained further. They were going to support a Terran studies course? He was surprised they had included earthlings but nonetheless pleased to hear it. It sounded exactly like what his daughter would support and the offer to become director of such a progressive program on Kaereal was quite an honor. A smile stretched over his face, hidden by his salt and pepper colored beard and he nodded after only a moment's consideration. "I accept," he said gratefully, "I will gladly become the Director of Terran Studies." There were a few names he could already think of to help fill the roles that would be necessary in the department. "Earth is diverse, maybe as diverse as Kaereal, but I think with some work, we can make it a well rounded view of the culture for the students."

    "Et es good tah hear dat yah accept. Chippequoti worry dat dere would be director dat does nut understand Chippequoti culture. Dere will be many Chip children dat will learn from yah." Edgar nodded some and he moved to stand. "I will make report to dah rest of dah council. Yah come highly recommended to dem and now dey will see to et dah builders and architect consult wit yah. In one mont time we will require list of materials for yah new class. Chippequoti will purchase dese."

    He listened carefully to Edgar, nodding in confirmation that he understood what was being asked of him. It was pleasing to hear he came highly recommended. Smiling a bit bigger he lifted off the desk and made to walk with the old Chip out of the class room. "That will be plenty of time. Some of the materials may only be available on Terra and with the embargo on the planet getting them might be difficult. I can look at substitutes and what will be available on the Terran colony as well. I'll have my list of materials ready by then." Grabbing his bag, he joined Edgar near the door. "If I can ask, what inspired the Chippeqouti council to make such a program? It's impressive and I think will be well received."

    The embargo was not so much a problem as Thomas thought. Edgar simply nodded for the time. "Chippequoti have dere ways. We will be sure dat yah dun need substitute." While they worked their way out the door Edgar heard the next question and he smiled some. "Dere was complaint of injustice against Chippequoti in dah school. A teacher blamed Cypher for violence because he hit boy dat treaten tah trow Lohgan over dah edge. Meh grandson was angry, but he resolves tah keep dah peace wit all members of Alliance and he came to meh. I spend time tinking of how tah make integration better and I have dis idea and Kalizda come talk to meh too. We agree et es good and I take et to dah council and now I am in charge tah be sure dat all programs have good director."

    He wondered vaguely how the Chippeqouti might go about arranging the Terran supplies. One could argue the Chip way is partially how the mess began in the first place before the Alliance even existed, but that sort of attitude would do nothing to help the present situation. Thomas smoothed down his beard as Edgar explained and nodded. "Aye, I heard about that. My grandson was very upset and I frankly, I can't say that I wasn't either, but I think this is a good idea that Illya, my daughter, and the council as come up with. I look forward to working with the council as the director." It was actually a bit thrilling to think he would be director the more the idea of it settled in. He'd had tenure with the university on Kinte but had given that up when they fled to Uria. He loved his work now with the younger children, but being a part of something like this was appealing after correcting a few of the same problems in his own classroom.

    Edgar took a deep breath. "Yah misunderstand. Illya came to the council as Chippequoti should wit such complaint. He left dah decision of what should be done tah remedy to dah wisdom of dah council and Kalizda. All dat Illya has done es what Chippequoti should wit such complaints. He has done more den most know." While Edgar could not give Illya credit for the idea of the school he could give the man credit in other areas where it was due. "Illya give more den 5 million for cause of Alliance. He gave et when we ask for money tah provide for party and funds tah grant to dose in Alliance wit need. Dah school es being built because of dah funds from many Chippequoti. Dah Elite give most of any people. Dey carry wealt from last war, but dey are men of honor. Dey keep dere oat and dey give what dey have for civilians. Dis school es worty cause and dey will expect dat when dere children go to dah school dat dey will nut be mistreated. Dey expect dah same respect dat all oters get at dis school."

    Thomas wasnt entirely sure how he misunderstood. There was an overarching problem with racism for which they had decided an overarching solution. He was started to ask how there was a difference when Edgar mentioned the donations, including what Illya donated. That little fact made him nearly choke, and his eyes grew wide with the effort of not sounding entirely flabbergasted. "I didn't know that," he coughed slightly, "That's incredible and much needed. " He hadnt even known that Illya donated to that, much less had 5million to spend. Did Calysta know that? Clearing his throat, Thomas recovered himself and looked to Edgar as they walked through the hallways. "Every child should have the expectation when they go to school that they will not be mistreated and should have the same respect. Chippeqouti included in that. I'm familiar with what its like to send a child to school and wonder if they will be safe. Everyone should have the chance to send their child to school free from that worry." His eyes were still wide, thinking on what his son in law had donated and he couldnt help but find he was impressed beyond the shock.

    "Tomas, et es important dat dis school es successful." Edgar stopped walking for the moment. It was quiet where they were and he wanted it to be that way when he said this. "Dose of us dat want peace and want dah Alliance to succeed are very concerned in dese times. Dese times can change dah way of dah Chippequoti. I told yah dat dah Elite give most of dah money for dis Alliance. Dere es still concern dat perhaps dah Alliance will consider some of dah Elite wit disdain ef dah war ends favorably. Dey do terrible tings and many of us cannot imagine what dey do. Dere oat is to dah civilians of dere people and now dah Alliance is dere people too. Yah help meh tah be sure dat dah Elite and dere families dun suffer from injustice. Dese 50 alone have dah skill tah destroy an entire planet ef dere General commands." The old man didn't want it to sound like a threat and so he chose to keep some of the further details to himself. "Dis es nut treat. Et es concern. I want help tah be sure dat we care for dere families well. I want dem tah see dat dis Alliance es good. Kalizda has much more power than she knows. Many of dah Elite look tah Illya as General still. He is dah last tah rise tah General trough war and training. Kalizda commands his heart and he has given almost everything for dis Alliance because of her. My grandson does nut do all dis because he trusts dah Alliance, he does et because he knows et will please her and because he believes she deserves his support."

    When Edgar stopped, so did Thomas a step ahead of him. Turning to the stooping Elder, Thomas gazed at the old man and examined him with uncertainty. Had he said yet another thing wrong? Edgar spoke and he listened to the man's concerns which weren't entirely unfounded, though why he thought the Elite men in particular were in danger of being persecuted, was a bit foggy. Those were the same men responsible for the survival of Kinte for starters, and Kaereleans didn't take that as such a small feat. They were the same men who had saved so many on the Terran Colony too, something that's not forgotten. It was good to hear that the same men now considered the Alliance their people rather just some simple contract and judging by what only Illya was capable of, he thoroughly believed that 50 of the same men could bring a planet to it's knees. Apparently there was still some distrust of the Alliance. and neither he nor Edgar believed that this was a problem that would be solved over night. The old Elder was doing his best to see that those same men who fought for the Alliance were well taken care of by it and that the Alliance was good. It wasn't an unfair assessment in Thomas' opinion. What did catch him off guard was the last bit of what he had to say. He couldn't tell if Edgar thought this supposed power his daughter had was a good thing or a bad thing and while he knew Calysta would never use that kind of power over someone because she was a genuine soul, someone could do a fair amount of damage if they got to her. More clearly than ever he could see that she was the linch pin in the success of failure of the Alliance and the thought of it made him swallow hard. "I want them to see this Alliance is good too," he said quietly, "For their sake, for Illya's sake, and for my daughters. She is genuine in her belief that she can help the Chippeqouti. She's always been like that even when she was a child. I don't think that the Chippeqouti's trust would be misplaced in her, nor the former Generals. If she has her husbands heart, its enough for her, and she knows that his people are of the utmost important to him as well as herself. She believes she can make things better and I believe in her ability to do that now more than ever." He would always support his daughter when she was doing her best to uphold what was right. The Chippeqouti might have brought a slew of problems with their arrival, but when he looked back on the face of his daughter when they first arrived those years ago, he knew she had done the right thing and there was pride in that knowledge even if she was nothing but a decommissioned captain. "I hope for all our sakes that we can work together in the Alliance and it will be good. I will do every thing in power to see it to that end," he added.

    It sounded as though Thomas understood the importance of the alliance and the school. There was so much that hinged on it. Edgar didn't want to see the Elite underestimated even if they appeared to be broken. They were a fierce men and their loyalty was hardly to be questioned without the loss of their trust. "Tomas I am asking for yah help. Yah know many of dah teachers and many of dah people dat would show injustice to dah children because of dere fathers. Help meh tah choose directors and teachers for all programs dat would treat dah children wit goodness, kindness, and impartiality. All of dah children, Chip, or Pitian." It was a difficult thing to ask, but he had seen Thomas change in time to accept the Chippequoti. Thomas loved his grandchildren without regard for their race, or for their father and it was important. "Showing dah children goodness, kindness, and impartiality will help gain dah trust of dah Elite. Many of dem were like my grandson once. Dey were chosen for dah Elite as children and raised and trained tah be such. Most of dem were chosen because dey were high spirited and kind. As a child yah could have asked Illya, Ehvan, or many of the oters for dere food. If yah said dat yah were hungry dey would have given it to yah because dey did not want anoter person tah suffer when dey could help. In dah Elite this kindness was twisted. Most of dem are harsh, but dey would still give anyting dey had for dose dat dey trust and to dose whom dey have given dere oat for. Kalizda has brought out much of dah kindness dat Illya had as boy. In meh opinion dah 50 are starved for kindness. Dey have suffered and dey are respected and revered by Chippequoti, but dey need kindness from dose outside. Someone tah contradict what has happened to dem when dey are younger. Dis es why people like yahself, Dora, and oters are revered. Yah kindness to dem es great and dey see et and honor et." Edgar knew that some would have a hard time believing that the Elite had once been good, kind children, but it was true and he grieved for many of them. "Yah help meh tah see dat Chippequoti and dah Elite are shown dat dah Alliance es kind to dere allies?"

    Thomas could read between the lines well enough. The Elite were powerful and if they wanted to, they could do anything they very well pleased regardless of the Alliance. That fact alone was enough to cause concern but there was more that Edgar added. The man seemed to sincerely believe that the Elite were beholden to Illya despite who held command and that they were very much like him, a harsh man borne from harsh treatment. Did they man really think that this sort of step forward would help an a long held attitude among his fighting men. An attitude that the Alliance wasn't responsible for but they were themselves? Apparently, so. And it wasn't necessarily because he felt they had an obligation to fix it more than it was he wanted the Alliance to succeed because the Elite were a key element in that success. Moreover, as his daughter would undoubtedly argue, the Elite were men same as anyone else. They were human and no less worthy of kindness. The Elder wanted his help in selecting teachers and directors for the whole of the school. People who would guide their children to a kinder future with each other. Thomas swapped his bag to his right hand and held out his left to Edgar, an offering of his approval and cooperation on the matter. " I don't know about being revered," he said, " But I've seen the man my son in law had been when he arrived and is today and if there are other good men like him in need, and children who need that sort of kindness. I can hardly say no. I will help you find the teachers and directors you're wanting to fulfill the purpose of showing that the Alliance is good to it's allies." He really didn't doubt that it would be so long as his daughter held the home planet, but he knew this was deeply important to the man and his family as well.

    There seemed to be a hint of doubt with Thomas, but Edgar was prepared for that. Without the whole story it would be difficult to understand completely. However, the most important part of this small talk had been accomplished. "Tank yah. I am most grateful for dah help yah give. Dis school will be excellent place of learning and I tink many Chippequoti will heal as result." For once the Chippequoti would see a consistent kindness of others. It would not be limited to heroic actions of those such as Gyllie's mother, Dora, Thomas, and the council in a moment of gallantry choosing to defend the Chippequoti. There would be names and faces to those that cared about them and taught their children and listened to their children when an injustice was done. There were many that nearly pulled their children out of the school for what happened with Cypher, but the Elders had convinced them to wait a little longer while they resolved the issue by building a new school and getting better teachers.

    His hand was left hanging in the air as they continued their slow walk out of the building. Thomas merely nodded and retracted the offer with a nod of his chin, saying nothing but the hopeful reply of "I hope that we can accomplish that together." Then the smallest of smiles crept to his lips, hidden by his neatly trimmed beard. If Terran studies were in his purview, he intended on teaching them all how to shake hands.

    **************************

    Over the next few days Illya started to feel better. He coughed less at night, but Kalizda didn't seem to look any better. She'd been working so hard to make Thanksgiving happen and then try to cook extra food. Somehow she'd managed to cook so much that even he couldn't eat it all. With most of the wheezing gone Illya had started to get out of bed a little more often. He was done with the medicine for the pneumonia and the little spot where the procedure had been done on his chest was healed up nicely. The only thing left was a bit of a cough.

    Sitting up in bed he noticed that Kalizda was still sleeping. She'd come to bed early and she was sleeping past even the whimpering of the babies. Illya got up and went down the stairs to get the milk ready for the twins. Kalizda had worked herself into a frenzy with the kids and him being sick. Since he wasn't contagious anymore he felt a little better about helping with the kids.

    By the time Illya got back up the stairs he saw that Kalizda woke up and she was plucking the twins from their crib. Handing one bottle to Kalizda he grinned. "I tried tah get up and give yah more chance for rest. Yah look tired." Saying she looked tired was a much better thing to say than to tell her she looked terrible. Kalizda still had deep rings under her eyes and her skin was even a bit pasty looking. "Yah feel ok?" Taking one of the twins from her Illya held onto Edgar while the boy sucked greedily at his bottle.
     
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  13. aryamajor

    aryamajor Curious Adventurer Benefactor

    Thanksgiving was in full swing when she went back down stairs. Cypher and Lohgan had helped set the table while Priscilla rounded up Sien while holding one of the twins. Cypher wasn't about to let them start without summoning the turkey and made it a special point to teach Lohgan and Sien how to gobble properly as they followed Thomas from the kitchen to the dining room with the bird intow. Calysta held both of the twins and danced along with them, making them laugh with her funny turkey bird sounds. Even Priscilla participated this time, bringing up the mighty gobbling rear in the bunch on their way to the table. The Terran woman gave Ehud a little smile and laughed. "It's a tradition...well...not a Terran one persay, but as far as I know the Monroe household summons the turkey." They sat together and her father said his usual grace over the food. She wasn't entirely sure how Ehud would feel about that but she let him know that he didn't have to participate in that particular part of the tradition. The meal was good, though for some reason it didn't taste quite right for Calysta. Everyone else seemed to be enjoying it, particularly Sien, but she the food was a bit bland to her. Maybe it was because Illya wasn't there to share it, or maybe she wasn't particularly hungry. Still she ate holding Tomas in one arm while her father held Edgar. Sam and Rose tittered to each other near the end of the table while Sien made it clear once more what was on his agenda without using the exact words.

    Priscilla smiled at Sien tentatively. "Well, I do like spending time with you both," she said. Ehud's face had turned the color of the tomato on the end of his fork and she cleared her throat. "We do make a pretty good fried chicken dinner together, don't we?" It was an attempt to alleviate some pressure from Ehud and still keep that hopeful grin on his son's face. Finally, the man was able to recover a little and send Sien to eating again.

    After dinner, Calysta pulled out a wide sheet of butcher paper and some multi-colored crayons. "Lets make something, huh? See if you put your hand down like this and trace it...you make a turkey." She put her hand down on the paper and traced around her fingers with a brown crayon then added eyes and feet. "Lets all make one and then we can show Dah, yeah?"

    Cypher agreed readily. He always wanted to show what he could do, especially if his Dah might like the accomplishment. While he worked steadily at tracing his chubby hand, Lohgan tried to copy with her patent red crayon. She was much less precise about it but managed a wobbly five digits on the paper before proudly displaying it to her Mam. "Mam! Look!" Calysta smiled as she helped make one for Edgar, gently outlining his delicate fingers. "I see. Can you add some eyes and little feet? Rose, can you help her?" Rose knelt down with her sister and started to make the feet, showing her step by step how it was done. It wasn't until she was done with Tomas' hand that Calysta saw Sien standing by looking a bit uncertain. Beckoning him over, she held up a blue crayon for him to use. "You too Sien. You get to make one too, All of us together."

    The boy still looked uncertain and Priscilla stepped up behind him, settling an arm over his shoulder. "C'mon Sien, I'll help and we can do my hand too." She glanced back to Ehud and smiled softly to the man, "Want to draw your hand turkey next to mine too? It would probably like the company."

    Once everyone who wanted to draw themselves into the paper had done so, Calysta had them write their names underneath or wrote them in so they would know whose belonged to who. Cypher's turkey was plump and flamboyantly colored. She was also certain he had tried to draw a sword in its 'hand'. Rose's was artfully done and Sams was simple. Lohgan's was done all in red with wobbly lines and strangely perfect eyes. The twins hand prints sat side by side as copies of each others close to Calyta's which was delicate and had a rainbow of feathers. They were all different and a bit odd, but together they made a handsome turkey family she would show to Illya.

    "Very lovely," she said to her children, "Now, we can't get to close to Dah, but we can show him what we've made huh?" she said. Rose picked up their creation and Cypher lead the way upstairs. Their little parade of turkey bird summon lasted all the way until they came into the bedroom where Illya was sitting in his bed with his pad. When they came to a halt near the foot of the bed, Calysta nodded to Rose who unfurled their creation with a giggle. "You couldn't summon the bird with us this year, so we did it for you. You have alot of turkeys now."

    * * * * * * * * * * * * *

    Once Ehud had gone with his precious and sweet son Calysta walked into the kitchen and plucked up the slightly chipped gravy boat which was brimming with thick brown liquid. Illya wanted to drink that. That thought alone made her stomach churn and she sighed. She might as well get this part over with. Selecting a lidded tumbler from their cabinet, she poured the gravy into the cup, her nose curling slightly until the cup was full. About that time, her father walked in to retrieve his coffee mug and paused when he saw her with the gravy boat. An obvious look of disgusted curiosity flashed over his face as his eyes flicked from cup to boat and back again. "Don't ask," Calysta said as she threaded a straw into the lid. With the addition of a bendable straw Illya's 'dinner' was ready and she quickly dashed up stairs with it in her hands.

    "One gravy cup," she said, offering over the strange and admittedly gross request, "It's still warm too." He seemed to take up the cup with anticipation and she swallowed, trying to forget that's all he planned on eating. Shaking her head, she chuckled a little and then patted his leg. "I'll be up in a few minutes." At this point, doing the dishes and tucking the kids into bed was preferable to watching her Chip drink plain, salty gravy through a straw though she'd seen much worse."

    * * * * * * * * * * * *

    Calysta continued her rounds of medicine between Illya and the children between bouts of working, cooking and cleaning. Cypher was well enough to go back to school with the minor sniffles and then come home to show off his good reports again. Usually, her son came home all in a flurry to show her the report on his day and the animals would be at his side followed by her father and his own dog. This time her father didn't arrive until later in the day. He carried his brief case and sat it by the door like always and then removed his coat along with his hat before rubbing his hands together against the cold. Rather than his usual greeting he settled onto the couch and looked to her with a faraway gaze that tended to come over him when he was still processing something.

    "Dad?" Calysta asked, "Are you alright?"

    Her father nodded as he scratched pensively at his beard. "Aye, I just had an interesting chat with Edgar today. He asked me to be the director of Terran studies in the new school you are collaborating with the Chippeqouti with. He also wants my help in filling the other vacancies."

    Calysta smiled brightly. "I think you would be a wonderful choice, dad. I think Edgar chose well."

    "Aye," he nodded. His eyes seemed to focus on his daughter finally and he took in a deep breath. She was more beautiful now than ever before and there was so much riding on the decisions she made daily. It was a wonder she didn't crack from the stress. Then again, she had always been incredibly resilient, even in times that he knew he would have given up. Illya probably had alot to do with that if he was honest. He'd watched the man go from clueless about his new family through no fault of his own to a man who would give up a literal fortune to support his wife. As much of a head scratcher as that occurrence would have been ten years ago, he could chuckle about it now, mostly out of sheer shock.

    In fact, he'd started chuckling to himself out loud now with his daughter staring at him like a maniac. "He gave...he gave over..." Now, she was really staring and he ran a hand over his mouth. "Calysta, did you know Illya gave almost 5 million credits at that banquet in support of the Alliance?"

    And there it was spilling out as he rung his hands. He was sure that Illya had meant it to be a private gift without her knowing but he hadn't been able to help it. His daughter stiffened some and her eyes widened. Nope, she hadn't known at all what he had done. "He did what?" The words slipped out a quiet whisper and he couldn't tell if his daughter was angry or just in shock like he was. Was he about to get the man in trouble with his wife? Maybe. They had never seen so much money in their life and probably never would. His daughter could have lived in a mansion or some other planet far away from here with her children and never be touched by war at all.

    "He did it for you," Thomas added, hoping that might help.

    This time a reaction that he so rarely saw from his daughter occurred. From the time she was small she hated people seeing her cry and now she had tears touching at the corners of her grey eyes. That could still mean angry or it could mean any number of things when it came to women. Calysta wiped at her eyes and then sniffled some. "Aye." Then she drew herself up and walked into the kitchen as if the conversation hadn't happened at all.

    * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

    Later in the afternoon Illya came down from the bedroom for the first time in days. Calysta was working on his smoothie as he thumped down the stairs in his pajama pants, warm socks, and shirt. It didn't take much to make him a good smoothie of apples, *omne*, blueberry and sweet grasses which turned the concoction bright red. With the addition of thick cream, the smoothie turned a brilliant shade of pink. "Almost done," she smiled to Illya before clicking on the blender one last time. Lohgan was sitting at the counter, her tiny feet kicking back and forth. In her hands, she held her favorite red straw with all sorts of crazy swirls curled into the plastic. "Dis for Dah." The blender came to a halt when everything was well mixed, then Calysta poured up the smoothie into another lidded up. "He'll like that one. It's one of his favorite colors. Just like yours." She add the straw and thanked her little girl before picking her up by the under arms and setting her on the floor. Lifting her girl was becoming progressively more difficult. Lohgan definitely had the hybrid bone structure and while she didn't look it, her weight was telling. "Ooof," Calysta puffed, "Okay...lets go give this to Dah."

    When Illya was done with a coughing spell Calysta offered over the fruit smoothie in a lidded cup along with a bright red crazy straw. "Lohgan picked out the straw," she chuckled before leaning down on the couch. She reached for her pad and turned the heating elements on so they could get nice and toasty. All the while she couldn't help but look at her Chip. He was a bit bedraggled with his hair a mess and circles under his eyes. Some of his usual robust color was dulled by the sickness, but that wasn't what see saw. Calysta smiled at her Chip as he sipped his smoothie and resisted the urge to lean over to kiss him.

    The fruit smoothies that Kalizda made were always good. It was like having a dessert and Illya grinned when he took the cup from Kalizda. There was a little heat radiating in the couch and he leaned a little further back into it. The heat felt good on his back. Sitting in bed all the time was making his back sore and he was ready for a little relief. Soon enough he'd be able to lay down at night. The comment on the straw made him grin a little bigger. "Hmm...ets good straw." Lohgan came toddling into the room and she watched her father with wide eyes while he took a drink with the special straw. When Illya finished the little sip he winked at Lohgan, "Dah straw makes et taste extra good." Turning his face away from Lohgan and Kalizda he coughed a little and then looked back at Lohan. The girl was beaming at Illya and she giggled a little before she ran away to play hide and seek by poking her face around the corner every couple of seconds.

    Lohgan contented herself with playing her favorite game of hide and seek as soon as she caught her father's eyes. She liked to play shy, but that was thr furthest thing from the truth if she got riled up enough. Calysta chuckled and looked around from time to time. "Oh where, oh where has my little Lohgan gone? She is hiding and she's so good, I can't find her." That managed to get a few giggles out of the girl before she stamped off into her room to go find something to get into. There was no telling what she would return with, but Calysta took the moment to look at Illya again, her hands settling gently over his propped up and bundled legs. She knew Illya could see her making eyes at him, but she couldn't quite stop. "Is the smoothie good? I added a bit of extra cream."

    It was only a couple of minutes before the game of hide and seek wore out. Illya watched Lohgan run off and then he turned his gaze to Kalizda. "Dah smootie es good. Dat extra cream makes meh tink dat et es dessert." Leaning a bit closer to Kalizda he gently rested his forehead on hers for a second and then sat back up straight. "Yah know dat I wanna kiss yah and be closer, but I dun..." Turning away he coughed again. "I dun want yah tah get sick," Illya shifted to look at Kalizda again. "Pneumonia es nut fun even ef dah smooties are good."

    His forehead touched hers and she practically beamed without realizing she was smiling at all. Her grey eyes swept over her Chip as he coughed and settled back in a little futher away. "Mmm...it's alright, love," she smiled gently, "We'll catch up on that when you're feeling better." Her hand drifted up and over to his, settling over his tan hand. "I love you." The words came out a quiet and contented whisper, like the best kept secret only she got to have.

    A little smirk came to Illya's face when she talked about catching up later. He could barely hold back the smile that grew larger by the second after she said she loved him in that quiet voice. Illya's voice held an extra gravel in it with his cough when he spoke. "Well, dats a good ting." Shifting the cup to his other hand he reached over and held onto her little fingers with one of his big brown hands. "I love yah too and I tink I like yah. Dere's a difference yah know." The more he spoke the harder it was not to laugh. "Ef I like yah et means dat et's important dat yah love meh and ef I love yah et means dat I will do anyting tah hear yah say someting like dat. Was wondering ef I'd have to get much crazier tah get yah love."

    Calysta felt the warmth of his hand settle over hers and curl around her slim fingers, nearly engulfing them as he smiled broadly. A little spark in is eye let her know he was feeling better. When he talked about the difference between like and love, she chuckled. The cheekiness warmed her in a way nothing else could and by the end she was giggling, though her eyes were soft and loving. "You've gone above and beyond," she smiled, "Best agreed and husband without a doubt in my mind. I would say it again, crazy deed or not."

    "Ah, crazy already?" Feigning shock and offense he stared at Kalizda for a good couple of seconds before Illya joined her in the chuckle. Chuckling didn't last long and Illya ended up coughing. Once he was on a more serious note he grinned slightly. "I still love yah. Might be willing tah be crazy a few more times eh?"

    He was playing around with her and it was how she knew things were good. Better than good. Her cool fingers laced with his even as he coughed and held tight to him until the chuckle gone awry was over and he grinned at her. Smiling at him she leaned over and chanced a kiss on his cheek. "Aye, we've got 350 years to see what sort of trouble we can get into. I hope you're willing to be crazy with me for a few more."

    Nodding some he winked at her. "Yah used tah say 300. Now yah making meh stick around longer. 350 years es long time tah be crazy."

    "Maybe if we're crazy enough we can stretch it to 400," she giggled, "So long as I'm with you." Her fingers tightened with his gently and she contented herself with sitting with him on the couch in their home. The kids were up there playing up stairs and the dogs were curled at their feet. It was a good day and she knew that her Chip loved her without reserve.

    * * * * * * * * * * ** * *

    The next day seemed to drag on a bit but she made sure everyone was feeling a bit better and got back to her work now that the holiday was over. Illya had some how managed to make a flight schedule for the trip while sick and she was rather impressed. He had done a good job other than a few spelling errors and mistranslations while also adding a few places on the fringe that were important to stop by. Most Council members in charge of the home planet stayed on the home planet for the tour but Illya had deemed it important to deviate from that tradition. She couldn't agree more with the idea and even added the Terran colony to the flight plan. Their representative had asked her to visit multiple times but she had been pregnant for most of those requests. She tweaked a few stops here and there, then deemed her flight schedule good. With the announcement sent out that she would be making her trip in 4 months time sent out to all the relevant people, Calysta sat back on the couch rubbing her hands. It felt particularly cold in the room and it was nearly time for bed. "I think I'm going to slip upstairs," she yawned to Illya, "All the kids are in bed now and it's quiet." He wasn't quite feeling up to hard work and she felt sluggish enough to think that a good night's sleep between them both would be best.

    Morning came all too soon and with it a feeling of achy heaviness. It dragged in her bones and sat in her chest with the familiar feeling of being sick. Illya was already out of the bed when she sat up. What time was it? Apparently, it was later in the morning than she had intended because the babies were snuffling and whimpering for their breakfast. "Shh...it's okay..." She rolled out of bed and when her feet hit the floor she winced. The sort of sick ache that came in with a cold had some how blanketed her over night. A rugged cough welled up from her chest and she turned her head, weathering the feeling before reaching for her babies. About that time, Illya came upstairs with the bottles and helped her lift Edgar, the chunkier of the two twins, from his crib.

    They settled on the bed together and Calysta held Tomas close as he nuzzled into his bottle. "Oh." She'd slept through it all? A wave of guilt hit her and she sat up with a small smile. "I'm okay. Just a little tired I think." She didn't have the time to be sick. She had 5 children and a Chip to help with skycorp studies along with her own work.

    They fed the babies and she sniffled while they got dressed and Illya sat on the couch to study his subject for skycorp. "I'm going to do a little laundry," she smiled to him, "Should be quiet until Cypher gets home."

    The first thing she did was gather up the sheets from the children's rooms and the blankets too. That would help with getting rid of all the germs. She tossed all the pillow cases in too. With an armful of bed sheets and bedding, Calysta scaled the stairs and started to cough. Her chest felt like an anvil and she hacked up a sizeable glob. "Uhg..." Dropping the laundry, she stepped into the bathroom and spat into the toilet. "Ew." Her skin was sweaty and she shivered against the damp. "No." She told herself. "I am not sick. No. No."

    Gathering up the bed clothes, she stepped out into the hallway again to find Illya waiting for her expectantly. "Is everything okay," she wheezed, "Did I forget one of the books upstairs?"
     
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  14. Silence

    Silence Anonymous Me Staff Member Benefactor Warden

    While Illya was sitting on the couch studying he tried to focus on the subject, but Kalizda sounded terrible. He could hear her wheezing as she shuffled from one room to the next. After a few minutes he set his books aside and took himself to the hallway. By the time he was half way through the hallway Kalizda was stepping out of the bathroom and she looked horrible. If it was possible for her to look even more tired than she was just a short time ago, then she'd accomplished it. "I'm ok, but nut yah." Walking over to Kalizda he scooped her up into his arms. "I do a little laundry and make appointment for yah tah see dah Ehaui. Yah gonna go upstairs and rest."

    Illya seemed to be looking her over strangely and she wondered if some of the gunk she had just coughed had gotten stuck on her lip. A gross thought, but it was possible. Then he simply said he was fine. "I'm ok-" Her words were cut off when Illya leaned forward and scooped her up as if she weighed nothing. The half gathered bed sheets tumbled out of her hand as she grabbed his shirt more out of instinct than actual need. "I stripped the sheets," she said, her brow knitting, "And I'm supposed to be helping you study. I haven't been sick for a long time and it's just a passing..." Her throat caught on something she turned her head quickly to the side as her body jolted in the effort to expel what was coming up from her lungs. "C-cold." The last word came out a miserable gulp and she shuddered slightly when she swallowed.

    Despite her protests Illya wasn't about to put her down. "Mmhmmm. Et will pass when I take yah to dah Ehaui for medicine." Kalizda was coughing and he was getting rid of his cough. Just a few moments after she finished coughing he turned his head to the side and coughed too. "I will finish dah laundry in little bit." By the time Illya got to the top of the stairs he was wheezing, but he had Kalizda nearly to the room. Once she was in the room he set her on the bed and then grabbed his pad. With a quick view at the Ehaui appointment scheduling calendar he found a slot at 2:00 in the afternoon. "Yah going tah see a doctor at 2:00. Now I do laundry."

    Illya was still coughing as he brought her upstairs and she could hear the crackling in his chest being so close to him. He wasn't feeling great himself and she worried he was going to get sick again if he worked too much. Illya wasn't about to let her out of this one either. If anything he held her a bit close as he coughed and then scaled the last stairs before placing her on the bed. It took all of three minutes to find her a time to go in the afternoon and he was quite firm about it. Calysta felt miserable and nothing made that more apparent than realizing how bone tired she was as she sat on the bed. Normally, she would have at least offered to help fold but it defeated the purpose in washing them if she hacked all over them while they were clean. Sighing some, she slipped out of her shirt and pulled on her robe. It felt so cold in their room right now. "Maybe it's a good idea then. I don't want to get you or the babies sick again...I'm not sick...but I don't want to take the chance," she mumbled to him, "A small nap might be okay too. Wake me up if you need some help, yeah?" She hated the idea of being sick when she was needed and it had been a long time since something had struck her so hard. It did bring out an old stubbornness she'd kept ever since she was a child though and it was showing a little.

    No matter how miserable she looked the little woman was still insisting that she wasn't sick. Illya let her say what she wanted to, but he'd seen her sick before and this was about what it looked like. She was going to the doctor whether she liked it, or not. "Yep, yah jes rest a little bit. I will take care of dah kids." Before Illya got up to leave the room he turned his heated blanket on high and pulled it over Kalizda. "Yah feel better ef yah warm eh?"

    He was probably just saying it to make her feel better, and she knew that, but some old habits were hard to break. Calysta nodded as she started to lay back and Illya pulled his heated blanket over her gently. For now the toasty heat felt nice against the perceived cold and she almost sighed in relief. "Aye." Her fingers came up to his before he turned to go, giving them a squeeze. "Thank you, love." It was all she could think of to say to express what it was she was really trying to tell him.

    Those little fingers caught onto his and Illya met her gaze for a moment. "Yah welcome." Leaning in a bit closer he kissed her forehead. "When I come back I like tah see dat yah resting. No sneaking around and trying tah get tings done."

    He leaned in close, gracing her head with a gentle peck of a kiss before promptly telling her that he wanted her to rest. Sneaking around wasn't an option. Just the comment alone was enough to make her mouth turn to a watery, but attempted smile. "Me sneaking? No, never." The comment was followed by a faint giggle which turned to a cough, causing her to curl into herself some.

    Raising one eyebrow Illya smirked. "Of course nut." They both knew she had a history of trying to work too hard when she was sick. In a way Illya was upset with himself. Why hadn't he noticed that she was feeling very unwell before this? Shouldn't he have recognized that she was ill? Naturally he didn't, but he wondered if it was ever clear before now. At this point there wasn't any knowing, but he could do his best for her. Once he was out of the room Illya started to lay out a little plan to make sure he was checking on her regularly. Kalizda needed some tea and he would take that to her as soon as he finished dropping the laundry in the washing machine.

    In the hallway downstairs Illya collected all the dirty linens from the beds and decided to throw the towels in too. They would be needing a wash. Then he dumped everything into the washer and put in a little extra soap. Extra soap meant extra germ killing. Just as Illya thought to head to the kitchen he remembered that it would be a good idea to wash his hands before preparing any tea.

    Even if he was feeling better Illya was still moving slower than normal around the house. That didn't mean that Lohgan moved any slower. Cypher was already going to be late for school and Illya practically had to shove the boy out the door and then he sent a short message to the teacher in his best Trader's Tongue. Cyphr wil bi late for skule. I ded not wake him up en tim. Illya checked it over one time to be sure it looked right and to his dismay the pad was pointing out many errors. Whatever the autocorrect suggested he went with. Surely it would clean things up enough that the teacher wouldn't think he was completely uneducated. These were the moments when Illya felt a bit odd and he usually liked Kalizda to take care of the written correspondence. By the end of the corrections he felt confident enough to send off the message reading, Cypher will be late for skull. I dead not wake him end time.

    With the little note to the teacher, laundry started and the tea probably done brewing Illya felt somewhat accomplished. Now all he had to do was change the twins diapers and lay them down for a little nap. Lohgan would take hers after lunch and the part way through her nap the twins would lay down too. Heading back into the kitchen Illya got the tea and served two cups. One he left on the counter for himself and the next one he filled was for Kalizda.

    Illya wandered back up the stairs with the mug and he handed it to Kalizda."Yah drink some of dis and yah might have better nap." With that little task complete he went back down the stairs to take care of the kids. The whole day was flying by and it was all Illya could do just to keep up with the kids and try to fold the laundry. It was disappointing to discover that he had planned Kalizda's doctor appointment during the usual nap time and that only made the kids crabby. The day managed to somehow go even further awry. Cypher returned home with tears in his eyes and Illya had barely got the twins to go to sleep.

    "Dah..." Shuffling over to Illya he held up his little report. "Teacher says dat I lie and I write dah note to her. I tell her dat I get up and eat breakfast while I run tah school and dat yah send her letter, but she dun believe meh. I get bad report." Bursting into tears again he held up his wrinkled little report.

    Illya looked over the note and he saw a number to call near the end of it. If his son had come home just like he was supposed to there was a chance that Illya could still talk to the teacher. Regretfully there was no answer and Illya had to leave a message. "I get meh Cypher's report tahday. Dis es Illya Blackwolf. I write dah letter explaining why Cypher es late tahday. Ef dis happens again, call meh pad, dun call meh son a liar. Dis es nut acceptable. Ef he lies I will talk to him. Yah call meh when yah get dis message." With that he turned the pad off again and grumbled a bit before turning to Cypher. "Dere, ets taken care of. Yah teacher will fex yah report tomorrow."

    Apparently asking the teacher to call when they got the message wasn't the most brilliant plan. Illya was barely up and trying to cook in the kitchen when the pad started to ring. At first Illya figured it would be Kalizda and he didn't care that he didn't have his shirt on. She was probably going to remind him to get his medicine and hers and bring the tea to her. His hair was still a mess and Illya coughed a bit before he turned on the hologram image. Almost instantly he recognized the face, and it was not Kalizda's. This was Cypher's teacher.

    The woman was surprised to see Illya was not wearing any clothing so far as she could tell. Almost immediately the hologram image was shifted to show only his face and mostly ceiling from there and a bit of the staircase beyond the kitchen. In the background she could see Cypher running down the stairs in nothing, but his little boxers. "I got the message. I was a little confused by it." Reading the message aloud she waited for some kind of response from Illya.

    By the time the woman finished reading the message Illya shrugged. "Well, I was in hurry. Kalizda es sick and I'm trying tah feed Cypher before school..." Turning away from the pad he coughed a little, "and Lohgan needs food too, den dah twins need feeding and I get breakfast for Kalizda and mehself after Cypher goes tah school. I let pad decide dah words I write. Dere was nut much time. Jes fex his record."

    With a sigh the woman made a few clicks on her previous day's record. "It's fixed. I'll send Cypher home with an updated report of yesterday's behavior. When you have time I suggest that we have a small meeting regarding a few other things. However, it sounds like you're busy for now."

    "Dat's good. Yah have nice day, bye." Illya hung up and growled a little. He hated meetings with teachers. In some ways he felt slightly intimidated by them and especially when they discovered his writing ability. Somehow they seemed to figure it out much faster than anyone else. Once he had Cypher out the door to school, Lohgan fed, tea made, the twins diapers changed and a little breakfast made for himself and Kalizda Illya went back up the stairs. "Yah know, I tink maybe I will leave hologram messages for dah teachers from now on." When she gave him a look Illya shrugged, "I show yah what I write on meh pad later."

    ***************************

    There was plenty of time after Thanksgiving for Ehud to consider what the holiday had been like with Priscilla. She seemed to like making chicken with him and that meant she liked spending time with him too. He was a bit nervous about this small plan he had, but he knew that if he didn't do something about it now, he probably wouldn't make it happen.

    Priscilla had been gentle with Sien, she'd treated him like he was her own and she was beautiful. A man couldn't deny that she was a good looking woman. Glancing across the mostly empty dinner table Ehud grinned at Sien. "I think I'm going to ask Priscilla to help us make a holiday like the Terrans." It was something he figured he could easily deflect questions about if anyone dared to ask. Living on the fringe of the Chip village had its advantages too. More than likely nobody would notice that he was going to try and celebrate a Terran holiday and the majority if them would have no idea what the holiday meant, or that it was even Terran.

    Once dinner was finished Ehud walked with Sien over to Illya and Kalizda's. After he knocked on the door a few times he saw Priscilla answer. She must have seen him come up the porch steps from the living room window, or someone told her. "I uh...Well I thought I'd like to ask if you would help Sien and I celebrate the Terran holiday of Christmas?"
     
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  15. aryamajor

    aryamajor Curious Adventurer Benefactor

    Calysta watched her Chip go, trying not to cough as he left her to go pick up her mess of a laundry pile. She felt terribly tired and she was sure now that a fever had set in but there was little to do about it until her appointment with the Ehaui. It was only a little cold hopefully. They Ehaui would know how to alleviate some of the symptoms until it passed her by. The sickness wouldn't be so much of an issue with her beefed up bones and the accompanying immune system, right? Calysta coughed a ragged sound before shivering under the covers. She wanted to sleep some more and yet it was hard to let it happen like it always had been. Working through sickness, having a drive and purpose had been key to recovering in the past. Now, she had been healthy for years and old habits died hard. Pulling the heated blanket higher over her shoulder, Calysta snuggled down and closed her eyes.

    Sleep was fitful, broken by bouts of crud filled coughing, until Illya brought up a mug of steaming herbal tea. It was a brew she made for him when he had the Chip Cough and it wasn't too tasty, but would make her feel better in the long run. "Thank you," she wheezed. He looked a little frazzled sitting beside her and she gave him an encouraging, half smile. "I'll feel better in no time between you and the Ehaui, huh?" After Illya left, she finished the tea and then slept until it was time to go to the doctor. The flight there was less than pleasant with all the kids jammed into the skimmer and all but Edgar having been woken from a nap. Calysta tried not to cough in their direction and couldn't to much good in helping wrangle them. If she was contagious she certainly didn't want to give it to anyone, least of all her children.

    After a scan, the doctor came in shaking his head as if he expected what he was seeing and was slightly disappointed. "Pneumonia. We'll start you on the medication and you'll have to take it at the perscribed intervals. Plenty of rest and tea to go with it." Calysta wrapped her arms around herself and tried not to grumble on her way out to the flyer. She really did feel awful and the cough wouldn't stop long enough in one moment to recover for the next now, but being sick was something she loathed.

    Once they were home again, Illya wrapped her up in the heated blanket which was nice. It felt good against chilled skin and she snuggled back into bed hoping maybe the disgusting cough syrup would do it's job just for a few hours.Within that time, Cypher came home closely tailed by Thomas who missed why the boy had left the school house in such a torrent of indignation. By the time he arrived and discovered Calysta was upstairs with pneumonia, he didn't hesitate to march himself right up to their bedroom and steal a peek inside. She was asleep when he peered into the darkened room, her chest rising and falling with a slight wheeze with every move. Moving further into the room, Thomas stepped along quietly, and ran a hand over her daughter's forehead. It was warm to the touch, hot even, and he winced. No matter how old she got, he would still look after his little girl. He picked up the medicine bottle on the night stand and read over the ingredients. They had managed not to give her anything with synthetics at least. She wouldn't wake up utterly drunk and confused or vomiting. Replacing the bottle where he'd found it, Thomas pulled the blanket over her feet better and tucked it under so she couldn't kick out of the warmth. Getting chilled was the last thing she needed.

    He petted and preened to the point he knew it would be a worthy accusation to call him a mother-hen and he decided to go down stairs for a few minutes to change clothes. It would only take a second and then he could come back upstairs to check on her. On the way down, he passed Illya who was on the way up. The man looked tired and worn a bit thin, but he was on his way to the master bedroom, undoubtedly to check on Calysta. A strange sort of feeling hit him when he realized that he wasn't the only one worried about her as he once had been. Illya was there trying to take care of her too it seemed. He'd gotten her upstairs and into bed which was no easy feat and then some how managed to get her to see a doctor, judging by the medicine bottle he'd seen. Thomas paused for a moment and then nodded to his son in law. "She was sleeping," he commented, "Still running a fever. Just...uh....keep an eye on her. She gets weird dreams when she runs a fever and if you give her synthetic medicine it will make her sick. The stuff on the table was fine, but I wouldn't use anything that wasn't direct from the Ehaui. She'll probably want someone there if she wakes up. In the hospital she never liked waking up alone, at least." The man was looking at him strangely and Thomas' shoulders dipped a little. "Well, you know what to do. I'll watch after the kids." Shaking his own head at himself, Thomas kept going down the stairs all the while trying to remind himself that his daughter was in good hands if not his own.

    Calysta woke after awhile shaking from cold and burning with heat. She struggled with kicking off the covers, unsure how she got tangled to begin with and then stuck a leg outside the heated blanket only to find it was too cold. Her little foot snaked back under the cover to grow entirely to warm again. The game went on and on until Illya came upstairs and sat beside her. He said something about only hologramming the teacher from now on and she tilted her head in confusion. "What do you mean?" He voice cracked when she spoke, making her sound a bit like a deflating squeaker toy. Illya reluctantly handed over the pad, displaying the note he'd written. "This says...Cypher will be late for skull. I dead not wake him end time." It didnt take a genius to figure out how that happened and it really wasn't Illya's fault. "Did the teacher say anything back, or was there an issue?" Apparently, there was an small miscommunication and the teacher had blamed Cypher, claiming that he had lied. When Illya corrected her, she made mention of wanting meet about other things. Hearing about the incident made Calysta bristle a little and she set her jaw. "Aye, I think we'll be setting up a meeting to talk to Miss Rusyn." In all truth, it was a little it was a little ridiculous to believe that Cypher had written that note. Cypher's grammar and spelling was far better than his father's to begin with. If that wasn't an indicator enough, blaming the child wouldn't be the first the teacher should do.

    Calysta coughed up a solid hunk of something and swallowed hard with a pained wince. "We'll figure out a time to meet with her. You did fine," she assured Illya, "You took care of it well, I think." Shortly after her next dose of medicine, she fell asleep next to her Chip. Certain medicines tended to giver her strange dreams on top of fevers and having pneumonia was no exception. Her dream consisted of being able to fly without a flyer like a little bird. All she had to do was crow like one to make her feathers grow and the more she called the faster she could fly. "Caw...cooo....caw..." Calysta mumbled excitedly in her sleep, "Caw...caw..." It was a delightful sensation of weightlessness that made her giggle as she floated on feathered wings up..up....up...until suddenly she made a mistake and gobbled like a turkey bird instead. "Noo...no...not the turkey spirit...I didn't mean that one..." Suddenly, she plummeted down with all the grace of a turkey dropped from a great height. Only a few seconds before she hit the Wilds, Calysta jolted awake and sat up covered in sweat. It was a fevered dream that had felt so real and her heart pounded hard in her heavy chest as the dark room around her came into focus. Illya was sitting up and staring at her, making her give an apologetic look. "I think I've been summoning too many bird spirits lately," she said, her voice hardly able to produce a whisper. Laying back down, Calysta sighed before inching her hand over to Illya's and laying over her Chip's rough knuckles. He was there. He hadn't gone anywhere or been taken away. With a long, deep breath she closed her eyes again and fell asleep.

    The next morning she didn't feel better, but she certainly didn't feel worse. Her fever had broken and what remained was the heavy cough that still wouldn't allow her to get out of bed for too long. Her father came in at one point in the day, fussing about how she hadn't bothered to eat anything. "I know," she grumbled, "I'm just not hungry." He had simply rolled his eyes and stated that if she didn't eat he would make her a fried spam sandwich for old times sake. "Uhg...no..no...." she groaned, "Fine...I'll eat some chicken noodle if we have any." Thomas turned to Illya nodded. "Have you ever made Terran chicken noodle soup?" If he hadn't he was going to learn because it was about the only thing his daughter would eat when she was sick.

    * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

    Thanksgiving had gone well in Priscilla's opinion, though she could see Sien was still intent on a mother. He was simply going to have to be patient. She loved the little boy dearly, but where his father was concerned things remained to be seen. They had enjoyed a nice thanksgiving and Ehud had promised to stop by over the next few days to spend some time with her. It wasn't but the next evening after the holiday that Cypher alerted her to the fact that his cousins were standing at the front door. Priscilla knew that meant Ehud and Sien must have been standing at the door. Quickly she put herself together, touching up her lipstick and tucking the loose hairs from her french braid before scurrying to answer the door. "Hey," she smiled brightly at the two of them, "I'm glad you came today." It seemed Ehud had something on his mind to ask her beyond pleasantries and after a few 'ums' he managed to ask if she would help the celebrate Christmas. A thrill of delight ran through her and she grinned at Ehud with excitement. Already a million ideas were running through her head on what she knew they would like to try. First thing that would have to be remedied was the cabin though. "I would love to." Glancing over her shoulder, she made sure that there wasn't anyone around, and then stepped onto the porch with them. "I'll tell you what. The holiday season has technically started on Terra. If you'll allow it, I'll watch Sien tomorrow while you are at work and we can get everything set up at your house, hm?" Ehud seemed to like that idea and even threw in the offer of making dinner with a small smile.

    * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

    With an armful of bags she'd filled at the supermarket, Priscilla met Sien and Ehud at the door of their cabin the next morning. Her blonde hair was captured in a pony tail against the Pyrtan rain and her tan work boots stood out against her slim fitted jeans. "Don't worry," she smiled to Ehud, "We'll have everything ready for when you come back." She sent him off to work with a daring little kiss to his cheek and then set to work. "Alright Sien," she grinned, "Want to help me string some lights? I think you'll like this part." The boy was more than eager to help and while he pulled out strand after strand of lights from her bag, Priscilla went to work assembling the fake Christmas tree she had borrowed from Calysta and Illya with permission. Sure, it would have been nice to have the real thing like when they were on the Pithian planet, but evergreens didn't grow on Kaereal. A fake, imported tree was the next best thing.

    She erected the tree and strung it with white lights only. Calysta and Illya liked the brillant multi colored lights, but she always thought the bright white lights were a bit classier. They made the cabin look much more like a home at any rate. Once the lights were on the tree, Sien helped her make ornaments for it. "Look, I drew Mickey Martian," he said proudly as he held up his work. It didn't quite look the same as the cartoon but Priscilla nodded in approval and strung a piece of ribbon through a hole in the paper to allow it to hang from the branches. They made stars with glittery paint and acorns along with threading through cranberries, which were easier to find than other decorations, and strung it around the tree.

    "Okay, next we'll hang up some stockings, huh? Look, I have one for you and your dad," she smiled. They were exactly like she'd hoped, but they were red socks with their names painted in script at the top. Sien looked slightly confused and she chuckled. "We'll hang them up on the fire place with some lights and a bit of that garland I found," she said, "And when the holiday morning comes, it will have candies inside if you've been good all year long." Normally, she would have mentioned something about it being Jesus' birthday, but given that wasn't his father's religion and that it was dangerous to mention it, she left that part out and focused on the more secular aspects. She didn't want Ehud getting into trouble because of her. They hung the stockings side by side, just like Sien suggested and then had some lunch surrounded by glowing Christmas lights. "Mmm...sandwiches," she winked to Sien, "Peanut butter and strawberry jelly is my favorite."

    The day wore on and she decorated each room of the cabin appropriately, all the while playing with Sien. At one point, the boy grew tired and fell asleep on the couch with his hand laid on his arms. Priscilla rearranged him so his head was on a pillow and tucked him into a blanket before continuing her work. Near the end, she came to Ehud's bedroom, and her hand paused over the door knob. She was curious to see what was on the other side. Were there pictures of this mysterious first wife? Her clothes still in the closet? She would understand if they were. Moving on was hard. Biting her lip, she put her hand on the knob and started to turn it before stopping. Ehud trusted her with his privacy and had respected hers. She wouldn't go snooping around just because she could. Not until he was ready to show her. Taking in a sharp little breath, Priscilla let go of the handle and cursed at herself for not being quite devious enough to make herself go inside his bedroom.

    Sien woke up after awhile and grinned when he saw all the work that had been done. "I told you it would be pretty," she chuckled, "Now, let's watch a little Mickey Martian and wait for your dad, hm?" They plopped down on the couch and Sien tucked in under her arm to watch the newest episode of the space adventurer best the pirates once more. This time there was a dog involved and that made the show all the better. "That dog looks like Yuji," he said to her. She nodded in agreement. "It really does. Yuji would be a good explorer."

    Heavy footfalls coming up the porch alerted them to Ehud's approach and they both turned their heads toward the door just as it opened. Priscilla smiled at the sight the slightly rain drizzled Chip and held up a hand. "Welcome Home." The entire cabin was done up nicely from the living room and hearth, to the kitchen table with proper place settings, to the living room and hallway. Not an expense was spared in making the house feel more like a home with the beautiful lights and the tree sitting out of view from the window. Rising to her feet, she walked over to invite him further into his own house. "I hope you like it," she added, "There's only on thing left to do, but we can wait till after dinner."
     
    Last edited: Nov 27, 2018
    Silence likes this.
  16. Silence

    Silence Anonymous Me Staff Member Benefactor Warden

    Illya passed Thomas on his way up to the bedroom to check on Kalizda again. He felt like it was a long day. Even though it was only the first day of Kalizda being sick he was exhausted. Getting rid of his pneumonia, watching the kids and trying to do all the same thing she did around the house was hard. What Kalizda did was a different sort of work and he wasn't as good at it. Cooking and cleaning were easy. Keeping track of the kids while cooking and cleaning was not. Somehow the world of multi-tasking felt different in a home. This wasn't the kind of thing that you trained for, it was something that happened to you and then you had to figure out as you went along.

    Making chicken noodle soup hadn't been so bad and it smelled good. Between himself and Thomas Kalizda had almost constant attention, but this time Illya planned on staying longer with Kalizda. He wasn't about to go back down stairs for a while. Thomas was eating dinner with the kids and Illya was wore out. Handing one bowl of soup to Kalizda he let her take a sip before he went on eating his. As he expected she wasn't terribly hungry. It was more worrisome that she had little appetite than it was when he didn't want to eat. If he didn't want to eat his body was big enough to last him a while before it would hurt him. However, Kalizda was tiny and she looked like she shouldn't even skip one meal. Skipping any food could make her light enough she get blown over and drug across the ground with a simple gust of wind.

    It seemed like they barely finished dinner together and Kalizda was trying to nod off. At one point she nearly planted her face in her bowl. She was apparently quite flexible and bent more than he thought she could. Taking her bowl from her relaxed fingers he saw there was only a little bit in the bottom of it. Without thinking he put the bowl to his lips and finished it of. Illya was used to finishing what she didn't eat, or what the kids didn't want. "Oooh..." Frowning a bit he remembered that he just got over pneumonia and she had it now. They were both still coughing, but perhaps he wouldn't get the pneumonia because he had an immunity to it this year.

    Setting the bowls on his night stand Illya set the timer on his pad. He would wake Kalizda when it was time for her next dose of medicine. Thankfully that was another four hours away. They didn't quite make it four hours and something was wrong. Illya had rolled to his side at some point and he habitually flopped a hand over Kalizda's hip. She started to move and talk and he felt her hip slide away from his hand and then Caw! There was nothing quite so loud, or shocking as her sudden mangled cry. Sitting upright in the bed Illya watched her carefully and gently brushed at one of her hands until she woke up.

    Kalizda's excuse for her bird sounds was a bit humorous, but at the same time Illya was still worried. He knew what it felt like to be sick and feverish and didn't like to see her like that. "Et's alright. Yah jes sleep a little more and den I will give yah dah medicine when ets time." Last thing he needed was for her to try and give herself her medicine when she was sick.

    By the next morning Kalizda seemed to be better. Illya could see the difference. She wasn't quite as pasty looking and she wasn't sweating quite as badly. While he had a few minutes with her he leaned in close and kissed her gently on the cheek. "Hmm...Meh little bird want tah summon more turkeh? Maybe she like tah summon chehken? I have some more chehken noodle soup for yah." Since she was looking better he felt better. Scooting a bit closer in the bed he wrapped an arm around her. "Yah meh beautiful agreed." A grin crept to his face and he blindly searched under the covers for her left hand and he felt the ring on her finger. "Dis means dat yah meh wife. Dat I asked yah tah trust meh. Et was very proud day when yah give meh ring too and yah ask meh tah trust yah too. Now I am yah husband." He wasn't entirely sure that there was a difference between being husband and wife, or agreed, but they sounded different.

    Snuggling with her for just a moment he closed his eyes. Even if he felt a little better about the fact that she looked like she improved he was still worried. It was critical that she knew he loved her and he wanted to hold her like he did every morning. Whether she was sick, or not he wasn't going to let her suffer without knowing that he was here. Somewhere in the back of his mind there was the creeping fear that she might not recover and he pulled her a bit tighter to himself. After a few minutes of just being quiet and holding her he shifted some and looked in her eyes. "Yah remember dat yah said we stay togeter for anoter 400 years. Jes stay stubborn and dun let dis little pneumonia keep yah sick too long eh?"

    It was time for her next dose of medicine and almost time for the kids to be up and Cypher to be getting ready for school. Illya carefully measured out Kalizda's dose of medicine and he held the spoon in one hand and helped her sit up a little straighter with his other. "Jes remember dat yah let meh take care of yah. Dun go helping yahself to dah medicine. I measure et when yah sick and take care of yah. Dis es meh honor as yah agreed. Et es meh turn tah care for yah." With a careful nod he stepped over to the crib to be sure the twins would sleep long enough for him to wake up Cypher and Rose. Lohgan could sleep for a little longer. Then he would make bottles for the twins, feed the twins with Kalizda while Rose and Cypher got dressed and washed. When he was done feeding the twins and changing their diapers he would go downstairs and make breakfast. "Yah like some fruit smootie for breakfast?" Illya was sure he could make a good one. He'd seen some of the things she put in his fruit smoothies before.

    ******************************

    Sien wasn't scheduled for school the next day and Ehud still had to work, but instead of taking teh boy to Illya and Kalizda's he was met at the door by Priscilla. The woman was carrying many bags and Ehud couldn't help wonder what they were for. While he was walking out and she was walking in he leaned forward slightly and tried to angle his head to get a better look at the inside of the bags. They were filled with stuff that he didn't really know much about. It was difficult to tell exactly what was in the bags and he nearly ran into the door jam on his way out. Side stepping he made it out the door and then glanced behind himself again. The door was already closing and he couldn't see what was in the bags.

    All the day at work Ehud couldn't help wondering what was going on at his house. He'd given her permission to help him make Christmas, but he wasn't entirely sure what that entailed. Even if he had been in the Terran society for some time he had also lived his life cautiously. He and Haza kept to themselves for a long time. When they did go out it was only for small parties and they were still quiet.

    When it was time to go home Ehud's curiosity was gnawing at his brain and plucking at the fibers. Since it appeared that the shades were pulled closed he quickened his pace some and took longer strides. In a few steps he was to the front door and Ehud set a hand on the knob, twisted it and pushed the door open. His jaw dropped when he saw the house was decorated like some strange looking sort of sacrifice was to be made.

    Despite the initial shock Sien was bounding about with great glee. Ehud stood in the room and slowly turned around a few times. "It looks different than I thought." He didn't really know what he thought it would look like, but this was strange. "Does all this mean something? I know some of this is about the Terran God." Part of this was shock and the other part was curiosity. If Illya was breaking custom to practice this he wondered what about it was so terrible. It certainly didn't look like a black ritual, or anything horrible. Some of it looked like a sacrifice, but other parts were pretty.

    *******************************************

    The stress of the studies started to kick in after Kalizda had recovered from her pneumonia. For Illya the cough seemed to linger. He never really got over the pneumonia and his coughing was getting worse again. Life had managed to get in the way of the studies and in part it was his fault. Illya knew that he didn't force the studies some days when he should have instead of being tired and going to bed early.

    Part of the study had an application on his pad and it would pop up with reminders. He ignored most of them until they were red. If they were red it meant that he had to do them that day. The constant reminders were distracting and he hated them. Finally, another reminder popped up on his screen and it was the third red one. Tapping the pad a little harder than was necessary Illya started to fill in the information it requested. First there was a name and then address, race and several other fields. He didn't like making a check mark telling them he was 'Other.' Apparently Chippequoti was not an option when they listed the races on this form.

    By the end of the form he clicked submit and then it cleared all the information and sent a warning stating that there was no such person in the Alliance identification records. "Oh dis es shet." Growling under his breath Illya filled out the form again and submitted it only for the same error to return. A second error came up stating that if the third try failed he would have to go to the school in person to apply. Finally, out of desperation Illya called the number in the warning box. An overly cheerful sounding woman answered on the other side and Illya waited for her to finish the the short introduction before he said anything. "Dis ting keeps telling meh dat I dun exist. Et's full of shet. Yah tell meh why."

    "Do you have an identification card with the Alliance?"

    Illya sighed. "I dun know. What es Alliance identification card like?" He didn't recall being given a card that said it identified him as an Alliance member.

    Pursing her lips slightly the woman listened to the response. It sounded like this cadet had to be a 100 year old man because was apparently quite dense. "Any identification card issued by an Alliance governmental unit. For example a flyer license?" Hopefully he had at least that. There was a horrible hacking cough on the other side and she frowned. When was this old guy gonna die? Sounded like it would be soon. During the process of submission they were not allowed to use hologram. It was supposedly a measure to prevent prejudice.

    "Ooh, I found et." Illya stared at the card for a moment and his eyes widened. "Et dun have meh full name on et. Why?"

    "I don't know why your full name isn't on the card. You can only enter your name as it appears on the governmental unit issued id. If there is an issue with your id you will need to report it and then have it changed. You will miss the deadline for registration this season, but you may apply next year." In a way she hoped he would take the offer to fix his id. It would get the guy off the line.

    "I dun have time for dat." Grumbling to himself he reluctantly filled out the form and entered his name as, Illya Black-Wolf. "Now, I submit meh application." When he hit the submission button it didn't finish, instead it sent him to the next page and it said there were 10 more to go.

    "Well, if you're good to go from here I'll be hanging up. You can call back if you need anything." The woman quickly hung up before he could say anything else. Hopefully Bill would pick it up if the guy called back.

    The questions on the general submission got more difficult as things went. What was the most shocking was the last page. Illya had thought that there would be very little personal information to divulge after the first page. The many others were small writing samples to prove that he could at least read and write and a few simple math problems to solve. It was just enough to show that he was literate enough to take the exam. However, the last page had horribly demanding questions. They wanted to know if he had ever been convicted of a crime. "No." Talking to the pad he pressed the little button and the next question popped up. "Have you ever been accused of a crime? If so please explain." Momentarily Illya's heart started to race and his stomach sank. He knew this was the part that he didn't want to write.

    It was nearly an hour of carefully writing out his response and crafting it as carefully as he could in trader's tongue. Accused of war crimes, theft, murder, assassination, battery, assault, bribery, spying, destruction of property, and probably more that I can't remember. That was the nicest way he could think to say it. Illya had nearly 10 drafts of this thought and somehow the first one was the best. It wasn't nice and smooth sounding, but it described things without having to be horribly specific. They would get the idea.

    Once he had the form submitted Illya had a copy sent to his pad and he took it to Kalizda's office. She looked up from her work and he sat down at his desk and then handed his pad over to Kalizda at her desk. "I send dah little paperwork to dah school today. Now I can take dah test. I dun tink dat dey want meh after I list all dose tings dat I get accused of. Why do I boter wit dah test ef dey will nut want meh?" He was starting to second guess how much they would overlook. What he had done for the Alliance probably didn't quite demonstrate what they wanted out of a man and especially not with that kind of past. It made him feel like they were out hunting again. There was nothing worse than feeling like someone wanted to condemn him all over again. However, from here on out he'd have to keep moving. He would take the test and do everything he could to enter Skycorp. That was the job that was closest to his line of work and he needed to make sure he set a good example for his children.

    With a sigh he glanced at Kalizda while she read over his work. "Ef yah see error dun say anyting. I already submit et and I wanted tah do et all on meh own. I will take dis exam witout yah help, so ef I get accepted for exam I should do et witout help eh?"
     
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  17. aryamajor

    aryamajor Curious Adventurer Benefactor

    Calysta enjoyed her woke feeling achy and coughing but she could tell within the first few minutes of her eyes being open that her fever had broken sometime during the night. Illya shifted next her causing a little bit of cool air to waft under the blanket and she shivered for only a moment before a warm kiss graced her cheek. "Mmm...chicken.." she hummed. She could tell her voice was a little hoarse from all of the coughing and she cleared it some before trying again. "I can summon the chicken and you can-" her voice cracked slightly- "Make it into delicious chicken noodle soup again." He had made some wonderful soup and her only regret was that she had only been awake enough to taste it rather than fully enjoy it the night before. Her father had even included lots of lemon juice when they dished everything up which had been delicious.

    Illya snuggled a little closer to her hand his hand settled over hers after a few moments of searching under the sheets. His hand was warm and rough, a fairly good representation of her Chip in general, though some of those rough spots had been smoothed with time. He was gentle with her and she couldn't help but enjoy being held close even when she was sick. Instinctively, it felt a bit wrong to do it. Like she was doing something naughty. In the past when she was ill, particularly in the hospital, being close to people wasn't a good thing or allowed. There was the Rule of Five. Children with immune deficiencies or other half-breed caused issues weren't allowed to come within 5 feet of each other to avoid the spread of germs. Any time a child got sick with something that would compromise their body they had their own little bubble and direct contact was forbidden. She'd watched more than one of the kids in her ward die on the other side of a bubble and even held their hand through plastic built-in gloves. Even her father wasn't allowed too close when she was too ill or her body wasn't responding well to treatments. The nurses were kind and so were the doctors, but they weren't very comforting. Ultimately, she was a patient and they had their jobs to do.

    This was the first time she'd had someone close when she was sick. Illya didn't seem to care that her hair looked like a black, fluffy rat's nest and she probably smelled like sick-sweat. He was there and holding her hand, telling her she was beautiful anyways. She was his agreed and he was proud to have his ring, claiming him as her trusted husband. A smile spread over her face, chasing away some of the sick feeling and she touched her forehead to his before closing her eyes to simply enjoy the company. It wasn't until he mentioned her living for 400 hundred years that she opened her eyes. He had a touch of worry in his voice and that was understandable. She hadn't been sick like this before for as far as he could remember and he had a wife before her. Isla had died of sickness he couldn't help her with and he had taken care of her till the day the woman passed. What was more, is he didn't find taking care of Isla a burden. He was honored to take care of his current agreed too.

    Calysta's smiled turned gentle and her hand slipped up to the nape of his neck, gently petting at his hair with soft strokes. "Don't worry," she said, her voice hoarse, "I'm tougher than I look. I will be here for 400 years and longer with you. We take care of each other." In truth, it still astounded her that he wanted to care for her and take care of her. Maybe in marriage spouses grew used to that kind of care and expected it, but for her it was something she would never forget. She head drifted to his shoulder and they cuddled for a little while longer, her slim fingers combing at his hand in methodical, soothing pets that were doing as much to relax her as it was him. "Love you," she whispered in a half asleep state.

    Eventually, they had to shift and Illya got up to check on the twins before mentioning a fruit smoothie. She had grown used to the warm man beside her and having him move was a bit groan inducing when her body still ached a bit, but the offer of a smoothie made her smile. "That sounds delicious." Did he know how to make them? She had no idea if he did or not, but she was willing to let him try. After all, they had 400 years to try everything under the twin moons.

    * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

    Ehud walked in and his mouth fell open at the sight of his house done all in proper Christmas lights and looking much more like a home than it probably had in years. Sien tore away from her side to bound up next to his father with a grand smile on his face. It was obvious he was thrilled to show off all of his hard work. What wasn't obvious was what Ehud thought of all the trimmings spread through the house. His mouth was open for a long moment as he studied the place carefully, like a general inspecting a barrack that had suddenly been rearranged, taking stock of everything. Then he asked if everything meant something for the 'Terran God' Priscilla stepped forward, her blue eyes studying the Chip's face and she tapped her chin. thinking on how to reply. He had spend time on earth. Surely he knew about the decorations, even if he didn't know the religious aspects? Or maybe he didn't. She wasn't sure, and she knew that what he was doing could be very dangerous for him. "Well...yes...they do mean things," she said, "Christmas is a religious holiday, but there are some secular aspects. It's a little hard to describe the religious parts...umm...Christmas is the day my God came to be born as a baby and live among men for a time. We celebrate it because those who believe and follow his teachings are redeemed in the eyes of God for their sins and will be allowed entry into heaven when they die. So, it's a time of rejoicing and charity. The tree is part of that. It's an old tradition that began hundreds and hundreds of years ago on Earth. People give gifts to one another in celebration of the birth or, for those who are more secular or don't practice they celebrate it as a time for peace and goodwill to all people. The wrapped presents are put under the tree and opened that morning." She looked around and her eyes landed on the stockings and she smiled. "Is some countries they use shoes or stockings to put the gifts in. My family did both to participate in the secular and religious sides. The secular side includes a legend that a man will leave presents for the children if they've been good all year long. He watches for good behavior and will bring good gifts to the children who have earned them." At this point, she was rocking back and forth on her heels a little, praying that her explanation wasn't too terrible. "The lights and garland are for decoration and are traditional. The tree chosen is usually some form of evergreen, so it stays beautiful year round and the garland is for that as well." Looking over to Ehud, she smiled gently. "So, what do you think?"

    The explanation was a bit strange. None of it seemed to tell him what the significance of the objects were aside from the fact that they were there to be pretty and nothing more. In a way that was a bit shocking. "Well, uh..." Surveying the room once more he looked at his son and then to Priscilla at the end. "Are you sure that these don't mean anything? Maybe there is a sacrifice of an animal to praise your God."

    Priscilla's eyes went wide and she slowly shook her head from side to side. Had he not heard everything she just said? The tree was fairly well explained, as were the stockings and a few of the other trimmings. Granted, she was no religious or christmas tree historian and it wasn't the absolute best explanation, but she'd thought she'd been clear enough to get across that some of the things had significance. Then there was the animal sacrifice comment from left field. Did he really think that she wanted him to participate in some sort of sacrament like that? There were bits in the Bible about that but they were all in the Old Testament and unnecessary in the New Testament. "N-no," she stuttered, "No animals or...any other kind of sacrifices. It's a season of giving...not taking..and God prefers other kinds of praise." The words stumbled out and she wondered if she was even qualified to be talking about this. Maybe a priest or pastor would be better at this point?

    Oh." Ehud cocked one eyebrow and stared at Priscilla for a long moment. There was no sacrifice with all this? That was in itself a very strange idea. He was going to have to ask Illya if there were any sacrifices. Priscilla was sometimes too gentle about things and Ehud didn't understand why there was all decorations for a God and almost no link to him with these decorations. They seemed to be a person's way of celebrating this God without direction. "It looks like there should be a sacrifice. All these things dangling about the house. It almost reminds me of a temple."

    "Well, it's mean to look special," she nodded, "Churches and cathedrals on Terra are quite beautiful and will put up the lights for Christmas too. Kaereleans don't have big buildings like that here. Too tall and they take up airspace with the tall steeples." She realized she was rambling now and redirected herself to the comment with a shake of her head. "It's interesting you mention sacrifice though. It is because of God's birth on Earth...uh...Terra...that sacrifices to God were no longer required. It was a new covenant between us and God." Clasping her hands in front of her she looked around at the decorations, reminded both of Christmases at home with her parents and the churches with their nativity scenes."It was always quite beautiful to me on Terra. Anyways, I hope you don't mind the dangling bits then or the other things."

    All of the rambling eventually came around to something that somewhat made sense and Ehud nodded, "Aye. I don't mind the dangling bits. It pleases you and it pleases Sien. I will like it." Poking at the garland hanging near the door he frowned. It wasn't real, but it looked real. It was a very Terran sort of custom. They enjoyed many products that were not real. "Hmm...Are there other special customs with this Holiday?"

    Priscilla stood there and tried once again to read Ehud and came up with nothing but that he would tolerate it. She'd never quite had a man say so bluntly that he would do something because it pleased her and she wasn't so sure that was a good thing. Maybe he wouldn't enjoy Christmas and he was doing it just for Sien. While that was flattering in some ways, she couldn't help but wish he might find more than a simple toleration for the holiday. She wanted him to enjoy it too. That didn't seem to be happening at all as he prodded a strange of garland with a frown on his face. Why did she suddenly feel like one of his men being dressed down? she was a hell of a lot more than that, wasn't she? He did say he was doing this to please her and that was no small thing. Right? Priscilla was so busy bolstering herself she nearly missed his question and she gave him a half sort of smile. "Quite a few," she admitted, "Some of which we wont be doing for discretionary reasons. But the day before the holiday is Christmas Eve. It's spent with family and friends with a good amount of food, sweets, and some people watch seasonal movies. I grew up reading the Night Before Christmas and the Nativity story in my home. Those are books about Christmas." That last sentence seemed necessary and her smile grew at the thought. "The next day gifts are exchanged between family members and there is usually a big dinner. Some people also attend Church on both days, but as there isn't one on Pyrta that wont be happening."

    The other part of the holiday seemed better. Ehud nodded and he grinned a little more. "Ooh the food and the sweets. I know why this is a good holiday now." With a big hand he smacked his stomach. It made a hollow sort of thud and he chuckled. "Every good holiday comes with food. I will enjoy this very much. Now we will make this chicken dinner that I talked about."

    The mention of food got a smile out of him despite the fact he was clearly not a fan of the holiday. Food was appealing to everyone and she would take it as a good sign either way. The eager pat on his stomach made her giggle a little and she smiled a little more boldly as he talked about chicken dinners. "Alright there, before we get chicken dinner marching orders I saved the last and my most favorite part for you. I thought you might want to participate a little in this too.Plus, you're taller than I am." She winked and stepped over to the couch where a box contained a feathery winged angel sat waiting to be put atop the Christmas tree. "It goes up there," she pointed to the top of the tree, "Angels are messengers of God and they go on top. Will you put it up for us?" She wondered if he would. He was letting her do all of this because it made her and Sien happy, and he might enjoy a feast out of it too, and there might be a limit as to what he would tolerate.

    Ehud paused when she started to talk about the final step before they could start preparing the food. He wouldn't have guessed that she would want him to put the final decoration on the tree. Following her into the living room he watched while she pulled out a winged figure. It was one that Ehud had seen many times on Terra. There were many legends that included these strange things. "I will put it on." Sien stood nearby and watched his father with eager little eyes. The boy was nearly clapping by the time Ehud had the angel perched on top of the tree. With a carefully measured smile Ehud nodded to Priscilla and Sien. "There, now we can cook."

    He didn't seem thrilled but he didn't seem to mind. It was just another task before he could get to the cooking he wanted to do and he did it dutifully as she and Sien watched with varying degrees of excitement. His smile to her told her that he was being careful about more than just putting the angel on the tree and she smiled back just as carefully. This was a big risk for him to take to begin with and she knew it. "Thank you Ehud," she said to him, "Now, we can cook." That little pronouncement sent Sien dashing toward the kitchen, saying he wanted to mash the potatoes. Priscilla followed the boy, but before she left she glanced to Ehud. "If it's too much or you don't like it all it's okay to say so. I won't mind. This is your home after all. Just let me know....and thank you for letting me do this." Then she turned into the kitchen and went to Sien who was trying to scramble on top of the stool with a steel potato masher already in his hand.

    "I wouldn't offer if I thought that it would be too much." Ehud responded carefully. "We'll just call it a festival." That was a safe thing to say and most of the Chippequoti would never take a second thought of having a little family festival. Priscilla was considered foreign after all.

    * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

    Calysta sat at her desk overlooking the requisition lists for the building supplies for the new school and going over the staffing lists. Her father had hired several teachers she thought would be wonderful or had passed background checks. The first of which was Dora and Priscilla had also been asked to teach in the Terran studies portion. Both of them were good with children and would do well. Most of the Kaerelean teachers were staying on as well, but a few had opted not to renew their contracts after seeing the changes and new school house. They were the older teachers that had survived the attack on Pyrta a few years ago, but tended to have older view points, including a few purist tendencies. It was just as well and they would be given their retirement pensions as agreed in their contracts. A few people off continent had gotten wind of the project.

    Now, there were a few reporters who wanted details of the new collaboration between all of the major races of the Alliance. It was being hailed as a 'progressive' idea that would bring the Alliance further together if all went well. She was sure that there would be hitches here and there, but if they kept at it and didn't let small misunderstandings stop them, the school would be a success. The Alliance would know they were stronger together as evidenced through their children, the Chip men would know that their futures were safer and much more secure than ever before, and her Chip would be glad to see his children going to a school that treated them as they should be. If she could make sure everything was in order. Luckily, the Chippeqouti council had been helpful as had most of the other races, save for the Tannas living on Pyrta. There was still some very understandable apprehension on inviting them, but the had been given asylum and whether anyone liked it or not, they were granted the same rights as anyone else in that position. It also didn't seem like a bad idea to learn more about the species as a whole.

    The message she had sent to those who were more active on Pyrta had gone unanswered so far and she wondered if they would want to participate at all. As she pondered on what to do about all of that, there was heavy thud from the other room and then several more which told her Illya was coming. When he opened the door to her office, she smiled up at him and put down her pad to give him her full attention as he plopped into the chair in front of her desk. The chair gave out a groaning protest and she resisted the urge to wince at the sound. Most of the furniture around the house was Chip proof now, but there was some things that had yet to be replaced, that chair being one of them.

    He offered over his pad and explained what he had done, mentioning the last page's question in the application then asking for her to not mention any mistakes. "I understand that," she nodded respectfully, "I wanted to get in on my own too. I'll look it over." Putting aside her own work, she plucked up his pad and began reading the answers. He was right. They were so bad until the last page. Well, at least he managed to spell 'assassination' correctly. The grammar wasn't nearly as bad as it had been and of course his math was perfect. That last question was haunting him though and she knew it. She put down the pad and gave him a small smile of encouragement before clearing her throat. Her cough hadn't quite faded all the way but it was much better than it had been. "It's finished and that's all we can do. You were honest and your honesty is important too. I had to be honest on mine and it wasn't my favorite question."

    Thunder began to roll outside and she knew that they still had to go to the grocery store. Getting Illya out of the house might be a good distraction for him and all of the kids were asleep in various parts of the house. Rose was home and working on her project for the Elders, so she could watch for the children along with Priscilla. "Let's go to the grocery store before it rains, yeah?" He seemed to be fine with idea and she geared up in her rain coat before tugging on her rubber boots and picking up their tote basket. When Illya was ready, she checked in with Rose and Priscilla who didn't mind watching the kids for a bit, though Rose asked if they could bring her back some of the chocolates from the Chocolatier's. "I think we can do," Calysta winked to her daughter. The girl was looking so grown up at her desk writing away and she couldn't help but feel a swell of pride to see that Rose had grown so capable and beautiful. Aymos and Elijah wanted to come along for walk as well, their tails wagging at the prospect of their masters heading towards the door. "C'mon," she called to her dog, "Let's go." That was all the more encouragement Aymos and Elijah needed to come trotting down the stairs beside her. Aymos had been a near constant companion to her since she had gotten him a year ago, and whether or not she would admit it openly, it was nice to have him around. He followed her and obeyed whenever she asked him to and spent most of his time at the foot of their bed or in whatever room she was in at the time. He earned treats regularly and she had been known to give him a good belly scratch when no one was looking which usually ended with her being covered in fur.

    Their departure from the house was marked by a clap of thunder and Calysta opened up their umbrella, accidentally bonking Illya on the chin. "Oooh," she winced, "Sorry, love." She held the umbrella up higher, hoping to catch him under but his frame was simply too large for her small, Kaerelean sized umbrella. So, she gave up and just decided to wear her hood. With her basket in one hand, she slipped the other into Illya's and they walked together toward the market as the rain began to come down. "When I applied for Skycorp, I had to list my juvenile record," she admitted, a tinge of pink coming to her cheeks, "Multiple air space violations, destruction of property, fighting in public, disturbing the peace, I even had an assault charge." Flicking her eyes over to Illya, she gave him a small shrug, "When I was stable enough and kids were cruel enough, I fought back if I had to. Some of the charges were quite ridiculous, really. I still had to list them though. I didn't think they would let me in to Skycorp. What I didn't know, is they pulled my record when I sent in my application. They simply wanted to know if I had been honest about it, I think."

    She squeezed her Chip's hand and nodded. "Whatever happens, tonight is a good night for celebrating and I am proud to call you my agreed." It was important that he understood she was going to support him no matter the out come. If they had to reapply in a years time or do something entirely different, they would deal with it together. The rain began falling a little more and she thought a bit more about his concerns. "Of course, my current record is pages longer than the juvenile one. I had a little help building that one."

    * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

    By the time they returned to the house after visiting in the grocery store and stopping by the chocolatier, she was coughing some. There was a touch of fatigue on both of them from the pneumonia and her father would be none too pleased either of them had gone out in the rain. It wouldn't be good for a cold in the chest, but she had wrapped up well and so had Illya. When they stepped through the door, there was the expected flurry of activity. Cypher had gotten home about an hour ago and had been helping Papa put up Christmas decorations from the look of things. The mantle over the flameless fire place was all lit up with a rainbow of lights and stockings. There was hardly room for them all as it was, and the twins didn't even have one up yet. The tree was sitting in the corner in need of assembly and ropes of lights were stretched across the living room, ready to be to strung up. Lohgan was doodling on a red bulb with a red crayon in an attempt to make it brighter as Thomas stood on a step stool between the kitchen and the living room, a wad of greenery and red ribbon his hand.

    Cypher whizzed past is grandfather with a bow stuck to his curly hair and a piece of paper in his hands. The stool wobbled from Cypher brushing past it and Thomas had to pin wheel his arms to keep from falling. "Whoa!" Whatever he was trying to hang up flopped to the couch as he clung to the support beam. Cypher didn't seem to notice he had bulldozed through his Papa and his toothy grin told her exactly what the paper in his hand would be. "Mam! Dah ! I did good on meh report! See!" Calysta half caught her boy with an arm full of groceries and lurched when he bumped into her. "Oh? Is that so? Here, take this bag to the kitchen and I'll read it while we put up the food, yeah?"

    He didn't have to be told twice. Cypher grabbed up the bag of meat, specifically snake for Illya's favorite stew, and hauled it off to the kitchen with his mother trailing behind. Thomas slowly let go of the beam and gave a winded wave to Illya. "Mind handing me that," he gestured toward the couch, "It needs to go up over here." The mistletoe would be perfect for this season. He had watched their awkward general friend, Ehud, and Priscilla, dancing around each other like a Spanish bullfighter in the ring with a steer and he planned on getting them under that little plant. If anything they could both appreciate tradition and might enjoy a good kiss out of it, if either of them would quit being stubborn and just get it over with.
     
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  18. Silence

    Silence Anonymous Me Staff Member Benefactor Warden

    For a portion of the walk to the grocery store Illya listened to Kalizda tell him about her little application process. Apparently Skycorp didn't think to update their procedure. That was a strange thing in Illya's mind, but he figured that the question they asked was fair enough. The fact that her charges were somewhat ridiculous at times wasn't so comforting. They looked up her record and found some of those ridiculous charges and a few other things. If they looked up his record and found any solid information in his file it would show that likely the strangest charges would be true. For the time he was going to try and simply not think about that. Kalizda did say something strange at the end. "Dah purist help ruin yah record?"

    Calysta tiled her head at Illya and raised a brow at him. "Then juvenile record for sure," she admitted, "But my current record was built up of the course of traveling for nearly two years with you aboard various ships." It was possible he didn't remember any of this or maybe he remembered it differently, but she would tell him just the same. "There's felony theft...grand theft of about three aircraft...assault...battery...petty theft...harboring a known fugitive...evading officers...oh and I think there were a few counts of terrorism since we kind of blew apart a Cirellant fleet along with a ship or two after that."

    "Meh?" Illya looked at her a little shocked at first. As she started to go through the list he had a few vague memories start to surface and he shrugged. "Eh, maybe I help wit making yah record longer. Dey dun know et was meh, so dey give et to yah." After a minute he started to laugh and the laugh was quickly shortened by his lingering cough. "Hmm...Smart plan. Get little bird tah take part of meh record. I dun need dat on top of tings I already do."

    He looked so shocked to discover that he had managed to rack up all of these things and she nodded at his summarization. "Aye." The rain pattered down on her slick rain coat hood, but suddenly it was accented by the sound of something. A rumbling chuckle which turned into a loud, genuine laugh from her Chip. He started cough toward the end and some how through the hacking managed to praise himself on what a smart plan it had been to avoid the record himself. Calysta had no doubt that it was an unintended consequence and she shook her head with a small roll of her eyes. "Oh it was a plan all along. huh? I suppose I'm lucky we didn't add more to it. You got away with quite a bit. Matter of fact, Zkree refused to drop the charges and I'm still wanted there despite most of it being cleared through my work." Despite her tone, she had a little smile tugging at her lips and she stole a glance at her Chip just to see if he was looking or not.

    "I tink dat I run out of time tah put more on yah record." Illya winked at her. "Et was first time I get sick after we met." He remembered that clearly enough. "Dere es one ting dat I'm sure will be better. Most of meh record es nut accessible and dere es most dat es nut ever recorded. Dere are benefits when yah Elite. No one wants record of what yah done."

    He shot her that cheeky wink and she glanced away, fighting a smile despite the topic before giving his hand another squeeze. "Oh, I bet if you had been able to we could have given it twice the length," she mused, "And it's good that the Elite don't keep records like that. Safer at least. Most of those things are out of the Alliance perview because they were in a war barely in our records to begin with. There wont be much to go on for anyone digging."

    "Dah Elite know dis. Any record dat dah Elite had were kept only by dah Elite. Dah General now has record of healt screenings, but I never turn over records of dah Elite. No Elite ever identifies dem self in reports." There were a lot of reasons, though it was primarily for safety. "Perhaps den I will have chance tah be Skycorp. Dere are many accusations against meh and most of dem would be true, but dere es nut enough proof."

    Calysta nodded as they walked along and she dodged a large mud puddle, skirting along it's edges with Illya. "Skycorp isn't governmental, so even if they did request it all they could legally receive is what was available in public record. They don't have the security clearance unless its requested and granted and even then the entire file could be redacted by the file holder. For Kaereleans, our criminal records are public record unless it is deemed juvenile and ex-sponged or there is another reason, like safety to keep that record redacted. So, I don't think you have to worry. Most of what you listed was public knowledge thanks to the Mouse and the Federation, but the rest will remain classified so far as I know." She swiped at a stray curl on her forehead under her hood and then tilted her head toward Illya. "Besides, I wouldn't have recommended something to you that you wouldn't otherwise qualify for. That wouldn't be right."

    "What yah mean public knowledge?!" For a moment a surge of panic spread through Illya. "People are supposed tah forget dah tings dey see on dah news. I dun go on any hologram broadcast and I dun go out often enough. People dun remember meh do dey?"

    Illya's outburst nearly made her jump out of her skin and she hopped a little, her boots catching on one another. Did he really thing he was that unknown now? She paused in her walking and looked him over, trying to decide on what to say. "No, but for anyone who wants to know, particularly on the networks on Terra, The Mouses' articles are still there, as is the Federations first smear attempt. People may change perspectives but they don't always forget, particularly with how popular you ended up being on Terra and Kaereal alike."

    Being popular and being known was a horrible thing. Illya never wanted that and he especially didn't like the thought that people knew about him. Glancing about he noticed that a few folks were staring at them after he practically yelled. "Well..." Speaking in barely a murmur he leaned closer to Kalizda. "Dey dun know what I look like do dey?"

    He was acting panicked and she wondered if this was some sort of affect from PTSD or just years of having to play someone else in the the Elite. How it was that his lack of anonymity was a surprise was a beyond her though. It was starting to make her worry, particularly when he started whispering, but if she panicked over something like this it would only make things worse. He leaned in close, asking if they knew what he looked like and she shrugged. "I imagine some do. The Federation circled a picture and of course there were those movies that everyone associated both of us with. Ira and Robin, remember," she whispered back, "Most don't know we're married though or about all of the children, really."

    "Aaah no." Instinctively Illya winced when he said it. "Dis es nut good." Somehow he never thought much of the movies and he'd mostly forgotten what they were about, but Kalizda reminded him well enough. Then of course there was the issue of the Federation. For the moment Illya got quiet. Now he was somewhat hoping that he didn't get into Skycorp. It would be far too easy for the Federation to get a spy in the program and they would be watching him. A spy could possibly discover who his family was and that was the worst case scenario.

    "We've been living fine with it for years now," she said, "Sure, it's probably not good for some things, but it doesn't change anything in the moment, and what happens in the future we'll deal with together, yeah?" Her grey eyes studying over him, hoping he was going to relax again. She had started this conversation trying to encourage him, not make him feel worse.

    Taking a deep breath and nodding Illya agreed with her for the time. "Ok, we jes deal wit tings as dey come." With a tired sort of smirk he side stepped and bumped into her, but he had a hand out ready to catch her. "We jes go get dah groceries now."

    That seemed to calm him down a little bit and he agreed to simply deal with things as they arrived. It was probably all the more she was going to get out of him for now and that was enough for the day. She started to talk toward the store again, and Illya had other plans. He side stepped and bumped into her, nearly sending her flying into a mud puddle before catching her around the waist. She squeaked initially, and then smirked a little when the surprise wore off and his arm was round her. "Oh is that all now?" she chuckled as she recovered her footing. Her arm slipped behind her Chip's back and she rubbed lightly. "Well I think now we'll just have to get all of us another chocolate from the chocolatier now that we've worked up an appetite with all of this."

    "Ooh, I suppose dat we could go get some chocolate." Illya had forgot about that little trip. It would make this a bit longer than he anticipated. Not that she hadn't said anything about it earlier, but now it felt longer because he was going to be trying to not think about the fact that everyone knew who he was and what he'd done. Old feelings from the war had started to surface. If they knew there would be plenty that would want to hurt his children and they'd want to kill Kalizda, or the kids if they thought they could get to him that way. Then of course they'd try to kill him too.

    Over and over Illya had to remind himself that they had been living here happily without issue and this was not the time to be panicking. If he could make it this far without anyone trying to kill him and only the one incident with a Pithian child at school then it was good. In the grocery store things were comfortably normal. He wandered through the aisles and nobody really stared. Around here they were used to seeing Dark Chippequoti now and nobody really thought twice about it. By the time they were to the meat counter Illya had to examine what they were purchasing. Getting meat fresh was still important to him and he didn't like to think that anything they would eat might be less than fresh. Kalizda pointed out the small section with 'exotic' meats. It seemed that the Pytrans had started to carry more snake and they even had a few that were in a tank and slithering about one another.

    Illya stepped over to the small line of 2 other Chips that were waiting. One Chip had stuck their hand into the tank and they were fishing about with their hand for the largest snake. There was a sign in Trader's Tongue that stated if a live snake was desired that the purchaser was responsible for retrieving their own snake. Off to the side there was a set of tongs to grab the snake with, but Illya figured he would probably use his hand too. No sense using the tongs, they were awkward.

    After a few minutes of waiting Illya had his chance to get a fresh snake and he reached into the tub. By now the snakes were irritated with so many hands and he got bit once, but it wasn't a bad bite. Thwaping the offending snake he stunned it long enough to get it on the chopping block and lopped the snake's head off. Taking a chunk of provided wooden block he held it to the snake's detached head and it snapped down on the wood with it's mouth. Now that they were safe to bag the butcher carefully skinned the body, rinsed it with salt and bagged it up.

    "Mmmm. Et looks good. Tank yah." Having fresh snake from a tank at the grocery store was very nice. Illya found it quite nice that they even skinned and rinsed the snake for you before taking it home. That cut down on a bit of prep and he was going to enjoy it very much. Kalizda must have known that there was a new snake tank with live snakes if she asked him to come. For a short time it was easy to forget that he was known. Having a fresh snake meant they were going to have snake stew for dinner and it had been a while since they'd eaten his favorite meal. Glancing at his hand once they were outside again he noticed that it was bleeding a little bit. Letting the rain run down his hand he allowed it to drip off a bit before he wiped his hand off on his soaking jeans.

    The walk to the Chocolatier shop was less comfortable. This wasn't a part of town that he visited quite as often and he knew some of the people were staring. Still, this was something he would have to get over. If he did get accepted to Skycorp there would be far greater dangers than there were here. With a determined scowl he kept right on walking down the street with Kalizda.

    No sooner had they arrived at home and Cypher was charging toward them. Kalizda had the least amount of grocery bags in her arms and so she was the one that got nearly tackled by the boy. He was in such a flurry that he forgot to even say hi to Illya. Instead, Cypher was racing off to the kitchen with his mother. Illya was on his way to set the rest of the bags in the kitchen when Thomas asked for help. "Aye, I'll be back in a minute."

    Within a few moments Illya returned and he handed the odd looking plant to Thomas. "What es dis?" He didn't recall seeing it before. Thomas explained, but it didn't make all that much sense. Just a special plant piece to hang up in the house with odd little berries on it. "Es et someting tah dry and eat?" Apparently it wasn't much good for eating, but it was made for kissing. Coughing a bit Illya nodded and grinned. He was already getting ideas and he could tell that Kalizda was in the middle of chopping the meat. He would go help her after he tried out the kissing plant. "Kalizda, yah need tah come see dis." As she started to step out of the kitchen Illya met her under the little plant. "Jes stand right dere and look up."

    A big grin spread over Illya's face when he saw her expression change. "Ets a kissing plant. I guess dat means I get little kiss eh?" They were both sick and he didn't figure it really hurt anything. They both gave up trying to keep distance a while ago. It made no sense when she was coughing and he was coughing anyway. It wasn't like he was going to be improving anytime soon with the way the cough had carried on.

    ****************************

    It was a few days later and Ehud stopped by to pick up Sien from Illya and Kalizdas. As soon as the door swung open he could see their house was decked out in odd decorations too. Illya invited him to stay for dinner and Ehud nodded. It sounded like Illya was still fighting the cough even after he got rid of the pneumonia, but Ehud had a slight cough starting himself and it wouldn't matter. More than likely his cough wouldn't last very long.

    "I want to ask you a few things." Ehud beckoned to the house when he said it.

    Illya was sure that it had something to do with the decorating that Priscilla had done at Ehud's house. "Sure." The two of them sat down on the couch and Illya turned the heat up. Both Chip men almost groaned with the satisfaction of the heat. There were already a few hot blankets sitting on the couch and Illya threw one over Ehud's head and then wrapped in one for himself. "What yah gonna ask?"

    Pulling the blanket off his head Ehud gratefully arranged the blanket around his shoulders. It was a cold rainy day outside for the drills and it felt good to warm up a little. "So, Priscilla decorated the house and it looks like some sort of temple thing. I asked her if there should be some sort of sacrifice and she told me no, but I was wondering...Well I just think there should be a sacrifice."

    It was a bit of work to keep a straight face, but Illya was determined to. If his friend thought it looked like there should be a sacrifice Illya was going to play into it. "Not all Terran's make sacrifice, but ets proper to."

    "Ok, then I will need to make a sacrifice to the Four Winds afterword to appease them." If he was going to do this Ehud was going to do it right. "I don't want to make her God angry and I have to make it up to the Four Winds too. What kind of sacrifice do you make to the Terran God and the Four Winds?" So far as he could tell Illya had struck a good deal with all the gods. He had somehow managed to dabble with a few other festivals and not have the Four Winds take his soul. He wasn't in the dungeon of the winds being broken for eternity.

    Just to see how far he could take the joke Illya took a deep breath and he furrowed his brow as if in thought. "Her God likes tah have four chehks. Yah chop dere heads off and cut dere body in center. Den yah pull dem open and lay dem out over fire and hang dere heads near each stocking. Little legs yah string up near dah door. Den dah Four Winds are easy tah appease. Yah only kill one chehken. Dey like older bird because dere es more aroma when yah roast et split en half. Dah head yah boil en a pot and legs yah hang over yah doorway for one night. Very easy." Over all it wasn't so different from some sacrifices that the Chippequoti would perform for serious misdeeds. "Jes make sure dat yah get et all done by eh..." Illya could hear someone coming into the living room and he wasn't sure if they had heard what he said, or not. "Well, yah ask meh more questions later ef yah need tah."

    ************************

    With Christmas day here Illya was pleased. He had a new coat for Cypher, Rose, Lohgan, Tomas, and Edgar. All the kids needed new coats and they had been making do with what they had, but the new ones were much better. In addition they each got a pair of gloves. For Priscilla, Illya got her a new set of make up brushes. He figured she would be needing new ones at some point. He knew what some of the nicer ones looked like too. Isla liked make up when she was well. Thomas got a new wool suit. It would be good to wear in the cold months.

    The gift for Kalizda had taken some thought and Illya wasn't about to just settle for anything for her. He wanted her to have something nice. She had a box neatly wrapped by the woman at the store. Illya figured that perhaps it would be better if he simply had someone else wrap it. The last time he'd tried to wrap a gift for her it didn't turn out so good. However, he had picked out the paper. It was a brilliant shade of red and he had a giant gold bow on it and some green string. It looked very much like Christmas. The second box was wrapped in a beautiful green with red ribbon and a gold bow. Inside the first box he had some new boots for her. Kalizda's boots looked a bit worn and it was time to get new ones. In the second box was the most exciting present he had for her yet. Inside the box was a tiny little envelope containing a card. There were some advertisements for the festival that he'd seen at one of the shops and they were selling some tickets in advance. It was a special advance sale and it came with a room at a hotel in Kinte that would overlook the festival. Two tickets were packed in the envelope along with two certificates. The tickets were for the festival and the certificates were good for the purchase of a costume. The costumes were up for viewing on pads and ordering in advance.

    Illya had been told that this entire event was much better if planned in advance. Waiting until the last moment often meant that costumes were not available and the only remaining rooms were in poor areas of the town. He was a bit nervous about the event, but he thought she would be excited to go. While Kalizda looked over the little tickets and certificates he waited for her to speak.
     
    Last edited: Dec 4, 2018
    aryamajor likes this.
  19. aryamajor

    aryamajor Curious Adventurer Benefactor

    Calysta had help putting away the groceries in her hand from her son, which she was sure had been done quickly by him so he could show her his report. No sooner were her bags gone was Cypher thrusting the paper in her hand. "...did well on his spelling assignment...was a helpful line leader in the cafeteria..." She nodded as she read the list of achievements aloud to her boy who was beaming with pride. "This is very good, little man," she winked, "I'm very proud of you. Keep up the good work and maybe we'll do something special when the planting season comes, yeah? School will be done for awhile and we can go some places. You'll get to pick a place, but only if you do well in school, hm?" Cypher nodded excitedly and then dashed off to put his report in his Mam's office drawer where she kept them all safe. It was like his one little trophy spot and he liked to keep them all to see how much better he had done than the day before.

    Calysta chuckled at her son as he skidded around the corner. Cypher may have been a bulldozer and with the same subtly as his father, but he was a sweet boy. She hoped to keep him that way. Open and kind to people as he could be. Though, the reality of Illya's fears about being well known weren't entirely unfounded. Being the council woman man her and the children a target and Illya was a target in his own right. The two of them combined made the chances of something happening highly likely. Illya's near panic over being recognizable was understandable in that sense. However, after being so well known on Pyrta as a half-breed and being afraid to step foot outside her own door for fear of what might happen was something she had lived with just as he had. There came a point where she had to face what was waiting, not hide from it. Perhaps that was the wrong way to look at it. Maybe it was selfish. She knew that they would never have any kind of peaceable life, even in war times, if she was afraid to let her children go to school or to take a walk with her husband.

    Calysta pulled the snake package out of the cloth bag and unfolded the covering. It wouldn't take long to chop it up. She set to work sliding the chef's knife through the pale pinkish flesh, rendering the snake to meaty bits. Cooking had never been her forte but she knew that her skills had improved over time and the kitchen held no fear anymore. Most of the time it came down to apprehension on trying something new. As she gave the snake a determined chop, Illya called her name with a playful tone. Quickly, she washed her hands and wiped them off on a towel before poking her head around the center island to see what he was doing. Calysta stepped closer and looked up to find the familiar bushel of mistletoe with it's white berries and waxy green leaves dangling just above her Chip's head.

    His sly sort of look told her exactly what he was up to and she laughed. "Aye, it wouldn't be proper if we were standing here and didn't at least try to give it a good kiss." Rising up onto her toes, she felt his hand slip to the small of her back and lift her a little further to meet his lips. With both of them having gotten over pneumonia not too long ago and their coughs lingering it probably wasn't the best of ideas. However, both of them were tired of being unable to be a bit closer. The kiss lingered quite nicely until Illya's chest expanded and he broke away with a dry, hacking cough. "It was worth it," she giggled lightly when he was done. Reaching for his hand, she lead him toward the stove. "Help me make sure the snake stew is just right, yeah?"

    * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

    Calysta stood at the kitchen sink and peered out into the backyard as Ehud and Illya talked. Priscilla wasn't even here yet and Ehud had come to see her, pick up Sien, and apparently conduct some sort of business with Illya. The two men spoke and a few credits were exchanged before Illya wrangled a large chicken. Then he bent down and scooped up a couple of chicks which were peeping around his feet. Was he selling Ehud some chickens to roost? He would need a bigger basket than what Ehud had brought. Plucking up a basket, she slid her boots on and plodded out in the backyard to offer the to the two men. "Are you buying some chickens to raise?" She smiled to Ehud. It struck her that he only had a female and a few unknown gendered chicks. "Maybe you should be taking one of the older males too? We dont know what the chicks are yet."

    Having Kalizda walk out in the middle of the trade wasn't quite what Illya planned. Of course she made an entirely innocent assumption and Ehud with his new efforts at being more transparent wasn't a good mix. "No, I'm not starting a little roost. This is for the sacrifice. The chicks to satisfy the Terran God during this season and then one for the Four Winds." He was still trying to be quiet in case anyone overheard, but he was sure Kalizda would understand.

    Calysta was surprised to hear him say no, and then further surprised when he said something about sacrifices 'for the season'. Calysta stared at Ehud, eyes wide as she tried to figure out why. Priscilla would panic if he started killing baby chicks all over the house or something equally grisly and she certainly wouldn't have told him that was part of Christmas. Maybe he just assumed? No, Illya wouldn't have sold him the chicks without asking about what he intended. Her eyes flicked to Illya and then back again. "Uhuh." It came out an open mouthed grunt before she licked her lips. "There isnt any sacrifice involved on Christmas for the Terran God, Ehud."

    For a moment there was an odd look on Kalizda's face and Illya looked unusually serious for that split second. Then it all came out. The chicks were not required as a sacrifice at all. Ehud thrust the chicks back toward Illya and snatched his money out of Illya's hand. Just to be ornery he kicked Illya in the left shin. He knew that one would hurt. "Jerk." Illya skipped on one foot for a second and he nearly stepped on one of the chicks he dropped. Despite the initial flare of pain in his shin he started to laugh. "Yah too gullible."

    Baby chicks scattered as Ehud shoved them back into Illya's arms and took his money back before kicking the Chip in the shin for good measure. Calyta caught one of the chicks before it tumbled to the ground, wincing at how rough they'd been with them and shaking her head. Luckily, Illya didn't squash any of them as he hopped around nursing his leg a bit. "What are you gullible about?" The voice came from the porch as Priscilla emerged on the porch looking curious. They looked like there was some sort of joke going on and she was curious. Her eyes fell on Ehud and she smiled a little at him, hoping he would fill her in.

    If there was one thing that Illya had not planned on, it was Ehud telling Priscilla about this whole thing. Ehud looked over at Priscilla with a hint of pink to his cheeks. "I was talking with Illya and said it looked like there should be a sacrifice with all the decorations. He told me it was proper to make a sacrifice. Kalizda just said the same thing you did. It's not necessary." Despite the fact that he'd been outed Illya couldn't help laughing. He'd stopped hopping by now and he limped slightly as he stumbled along out of the chicken coop. The whole time he was laughing the nasty rattle in his chest sounded and his bear about knocked him over in his attempt to get to the back deck.

    Priscilla's blue eyes shifted from Ehud's pink cheeks to Illya and back again, as her brow raised. Her mouth set in a line for a moment and she sighed. "I told you it didn't need one. Whether it looked like the house was a temple or not." Illya was still laughing and that only added to the moment. "And you were going to have him kill those chicks. At least the goat didnt die in my little joke." Her mouth twitched as she recalled Illya cuddling the goat and she shook her head. "He would have actually done it because you told him so, even if I insisted it wasnt necessary." Huffing, she shot look at them both and went into the house. Calysta tilted her head at Ehud, unsure of what to say that would be helpful other than he would have to figure that one out for himself.

    The whole thing was a mess. Ehud couldn't win this for his life. He had about fallen for Illya's joke and it seemed to have little consequence for Illya. In fact his friend was still laughing and limping along. For a moment he had an evil idea and then decided to act on it. Stepping out of the chicken coop he shut the coop door behind himself and then ran straight for a side tackle on Illya. Both men flopped in the mud with Illya on the bottom. Before Illya could say anything Ehud ran for the gate and scaled it before running to the front door. Illya was peeling himself up off the ground and he took off after Ehud.

    Calysta barely had time to dodge a splatter of mud as Ehud tackled Illya, throwing them both to the ground. "Hey!" The light Chip general was already up and running before the two could really tussle. Probably the smartest thing since she was willing to bet Illya was the stronger of the two. Illya began peeling himself up and ran after him about the time she heard heavy steps on the front porch. Her eyes widened when she thought of those two slinging mud all over her house. "Oh no you dont!" She ran up the back porch, ditched her shoes and made a mad dash to the front door from the inside. They were going to get hosed down before coming inside. Priscilla was sitting on the front porch swing when two streaks whizzed past, one short and mud covered and the other a bit taller in the same condition. "Ehud?"

    Illya hadn't scaled his fence in a while and he remembered why about time he slammed into it with his feet and started the scramble over the edge. The fence groaned and started to bend in ways that it shouldn't. With a last scramble he made it over the edge and dropped unceremoniously to the ground. He hadn't quite calculated how much weight he didn't have on his prosthetic and he ended up flopping on the ground before getting back up and running for the porch. Ehud was just about ready to throw the front door open and he saw Illya coming for him. There was only one way out of this. Dashing back down the stairs of the porch and flinging mud everywhere he ran for the fence going to the other side of the back yard. He would run in circles as long as he had to. In fact he was going to jump into a neighbor's yard.

    Priscilla watched the scene between the two Chips before Ehud took off again slinging mud everywhere, including across her shoes. She jumped back as they took off again around the house. Due to the strange sound of the fence wobbling, Mrs. Neysn poked her head out of her back door just in time to see Ehud scaling the fence into her yard. It wasnt the first strange man who had used her yard for a thoroughfare to get to the council woman's house and it looked like he was being chased out. The fence had started to creak and groan and she could see another, muddy form flopping over. This one she knew. It was the wild man Chip and the council womans husband. Grabbing her broom, she shot out into the yard aiming for the perpetrator. He wasnt must have been bothering the council woman and wild as they were, it wasnt good to have strangers running around. She held up her broom and went at Ehud with a fierce battle cry, aiming to whack him hard enough to let the wild man catch up. "Aaaaah!"

    The chase was a good one. Ehud hadn't run this fast in a while because he didn't have to. He wasn't looking where he was going and suddenly he saw Illya turn around and run back toward his own house. Before Ehud could figure out why Illya was running the other way he heard a woman's screech and felt the impact of her broom. Ehud landed on his rear end and he started to scramble back in a crab walk until he was far enough away to run back to Illya's house and jump that fence again. By the time he landed on the other side Illya was waiting for him and they both slammed into the ground only for the bear to pile on top. Despite the mess it was impossible for them both not to laugh. They probably looked like a bunch of naughty kids running around like that.

    Priscilla stripped off her shoes and collected Calysta inside. "They've gone around the house again." The woman didn't seem surprised, only a little relieved that they hadnt gone romping through the house while they were at it. "C'mon," she waved, leading them out to the back porch. They found the men piled in the mud along with the bear who was rolling around quite happily. Calysta crossed her arms and shook her head. "Don't worry," she said to Priscilla, "This is normal, every now and then. Last time, I lost my front door." At that thought, she startes to laugh along with the boys. "Let them laugh for a bit. There wont be any giggling when we have to hose them off." Priscilla glanced to Calysta. "We?" The small woman smirked and wrapped her arms around herself. "Aye, Ehud is all yours, Pris." About that time the elderly busybody of a neighbor peeked over her fence with a mud sodden broom in her hand. She looked to the pile of men at the fencing and nodded. "Did you get him?"

    It was all fun and Illya hadn't thought much of the neighbor till she poked her head over the fence. Looking up from his place under the bear he answered, "Aye, I got him. Did yah get him too?" Underneath him Illya could hear Ehud grunting as he tried to get out from underneath him and the bear. Eventually the fun wore off and Illya felt too chilled to continue. His cough was starting to get the better of him and he wanted to go inside and get warm. Instead of getting to warm up he saw Kalizda standing with the hose. She was ready to clean him off. He held up his hand. Let meh get out of meh clotes first." It would be a faster hose off if he wasn't wearing his clothing. She could spray his clothes all she wanted after he was out of them.

    "Of course I did," she said promptly, " I was a Weyaeyn intercontinental champ once." Then she gave a wide grin before dissapearing over the side of the fence again. Calysta stood with the hose at the ready when Illya asked to strip before he got hosed off. "Alright," she sighed, "Might as well make it fast. Pris, turn around." It wasnt like she hadn't seen it before but it was just better to be modest. Priscilla turned around and Calysta got to work hosing down her naked Chip, ignoring any protest. When he was done, she let him inside to go get warm, then passed the hose off to Priscilla. "You're up." The terran woman took the hose and turned around slowly, ready to soak down Ehud. "Ready?" She asked, "I take it you want your clothes on."

    As far as Ehud could tell the water was cold. Illya complained and wailed about getting hosed off like it was a terrible thing. He smirked a little, "You feel like you're shrinking?" At that Illya threw him a dirty look and the complaining stopped for a few minutes anyway. When it was finally Ehud's turn he looked at Priscilla and sighed. "I want to keep my boxers. Mind if I take off the rest?"

    Why he was sighing she didnt know. He'd brought this little shenanigan on himself in part for listening to Illya who wasnt even Terran on the matter that started it all. "No, I don't mind. Just keep on your boxers," she said. Priscilla waited for him to strip down to the minimum, trying not to be overly aware of the physique. She couldn't help but notice some scarring on his front and a little on the side. Pink pock marks with jagged edges worn smooth. Something from the war? She was so busy pondering, she hardly noticed he said he was ready. Squeezing the hose, she sprayed him down with no small amount of satisfaction and a smile finally curling to her painted lips.

    Women seemed to get inordinate amounts of pleasure from this sort of thing. Ehud found the water just about as cold as Illya made it sound. He danced a few times to try and get the water somewhere besides where it was. By the time he was done Ehud felt like he was freezing. Scampering up the back steps he found a towel was laid out, hot and ready for him to wrap up in. Cypher and Sien sat in the kitchen sipping at little cups of cocoa while they snickered.

    Priscilla watched him dance around then sent him inside before hosing off the rest of his clothes. Already, the men had found some place to get warm and she washed her hands at the kitchen sink. "There is no animal sacrifice on Christmas. Just remember that, boys." She left the two of them sipping coco with that firm adage, then stalked into her bedroom, retrieving her purple fluffy robe, then gave it to Ehud. "Here," she said, "It smells a bit girly but its better than the towel alone. Your clothes will have to be dried before you can go home. No sense you catching whatever cold Illya and Calysta had or pneumonia."

    Ehud was about ready to go sit on the couch with Illya and wrap up in a blanket, but Priscilla came out and offered him the robe. "Uh..." A bright red came over his cheeks and he nervously shook his head. "I just got back from drilling. Girly smell won't last long if I put it on. I'll just borrow one of Illya's heated blankets. Besides, I've already had the cough this year, don't think I'll be getting it again."

    His face turned crimson and she couldn't help but find it slightly amusing even if he refused. "Suit yourself then," she said, folding the robe over her arm. Catching his eye for a brief moment before walking away to put the robe up. Once that was done, she joined Calysta in the kitchen. "Does that happen often?" She asked curiously. Calysta stole a glance at Priscilla and smiled a little. "Not nearly often enough in my opinion." Priscilla poured up a cup of steaming tea for Ehud, cringing a bit a the herby smell, and followed Calysta off into the living room where the men had retreated. "Since you're stuck here, maybe we can all watch a Christmas movie?" It was an offer to show she wasnt entirely angry with him even if the situation was strange.

    When the hot cup of tea arrived Ehud took it with a grin. He had been hoping he would get one. Watching Illya sip at a hot tea was so hard when he was cold and wanted one too. With the offer of a movie he shrugged, "Might as well. You wanna sit next to me?" Illya took the cue and moved to one far end of the couch and he made space for Kalizda. The ladies would probably end up sitting in the center of the couch with the guys on either end.

    Ehud seemed to like the idea and didn't mind her sitting close. She nodded and settled onto the couch, her leg less than an inch from Ehud's. She could tell right away the couch was turned on too high heat. She would roast in a few minutes but Calysta didnt seem to notice as she slipped in between her and Illya. The woman automatically made herself comfortable by leaning a bit into Illya's shoulder with a satisfied sigh. They chose 'It's a Wonderful Life' as it was Calysta's favorite and Priscilla watched intently while she slowly relaxed into the couch.

    Through the movie she could hear Calysta quoting it under her breath at times, as if they were her own lines. She doubted Ehud or the kids that had settled around them could hear it. "What is it you want, Mary? What do you want? You want the moon? Just say the word and I'll throw a lasso around it and pull it down. Hey. That's a pretty good idea. I'll give you the moon, Mary." Calysta curled a little closer to Illya and laid her temple on his shoulder with Lohgan in her lap dozing and Cypher tucked between her feet. The twins were split between Illya's arms and Thomas' who was in the rocker watching along too. Sien was snuggled between herself and Calysta, happy to make a sitting spot between the two women to watch the strange Terran movie dubbed over in trader's tongue. Priscilla stole a glance at Ehud and she couldn't tell if he was intently watching or spaced out.

    At the end of the movie, Priscilla offered Ehud his freshly dried clothes as Sien gathered up his back pack and coat. It had started to rain outside again and it was likely he'd be soaked by the time he made it home. "I'll come see you tomorrow evening for Christmas Eve. We'll cook dinner together." She didn't give him any other option and made what she intended to do very clear, just in case he felt the need to ask Illya what she meant exactly.

    * * * * * * * * * * * * *

    Christmas Eve in Ehud's house hold was a bit strange. She arrived wearing wearing a pretty green dress and red pearls studding her ears. It had been too muddy outside to wear heels and so she decided to wear her brown boots to walk to their house before changing into the silky crimson heels she had purchased with her teaching money. With a spring of holly bound in her blonde hair and her lips painted red, she stepped through the door with her Christmas bag. It had been nearly impossible to find something for both Sien and Ehud. She had borrowed the Calysta's flyer and taken the woman with on a shopping expedition to the Kinte islands where there would be a wider variety of things. After much himming and hawing over what to do, her friend had given her some advice. "Give them both something useful," she said, "Chippeqouti aren't technically allowed to give gifts as part of their religion. When I first married Illya, we had to give each other things as found items, entirely anonymous and knowing who they came from. It's not a gift if you don't label it that way, yeah? Plus, if it's a useful item, it doesn't count so much as a gift."

    Priscilla didn't want to get Ehud into trouble, but at the same time, the items should be called what they were. Gifts. She decided on a few things, one of which she had wrapped up for them especially for Christmas eve.

    Sien was practically bouncing on his heels in anticipation as she stepped in with her bag. "I have something for you and dad both," she smiled, "But it's a surprise. Let's cook dinner first."

    She met Ehud in the kitchen and placed a few cooking supplies on the table. "I brought a fresh bird from Calysta's," she winked, "Don't worry though, it's already been butchered and no need to decorate with it." He wasn't about to live that down for awhile. Priscilla chuckled and helped prepare the fat chicken for roasting and the vegetables to go with it. For dessert she brought her baking supplies and pulled on her cooking apron. "Now, let's do some cookies. I just showed Calysta this recipe and she liked it too." Sien helped her mix up a batch of spicy ginger bread cookies, sneezing at the strong smell as he dumped in the ground cinnamon. Once those were baking, she made a dough for sugar cookies and rolled them out so he could make shapes. "Oh here's a snow flake cookie cutter. That one is my favorite." Sien looked confused at her as he picked up the cookie cutter and inspected it. For some reason, it hadn't occurred to her that he had never seen snow or any sort of wintery weather besides the rainy season. Blinking a few times, she chuckled and tried to explain. "Snow is rain that has frozen way up in the clouds and when it falls, it comes down in fluffy white bits made of beautiful patterns like this." He still looked a bit confused, so she dug her pad out of her bag and searched for snow. It only took moment to find a proper hologram and send it to the projector on the mantle. Grey clouds filled the ceiling and delicate snow flakes began to fall from above until they dissapated from the projection. "Like this, see?" she smiled, holding up her hand. Sien stared up at the ceiling to watch the snow drifting down and Priscilla glanced to Ehud, before continuing. "It's cold when it falls and piles on the ground, but with enough of it you can make forts and have snowball fights." The projection added children building a snow man and some running with heavy coats on, their breath coming in puffs of steam against the winter air. "I always loved the first snow of the season."

    Sien had endless questions about the snow after that which Priscilla fielded easily. "Mhm. When I was a girl, my mum would bundle me up and we would go sledding all the way through the hills. Sometimes it was the small sleds and other times were would hook our horse Jaxico up to a big pull sled. It had little bells on the front and we would ride through town like that."

    After their delicious dinner surrounded by snowfall and holiday lights, Priscilla settled into the worn arm chair by the Christmas Tree and read aloud the Nativity Story along with A Night Before Christmas before she leaned over to retrieve the present sack. "Now, two of these are for tomorrow morning, one for you and one for dad," she said, plucking up two brightly wrapped boxes and placing them under the tree. "But these two are for you to open tonight." With that said, she handed off a red and green package to Sien and a larger blue and gold bound box to Ehud. Sien took his time opening the gift carefully, as if he didn't want to mess up the paper and eventually revealed a handsome set of green silky pajamas and a little robe with Micky Martian rocket slippers. "I thought you might like those when it's cold and rainy," she smiled, "You can wear them tonight and on Christmas morning, hm?" Ehud opened his and found a silky royal blue set of pajamas along with loafers and a nice, fluffy robe. "Calysta said you might like something you can use," Priscilla said brightly to Ehud, " I hope you like them."

    * * * * * * * * * * * *

    Christmas day passed in a whirlwind of breakfast cooking, shredded wrapping paper and grins. The children liked their coats and mittens as well as what she had gotten them. A nice new marker set for Lohgan which was designed to only work on paper and nothing else. Cypher got a new back pack with a set of monster teeth and his name embroidered on the back while the twins each got matching red onesies. For Rose, Calysta had purchased a beautiful summer dress in her favorite color of pink. Her eldest daughter went upstairs to try on her new, more womanly dress to see if it fit and Calysta was given two boxes. One of the boxes was wrapped in beautiful green and red. She opened it first and found a new pair of rain boots, shining and red. Smiling to Illya, she kissed his cheek. "I definitely needed a new pair. My other ones were starting to leak. Thank you, love." The next box was smaller but no less elegantly wrapped. Pulling the ribbon, she released the lid to find an envelope. What in the Wilds had he needed an envelope for? Carefully, she opened it to reveal two advance tickets embossed with gold seals with Kaerelean scrolls. She had seen other girls with them before when she was younger, but never gotten a ticket and invitation herself. With deliberate fingers, she picked up the ticket and smiled at it before looking up to her Chip, the enthusiasm impossible to hide on her face. "You remembered!" she grinned, unable to stop herself, "I always wanted to go and you remembered." Leaning up, she bound Illya into a snug hug then gave him an excited kiss on the lips. "Thank you. I can't wait to go with you." It dawned on her that she had yet to give Illya his present and she let him go long enough to retrieve his boxes. The first contained a striking deep red sweater and the second was much smaller. "Here," she said, "I want to open this one with you. Go ahead and take off the paper." He ripped off the golden paper with ease and lifted off the top to reveal a golden pin. On the pin was a set of wings emblazoned with the three stars of Kaereal. Beneath that was a word etched into the metal. SKYCORP.

    Calysta smiled up at him and cupped his hand under the box. "I might have used my security clearance to check on your application status," she admitted, "And I found out yesterday that you were approved to take the Skycorp exam. Either way, I wanted you to have this. It was my captain's commission pin. My name is engraved on the back, but I thought maybe you'd like to have it so you could take it with you for good luck and when you pass the exam, you can take me with you in a little way." She gave him another, more luxurious kiss and then slipped an arm around his back as Cypher dashed up wearing both his coat with the hood flopped over his head and his back pack strapped over his shoulders. "Why don't you go put your new things away and we'll bake some cookies, huh?" Cypher didn't need to be told twice for sweets and he was dashing off upstairs.

    They all gathered around the center counter while Calysta rolled out cookies with Priscilla's help, then let the kids press the shapes into place. "These are gingerbread," Calysta told them, "And those are short bread, and these are sugar cookies." She could see her Chip eyeing the dough with lusty sort of eyes and she grinned before offering him a bite of raw gingerbread dough. He seemed to like it and she fed him another bite before handing him a star shaped cookie cutter and putting him to work too. About that time, the door opened to reveal Sien and Ehud walking through in their rain boots. They shook off the chill and Priscilla stood at the counter island between the living room and the kitchen smiling. "You made it," she smiled, "We're making some more cookies and then we'll have dinner."

    Thomas was puffing at his smokeless pipe and holding Tomas in his arms, but he froze when he looked up a Priscilla. Finally, something worked out according to plan. He smirked a little and slid his pipe from his lips. "Hmm...Priscilla. Look up." The woman's eyes flicked upward to land on the sprig of mistletoe dangling above her had. Immediately, her cheeks flushed and she shook her head. "Oh no. I'm skipping that part. Besides, Ehud doesn't want to do that." Thomas merely chuckled and shrugged. "It's only a small kiss. Eh, skip it if you feel like it."
     
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  20. Silence

    Silence Anonymous Me Staff Member Benefactor Warden

    There was a sort of tradition that accompanied Christmas and it was disturbing at best. Ehud had to get a gift of sorts and he was at a complete loss. When he finally ran out of ideas he called Illya on his pad. "I need help. What do I get for Priscilla?"

    Illya picked his pad up and he turned the hologram on. Ehud didn't even wait for him to answer and he was already rattling off in a panicked sort of voice. "Jes wait." Grumbling a bit Illya sat up and coughed before he started to pace around the house. "She's nut here so maybe I can help yah." Illya didn't actually know very much about Priscilla and he knew he wasn't quite her type. However, if he poked around her room he could figure something out. He had learned through observing what most folks liked. Priscilla wasn't someone that he knew all that well though.

    Together they'd figure out what kinds of things she liked in a short time. Quietly Illya snuck down the hallway and then he stepped into Priscilla's room. She hadn't brought much back with her from Terra and she had a few things, but then Illya remembered something. "She likes makeup."

    "What kind?" Ehud knew that Haza used to wear it, but only when she was performing in the circus.

    "Let meh go find out." Walking over to the dresser Illya pulled the top drawer open and started to carefully pick through the underwear and bras. "Where dah hell did she put all her make up?"

    "Illya!" Ehud was finding out way more than he intended to with this hologram call. "What are you doing?"

    "Asha always kept her makeup in her underwear drawer."

    "That's because you ate it." Ehud cleared his throat. "Where did Isla keep hers?"

    Stopping part way through his rummaging through the underwear drawer Illya frowned. "Isla kept hers in her underwear drawer too. She gave her make up to meh one day and told meh tah keep et because I was gonna start putting et on her. I never could find et oter places and I'd forget et in dah morning ef I dun find et wit her underwear." Makeup had always been kept in the underwear drawer and Illya knew Kalizda didn't wear any because she didn't have any in her underwear drawer.

    Ehud blinked a few times. "You might have been around a few years, but I don't think you know as much as you think you do about women. Look in the boxes on top her dresser."

    "Huh." Illya grinned a little and opened the box. Pulling out a few brushes he noticed how dirty they looked. "She needs more of dose. I'll get brushes for her."

    "You're supposed to be helping me." Ehud groaned, "I can't believe this."

    "Mmm...Here's what yah should know. Capture part of dis eh? Yah see her favorite color box. Nut much left of dese ones." Digging in a bit further Illya held up a little container. "Sprinkles?" He didn't know what that was for, but he was curious anyway. Opening just the lid he looked inside and then decided to close it again. He didn't want to squeeze the container too hard, but apparently he hadn't held onto it tight enough. His left hand still didn't have the best feeling in it and he had a hard time telling how hard he was gripping small items. The container of glitter fell into her underwear drawer. A small poof of sparkles went out in a mushroom cloud and then settled over her underwear. "OOooh shet! Shet shet! Yah jes take lots of images of dah tings in her make up box and yah get her make up and uh..." Looking around the room Illya took a deep breath. "She likes dose short dresses. Dey come from Terra and dey come down to her knees." With that he shut the hologram off and did his best to put the dresser back to order before he left the room and immediately took himself to the bathroom to wash his hands. No matter how many times he washed there seemed to be more and more of the sprinkles, even the hand towel had sprinkles on it. If it was that bad she'd be sparkly everywhere her underwear was. A part of Illya felt sheepish, but another part of him couldn't help laughing a bit at the awkwardness of it all.

    *********************************

    Christmas Eve came much faster than Ehud thought it would. Somehow the days flew by and he lost track. Illya had told him to buy something useful for Priscilla and he did, but he hadn't wrapped it yet. It was better to wrap it and make it a surprise when they got a little closer to the day. Ehud had to work on Christmas Eve and so he asked Illya to send him a note the day before just so he would have time to get ready.

    Ehud was preparing to head home. It had been a long day and the men were restless. He felt restless too and he just wanted to go home and have a nice quiet night with some tea and he would more than likely be assaulted with Micky Martian shows. His son couldn't seem to get enough of the hero. Part way home from picking up Sien Ehud got a little notification on his pad from Illya. I forgot to tell you. It iz Crismas Ev. "What the..." Rolling his eyes and letting out a long sigh Ehud glanced to Sien. His boy was walking along at the usual pace and with the same neutral expression he held whenever they walked. "Sien, I'll race you home." That was perhaps one of the few ways to get his son to run.

    If it hadn't been for the fact that Ehud knew Illya's memory wasn't always good he would have sworn that his friend waited until he had just stepped out on the sidewalk with Sien to send him the message. Even if it had been more simple to tell him when he was in the house Ehud could appreciate the fact that Illya didn't say anything. Priscilla didn't have to know that he lost track of the days. The two of them made it home in record time and Ehud practically tore his coat off once he was inside. "Sien, you clean the living room, I have to get showered." There wasn't any time to waste and he still had to wrap the useful item for Priscilla. He knew that according to her culture it was a gift, but he preferred to think of it as a useful item that she needed.

    There were still little droplets of water clinging to Ehud's short blond hair after he was dressed and trying to wrap the item for Priscilla. Ehud barely finished wrapping her useful gift and then another alert popped up on his pad. She's coming your way. Some of the messages from Illya were a mix of Quoti and Trader's Tongue. Even if Illya had a decent grasp when he spoke Trader's Tongue, his written language was broken at best when it came to some things. Dashing down the hall Ehud saw that there was a pair of his boxers sitting just outside the kitchen. Those must have been the ones that he took off last night on his way to bed. Quickly he snatched them up and raced back to his room where he dropped the boxers on the floor, shut the door and jogged back to the living room. Ehud flopped on the couch and tried to look relaxed. He only got to relax a few seconds before Sien bounded toward the door and opened it.

    Priscilla came in and she looked like she was supposed to be going to a party. For a brief moment Ehud swallowed hard. He hadn't dressed up and neither had Sien. "Oh, wow. You look nice." All the while Ehud's eyes were wide and he blinked a few times as he watched her walk into the kitchen. Her legs were in plain view with that dress and he couldn't help taking a peek. She had such shapely calves.

    While they were cooking Sien kept sneaking out of the kitchen. He stayed happily through the cookies, but he left his dad in the kitchen with Priscilla while they cooked dinner. Sient wanted to see what it was that Priscilla brought for them. It was strangely disappointing to find that the boxes inside were wrapped. He couldn't see what they were at all.

    Shortly after dinner Priscilla gave a little package to Sien. The boy practically bounded about the room when he discovered what his gift had been. He got Micky Martian pajamas and the slippers. With a gleeful hoot he ran off to his room to try them on. Ehud quietly opened his presents and he nodded carefully as he pulled out the gifts from Priscilla. "It will be very useful." With a cautious grin he nodded and then handed Priscilla her hastily prepared gifts. The wrapping was smooth, but the bows weren't quite center. That little detail was still bothering Ehud. He wanted the bows to sit perfectly in the center of the package and he would have measured if he had time. Hopefully she wouldn't mind the lack of perfection and he could only hope that she would like the dress and she wouldn't guess how he knew what her specific brand of make up was.

    ************************************

    Hearing the pure excitement in Kalizda's voice was the best part of Christmas so far. Illya grinned as she threw her arms around him and gave him that lightening fast passionate kiss. "I could remember a lot of tings for a kiss like dat." While she was still momentarily distracted he winked at her and watched the slight tinge of pink slide across her cheeks. It was always satisfying to see that little reaction to his flirting.

    After a few seconds the short moment was over and Kalizda handed Illya's gifts to him. The first one was a sweater that looked just like his green one, except that it was red. "Oooh, I like dis." Slipping the sweater on he grinned. Kalizda had another present for him and Illya tilted his head slightly. "Bot of us eh?" Shifting to sit a little closer to Kalizda he let her help. There was never any telling what she would get him, or why she would want them to open it together. Inside a SKYCORP star shined as if it had been polished. At first he was a little confused until Kalizda explained the situation. "Ooh." Nodding his head he carefully plucked the star from the box. "Tank yah. I will keep dis wit meh. Dis es important part of yah life and now I will learn more about et eh?"

    Their afternoon was filled with cookie making and that was the tastiest part so far. Illya was helping with the cookies when Kalizda was watching and he was pinching the corners off stars when she wasn't looking. All the stars going onto the baking sheet had blunted edges and Illya shrugged when she noticed them. "I tink maybe dey little messy when I use dis cookie cutter. Et dun have enough flower sometimes eh?" Despite his good story he knew she had probably figured it out. "Dey taste dis good when dey are cooked too?

    *****************************

    After what felt like months of waiting in a quiet room Illya saw a man come out and begin to hand clip boards to everyone. "This is a sign in. You'll confirm your identity, read over the rules of the exam, and sign the testing requirements sheet. The testing requirements sheet states that you have read all the instructions, you understand them, you have no further questions and you are prepared to take the exam. We will not begin until all the students have turned in their sheets."

    Illya took the clipboard offered to him and he frowned. They had horrible letters on their pages. He couldn't tell if it was because they were small, or if it was because they looked fuzzy. Apparently they didn't keep enough pads to pass around to students, or it was way to ensure that no one had opportunity to tamper with the pads and skew results. It was smart in a way. Illya squinted at the page and he sighed as he slumped in his seat only to discover that his back was going to protest to that. Illya adjusted quickly as if he'd been stung by a bee and he frowned some. Turning the page he saw the next one was going to be just as laborious and he started to take a deep breath, but ended up coughing instead. The Chip cough had managed to come around full swing and get him sick all over again just a few days ago. He'd gotten over the fevers and he had a few absence seizures during the fever, but nothing serious.

    By the last page Illya noticed that the room was unusually quiet and there seemed to be an air of exasperation. Glancing up from the page he saw that every other student in the entire room was staring at him. He was just following the instructions and reading them all before taking the exam. They should not have been staring at him like he was a problem. This was what they said to do. When he had finally finished the last page Illya signed it and he returned it to the man that stood nearby with his arms crossed in front of himself. "This is the longest it has ever taken to get a set of students into the testing room. Nervous?"

    "Yes, I'm nervous, but dat es nut why I take long. Yah said tah read all dah instructions."

    "Nobody does that, well except you." The man looked over the sheets to see there were odd scribbles all over it and then a strangely childlike looking signature next to another set of strange scribbles. "What's this?"

    "I write meh name like et shows on meh Alliance Identification Card in Trader's Tongue and den in meh own language. Et looks better in Quoti." Illya smirked as he watched the man's eyebrows raise and then fell in line to go into the first room where the test would begin.
     
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