Anonymous Me
Ehud finished another long day at work and he figured he would go home and get changed into something nice before Sien got out of class. Then he and Sien could go over to Illya and Kalizda's to get her and have a date. It was a bit of a debate to see if Sien could stay with Kalizda and Illya, but at the same time he knew that his son would want to go on the date too. If he didn't let Sien go it would turn into a very long series of questions when he picked the boy back up. With a sigh Ehud stepped up to the front door of the little house and he turned the knob.

As the door swung open he froze. The smell of cleaning solutions and multiple sprays wafted out the door and he blinked in shock. Nothing had looked this clean in years. Not that he hadn't mopped the floor since Haza died, but he'd never got around to all the cleaning at the same time before. Gradually his gaze drifted over to where Priscilla was napping on the couch. There were a few papers that had slid from her lap and landed on the floor. Her head was leaning back on the couch and her mouth was open. One of the first things he thought of was rather boyish. Part of him wondered if she'd wake up if he poked her lip with his finger, but he decided to just let her rest for now. Stepping into the house he tried to be as quiet as possible as he wandered back to his bedroom to find something besides his fatigues to wear.

Ehud barely made it to his room and he looked back across the house to see the little muddy spots from his boots. There was a clear track across the wood floors from the front door to where he was standing. Frowning and making a silent "Oooh," he scrambled to get his shoes off and then made a quick socked slide and dash for the kitchen. All the towels were nice and clean. That created a small dilemma that he quickly solved by choosing the oldest one and then went through the house wiping up all the mess before he tossed his boots outside on the porch with a thump. Cringing a little he glanced behind himself to make sure Priscilla hadn't woke up yet.

Skating across the cleaned floors again in his socks he slid into his room and shut the door quietly. It wasn't till he was in the room that he noticed all his clothes were gone. He didn't have a single thing to wear. Out of sheer desperation he looked under his bed and then decided that he actually had to go ask Priscilla where his clothes went. Slipping back into the living room he sat gingerly on the edge of the couch and set a hand on Priscilla's shoulders. "Hey..." As she woke he grinned. "Uh...the house is clean. Looks nice." Clearing his throat he opened his mouth and then paused. She'd been in his room and seen all his dirty clothes and she might have cleaned out the closet. What if she donated all of Haza's things? Not that it wasn't a logical and good thing to do, but there were a few things that he wanted to keep. Momentarily his blue eyes widened and then he quickly regained his composure. No need to panic yet, other than the fact that he didn't have any clothes. Illya told him how Kalizda went through and threw out all his clothes, but Kalizda replaced them. Perhaps Priscilla hadn't got around to the replacing yet and she'd fallen asleep. "I uh...I don't have any clothes. They're all gone." Cautiously he posed the next question because he didn't want to sound accusatory even if it probably was her. "Did you do something with them?"


The school was quite impressive and while Cyher seemed to think it all ordinary, Illya paused a little longer at most of the rooms to poke his head inside and try to see the classroom set up a little better. Cypher's tour of the school was far too fast, but Illya knew it was part of the age. He would ask for a private tour of the school one day when they had classes so he could see how things were done a little better. In fact he might just like to come sit in the classes with his son one day and make sure that his son was getting a proper education. If the boy had to go to school so young and stay in it for so long it was best that he got a good education so that he could be a scholar, or at least be a smart man.

Cypher was understandably excited and the boy was early to the fair, but he was also whipping through the tour. By the time they were outside it was a good couple of minutes before the judging even began. While they had a few minutes Illya looked his son over and helped Cypher soothe his curls again. "Remember dat yah stand tall and yah be proud of yah work no matter dah face dah judge makes eh?"

Stepping back Illya gave his boy an encouraging smile. He would do well. Just standing for the next several minutes was making his back hurt and Illya almost wished he had his wheelchair with. However, he was determined to make it through. During the judging he frowned as if he were concentrating. He was concentrating and at this point it was primarily directed at making it through the next hour. They were going to have to do something where he could sit after this. At least for a while. Not that sitting made things that much better, but it might help. With a slight grunt he shifted his weight from one foot to the other for a few minutes.

By the time the judges started to make their announcements he was doing his best to focus on what they were saying. With third place and second place gone he was a little worried. If Cypher didn't get an award of sorts the boy would be sad, but he would find a way to get over it. Still, it would be disappointing for Cypher. As soon as they announced Cypher's name Illya had a momentary burst of energy. Without much thought Illya made a fist pump and gave a good competitive growl. "Dat's meh boy!"

As soon as the small award ceremony was over Cypher came over holding up the prize ribbon and Illya held it briefly before returning it to his son. "Yah hold dat because et's yah'rs. Now, we have party eh? Go get some cream and berries and sit at a table over dere and den we get box for yah ribbons. I'm sure dat yah win more ribbons soon."

Of course Cypher nodded enthusiastically and he snatched the ribbon from his father's hand and darted for the nearest cream and berry station. Illya gave Kalizda a weak grin and winked at her. "We jes have little party here and maybe we make more party at home tomorrow." He wasn't feeling like he'd make too much more physical activity, but he could still make it special for his boy.


Curious Adventurer
Priscilla blinked up at Ehud, still trying to figure out at which point she had fallen asleep instead of grading papers. Ehud was home and smiling at her...clothes? Clothes. What did she do with her clothes. It was such an honest question and she knew that by the look on his face. Had she not been still waking up from her nap she might have broken out into peals of laughter over the question. Instead, she chuckled sleepily and shifted the papers to the side. "I've hidden them, general. You'll have to find them all like hunt."

"But...the house is clean. Not like you could hide them anyway. They're probably just...." Pausing he realized he hadn't looked in the closet and his cheeks turned pink. "Oh, you put them away." Chuckling nervously he met her gaze. "Thank you."

She watched at the realization of where his clothes might be dawned over him like a flickering light bulb, before his cheeks turned pink and she nodded. He actually said things like 'thank you' unlike other Chippeqouti and she met him back with "you're welcome" as she tugged the bandanna out of her hair. "I bet I could hide them very well if I wanted to," she added, as her hair tumbled down around her face, "But as it is, I thought you might want all of your clothing in one place." Rising to her feet, she plucked up the papers and set them on the coffee table, then she took up his hand and lead him to the bedroom. It only took one swipe of the closet door to show him all his clothes were neatly arranged by function and then by color. His shoes were cleaned and sat in neat rows at the bottom of the closet along side Haza's whom she had left alone. Nearby, a hamper waited for Ehud's current muddy clothing. "No more sniff test," Priscilla winked."

Ehud couldn't help grinning a little more now that he had managed to figure it out and he felt non too sheepish. Letting Priscilla lead him to the bedroom he shuffled along trying not to disturb his muddy clothing too much. Chunks of dirt may fall off otherwise. When she opened the closet door Ehud chuckled. "Mmm..all nice an..." Suddenly stopping in the middle he realized she mentioned the sniff test. "What makes you say that? I never said I'd run around sniffing my clothes. Maybe I had a clean pile and a dirty pile."

He seemed thoroughly pleased that she had rearranged his closet though it took him a minute to catch on to what she said about the sniff test. A grin came to her face and she leaned in, kissing his cheek. "Like father like son, Sien was very informative about the state of laundry in the house." Her lips left a little lipstick mark on his cheek as she settled back onto her heels again. "I thought you might feel better with a clean bedroom." Her eyes slipped over to the bedside table where the romance books were stacked neatly. "Did you like them?" She liked the fact that he read things in his spare time, even if it was for research. She and Harry used to turn off the holograms and read together as a sort of bonding time. She'd had to leave her mystery novel collection behind on Terra.

"Like them?" Ehud was still staring at the closet and making a mental inventory of what was in it. Naturally his son had told her all about the sniff test and it was slightly embarrassing for the woman he liked to know that terrible little detail. "Ooh." Tearing his eyes away from the closet Ehud glanced to the books and shook his head. "No, they weren't good."

When he said he did not like the books Priscilla couldn't help but giggle a little bit. She imagines he didn't like them. They are pretty terrible choices as far as romance goes. It made her wonder what he might actually like though. " I might have a few you would enjoy if you wanted to borrow them sometime. I've read a lot since coming here and I used to Read Mysteries all the time. Those were my favorite ones."

The little bit of giggling seemed to indicate that there was something he didn't know and Ehud narrowed his eyes slightly. "Do you really think I'd like these other stories better, or are you going to give me something worse?" However, interestingly enough Priscilla also mentioned mystery novels and he grinned. "Oh, those ones. I know what those are. I liked those too. Pretty sure I could get a deal on some if you'd like. Just don't ask me how I get them, or who I know."

Now he was grinning at her with a big smile at the mention of mystery novels before. Apparently he did like those kind and her eyes brightened before she replied playfully. "Oh?" She teased. "Nameless contact for mystery novels, is it? Very mysterious." Leaning in a little closer she title her chin and chuckled. "Don't worry, your secret is safe with me. When can you make this clandestine deal?"

Somehow Priscilla seemed to think he was joking and it was just as well that she thought he was joking. As a matter of fact it was rather delicate work to try and get certain commodities. Returning her grin he winked. "Well, I can make that clandestine deal as soon as you give me a list. I'm sure my source wouldn't mind making random picks, but it would be helpful to have some titles if you have something in mind."

Blinking a few times, she gazes at him curiously. He was serious. Actually serious. And he would be willing to get some for her. Her smile widened from coy to entirely genuine till it brushed at her eyes. "Really? I have some Ive been looking at and I think you will like them too." Her fingers cupped his cheek and she kissed it excitedly. The grin on his cheeks made him all the more handsome. "Maybe you can pick some too and we can read together." Calysta had said reading with Illya had brought.the two of them closer and she liked to read anyways so it would be a good idea for both of them. "Thank you, Ehud."

It sounded like getting these books for her would be the highlight of her day and possibly year. Ehud just shook his head after the kiss and chuckled. "I'd only do it for you. There are a few benefits to catching my eye. Maybe not obvious at first, but I do have some talents." Leaning a little closer to Priscilla he kissed her gently on the cheek. "You look good when you smile like that. Anything else I can do to see another grin?"

"Catching your eye is its own reward," she replied as he graced her with a kiss on her cheek. She leaned into the gesture to enjoy it. Having someone to talk to like this felt wonderful and as he chuckled his warm breath tickled over her skin. When he mentioned her smiling, Priscilla's cheeks flushed more with excitement than shyness until her belly gave a long, gurgling demand to be filled. "I think food might be a good motivator for another smile," she laughed, rubbing her stomach. "We could cook up something good now that the fridge is full."

Ehud's eyes got larger when she said she'd filled the fridge. "Well, it's not like I'm poor. I just forgot to go shopping is all." It sounded pathetic and he knew it. Walking over to the fridge he saw the menu plan on the front and chuckled. "Fancy. I have even been ordered to cook certain meals each night. These preferences of yours?"

She couldnt quite tell if he was annoyed she had filled the fridge or not, but when they walked into the kitchen from the bedroom he saw the meal plan stuck on the fridge and immediately plucked it up, calling it an order. "Well, I thought it might help to have a little meal plan so that way we could keep track of what's in the fridge better and know what meals we have available. And that way you always know what's for dinner too. Of course, you don't have to cook what's labeled for that night. It works just as easily by swapping the items on the list to a different day." Walking over to him she glanced at the meal plan and nodded. "Some are and some are things Sien says he likes. There are a few on there I thought you might like too. What do you think?"

Slowly turning his gaze toward Priscilla the Chip snickered. "Yeah, you know what we're eating to. Fancy way to spy on us and know when you want to drop in and eat dinner." Winking at her he tried to give a little indication that he was joking with her. "It will be nice to have a list like this. I'm not much for going out and catching a snake to cook for dinner. I kinda like the markets and buying food that isn't moving. An acquired taste after several years of living that convenience."

He started playing sly with her and added that it was a good way of making sure she had a good dinner when she came over. He winked at her and it was the first time in awhile he seemed almost entirely relaxed around her again. It made her smile all the more that he was being playful and she came over to him, sliding a hand to his firm back and settling her chin on his shoulder ever so slightly. "Can't blame a girl for trying, hm?" She chuckled, "They have a good variety here in the markets on Pyrta too. It feels nice to go in and get things for the house myself again." Her fingers rubbed at his shoulder some before she slipped away and opened the fridge. "I, sir, challenge you to a pancake making contest in the spirit of breakfast for dinner night."

There was of course a little bantering going on and Ehud liked that. Even if he didn't normally show his competitive side she was about to discover it. "A Flipping Jack contest, or Flap Jack contest, whatever you call them. I've got more experience than you know flipping those. I can even do it without a spatula." Bragging a little he reached into the cupboard for the pancake mix. "Be prepared to be amazed."

Priscilla pulled out the nyte beast milk. It wasnt as sweet as regular cow milk from Terra but it gave pancakes a tasty buttermilk quality. "Oh is that so? No spatula?" She grinned, "I dont know...I've got some pretty good flap jack flipping under my belt." She held out her hands and skinny wrists confidently. "I'm all pancake making power here." They mixed up the batter and Priscilla drew out a pan, coating it with nyte beast butter so the cakes wouldnt stick. "Alright, pancake pro, let's see what you've got."

It didn't take long to get all the batter mixed up. Ehud got the pans heating while Priscilla grabbed the butter to get the pans nicely greased. Smearing the light layer of butter across his pan Ehud grinned and took a scoop to flop into his pan. It was a nice heavy cast iron pan and he liked it for cooking pancakes. She got the lighter one because he didn't think she'd do well with his favorite heavy pan. "Alright, you're about to witness something you've never seen before. An Ehud pancake flipper." Waiting until he could tell that the bubbles were less common on top of the pancake and the edges were soft and doughy rather than watery he grabbed the pan and then moved it back and forth a few times till he could see the pancake sliding. With a few more back and forth motions he got it moving good and fast and then he gave it a flip. When the pancake landed back in the pan perfectly he winked. "Match that if you can."

Priscilla watched as he laid about his first pancake and patiently waited for it to cook on the one side. When it began to solidify through the middle he gave it a good grin and flipped it easily in his heavy skillet. It sailed easily through the air and landed with a little plop uncooked side down into the pan. Then he sent the challenge right back at her and she smiled. " That was pretty good. I have to admit. It's going to be tough to follow." Rolling up her sleeves, she reached for the batter and dolloped a healthy sized pancake on the hot pan. The only problem was, it came out much bigger than anticipated, much like a mishappen Micky Mouse instead of a cute little pancake. What size had that ladle been? Illya portioned?! Looking at the massive cake, she waited until finally the bubbles began to stop. It was ready to be flipped. Hopefully. At least when she moved the pan it slid and then came the flip. The pancake flipped just fine till the.last second when the tail dragged it down and it landed semi folded down on the pan. It landed with such force that some of it splattered over them both from the underside. The whole show was so utterly ridiculous that Priscilla burst into laughter as she stood there speckled with pancake batter. "Not one of my best ones."

Ehud didn't seem to mind it, but did relish the idea of getting to show off more of his skills. So, they went pancake for pancake against each other, laughing and teasing each other along the way until three hefty stacks were piled onto plates on the island countertop. "You win, you win," she laughed as she wiped off her hands, "You are the best pancake flipper. Which means-" a playful smirk came to her lips "-you get to be the designated pancake flipper from now on." It was a well earned title and they chuckled over as they cleaned up. Ehud had batter on his chin from her wayward pancake at the start and she tossed him the hand towel she was using. "You might want to go get cleaned up before we eat." His clothes were still mudcaked and he would be able to relax more if he changed.

While he walked away down the hall, she took the moment to check him out a little. Did all Chips have backs carved like that? When he turned into his bedroom, she quickly averted her gaze and went back to pulling out everything else they would need for dinner. Glasses of milk were poured and syrup was warmed up in a little ceramic container she had uncovered in the pantry. Then she lit a candle on the small dining table before placing everything else nice and neat. It was the first time in awhile she had felt like nothing was missing and no aching under current pulled at her chest. She wasn't missing Terra or home. The day had passed, awhile she had thought of Harry from time to time, it wasn't as raw as it had been. For awhile, she had forgotten those hurts and simply enjoyed the time with Ehud.

When came out of the room, she was waiting for him smiling at the table. She knew Sien would be home soon, but she couldn't help but enjoy it when he sat in the seat beside her looking freshened up. Her hand settled over his and she nodded. "Tomorrow we can find out who is the better hamburger maker." It was an absolute tease and challenge at the same time and she knew he would like it. About that time Sien came busting through the door and without hesitation he caught the two of them gazing at each other intently before Priscilla sat back from Ehud. "Are you going to kiss like Uncle Illya does Aunt Kalizda? He does that alot," Sien asked as he stared at the two of them. He wanted to make sure that his new mom knew about that.

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

Calysta was never more proud of her son when he took the stage to receive his ribbon for the invention he had made. His grin stretched from ear to ear as he took his prize with his chest puffed out in pride. What made watching Cypher succeed even better was seeing Illya's joy. Her Chip was smiling equally big as he cheered their first born on, fist pumping the air in victory. It was strange to think that she never would have imagined such joy coming from children and watching them grow while getting to share that with Illya. The fact still amazed her that she had her family, especially on days like this. Cypher scuttled over to his father who announced that a berries and cream party was in order for the occasion, setting a whole new flurry of activity. "I think that sounds good," she replied to her Chip. Her hand settled gently on his upper back, far from the incision site and she rubbed lightly. "I think we're being left behind for berries," she chuckled, "Grab us a table and I'll help bring the treats, yeah?"

Rose helped her father gather the other kids around while Calysta brought back an entire tray of berries and cream with Cypher's help. There were soft ripe red berries and plump, slightly crisp blue berries under towers of whipped cream jiggling its way over on the tray. "One for the science fair winner," she chuckled, as her son eager wiggled into his seat with a hungry gaze fixed on the bowl she offered over. As soon as it was set in front of him, he picked up his fork and scooped up as much cream as he could fit into his mouth at one time. "Easy," Calysta corrected, "Smaller bites or you'll drop it in your lap." He slowed down only enough to swallow and offer her a nod. "And a bowl for Rose....Lohgan....and I'll share with Edgar and Tomas....and a bowl for Dah." Calysta placed Illya's bowl in front of him complete with a fork and extra cream. She could tell by the slight pinched look in his eye and the way he kept shifting that his back was beginning to hurt, but she said nothing. He wouldn't want the kids more upset that they already were about this situation and if it got to be too much, he would find a way to get them home.

Calysta fed her twins mounds of cream in alternating bites and they ate it up as if there was nothing better in the world. Edgar smacked his gums together with each bite and Tomas made a grand mess by sneezing with a mouthful of the sweetened fluff. He seemed to find the spray from his sugary sneeze funny and began to giggle as Calysta wiped her face down with a napkin. "That's one way to do it," she chuckled. They all enjoyed the sunshine in the courtyard and once everyone was cleaned up from their snacking celebration, Cypher lead their way home. "Dah when can we get deh box for my ribbons? Tomorrow? I want tah more and fill up deh whole ting." Calysta exchanged a smile with her Chip and nodded. "We'll go look at one tomorrow. I have an idea for when we get home. Maybe we watch a movie and have some snacks in the living room? Your choice." Of course, that was delightful because he got to pick the hologram movie they would watch and she was unsurprised when it was Micky Martian: Lost in Space. She'd seen it more than a dozen times at this point, but he was allowed to pick, so that's what they would watch.

When they made it home, Calysta could see Illya was hurting even if the children werent quite as aware. She shuffled him over to the couch and turned on the heat from the seat. It didn't take but a few seconds to strip his shoes from his feet and get him tucked under another heated blanket. "I'm going to make you some tea," she said with a gentle smile. He would know she was talking about the special pain tea brew she kept around. It was nowhere near time for his medicine yet and he would need something that he could have without the narcotics. Cypher set up the movie with his ribbon still pinned on his chest on full display while she brewed the tea. By the time all of that was done, the twins were more than ready for a nap. Calysta settled into the floor, using the back of the couch for a brace and passed Illya his tea before plucking up the twins. "C'mere, big man," she grunted. Edgar was heavier than Tomas and she had to place him gently on Illya's side. He was already ready asleep, his head lolling around as she tucked him up against his father. "One more." Tomas joined his brother in cuddling with his Dah only he stayed awake long enough to coo happily at being so cozied up to big, warm dad.

Cypher slid under her arm with a bowl of berries in his lap and Lohgan toddled over before she unceremoniously plopped down on Calysta's legs. Calysta winced at her daughters weight but didn't hesitate to stretch a hand out, pulling her girl close as the movie began.

* * * * * * * * * *

Calysta woke up in cold sweat, gasping as her eyes tried to focus on the ceiling. The children had long been asleep and she had hardly gone to bed herself before dreams had crept in. Her hands searched out for Illya in the dark like a desperate blind man looking for shelter. She fumbled a few times until her hands brushed over something warm. Illya was there beside her and she could hear his breath puffing out in short gasps. He was probably laying on his side if that was the way he was breathing. A small feeling of guilt crept up her spine and she sighed. If he was managing to sleep she wasn't going to wake him up before it was time. His body needed the rest and so did his mind. Shivering slightly, she inched out of the bed and pulled the warm blanket higher over his shoulders before stumbling into the bathroom. A single glance in the mirror showed the dark circles which had formed over her eyes for the last few weeks. Ever since the bombing and then worse after Illya's back was broke. "You're fine," she hissed a herself. Snatching a towel from the hanger, she wiped down her face with warm water and vanilla soap to rid herself of some sweat before puttering sleepily back to bed. Her hand settled over her Chip's as she closed her eyes and tried to rest again.

All night long she jerked in and out of sleep. Whenever Illya shifted or another dream struck, whatever rest she managed to get ended and the cycle began all over again. At one point she could have sworn she heard Tomas crying in his crib, but an inspection of the twins showed that they were sleeping soundly. By the time morning arrived, Calysta was yawning as Illya stirred beside her. "Morning," she mumbled with her eyes closed, "How are you feeling?" It wasn't time for his medicine yet but she still wanted to know.
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Anonymous Me
A little challenge was hard to pass up and Ehud winked at Priscilla. "You might beat me at that one. I might let you too. Don't want you to feel like I should always be the cook." Ehud wasn't sure that he was any good at hamburgers, but he liked to leave a question in her mind. If he did poorly she might just assume that he let her win and if he won she'd have to say that he was better again. There was always an advantage to leaving a little question to niggle about in another person's mind. While they were both still smiling and enjoying one another's company there was the sudden sound of little feet scurrying up the two front steps.

Almost instantly Ehud remembered that he needed to get showered and his smile faded some. He didn't want his son to think that he was going to be engaging in any activity that was reserved for people that were already married. The front door opened and Sien came into the kitchen and the strangest question popped from his lips. Ehud turned toward his son and answered in a slow, calm and precise matter. "There is a big difference between your Uncle Illya and me. Uncle Illya is married, or agreed as we say. Kalizda is his agreed, or wife, as others say. They will kiss because it is right for them to do that and there is no shame, or expectation to be made from them kissing. It is normal and healthy. I am not agreed, or married to Priscilla yet. When I gave her a ring it was to follow her tradition. It is how a man asks a woman in other traditions to be his, but it does not mean that they are married yet. So, I'm not going to be openly kissing Priscilla. As your father it is important that I respond in a way that I would be proud to have you copy."

Sien stood blinking through the whole explanation. It all sounded very complicated and he wasn't quite sure how you asked a woman to be yours and still not be married to her. Wasn't being married almost the same thing? Still, he didn't really want further explanation from his father. Sometimes explanations took too long when his dad tried to give them and he didn't want to wait that much longer to have dinner. "Ok." It was as short as a response could be and he slid into his chair at the table. "I like pancakes." Taking one of the mangled ones he snickered. "I'll take the ugly one." Immediately Sien proceeded to shove a large portion of it in his mouth and then take another bite that over filled his mouth. "Mm eatin lik monser." His words were garbled some as he tried to work his way around the food in his mouth.

Ehud's eyes got wide as he watched his son make a horrible display with his food. "I-I've never seen him do that." Almost apologetically he looked at Priscilla and then reached across the table and pulled the food that was sticking out of his son's mouth out and set it back on the plate. "I have the feeling you learned that from Cypher. I don't ever want to see that again."


By the time they reached the house Illya was too sore to do much more than lay on the couch. Since it was a Chip sized couch he gingerly laid on it and then bent his knees. If he made some room the rest of the kids could fit on the couch. Rose was clearly not interested in watching and she took herself to her room to sulk. That was the normal response these days, but she would learn to have more self respect before he let her go out after boys again.

A few minutes after Illya was settled in Kalizda brought the twins over and he got one tucked under each arm. Tomas was not quite asleep yet and he gave a few happy little kicks as he cooed in delight. Tilting his head to the side Illya looked at his boy and he gave Tomas the best smile that he could manage. "Now, dere's meh boy. Soon yah learn some words and den yah begin talking." There were a few more happy little kicks and some gurgling. The boy loved to think that someone was talking with him and especially when that someone was his dad. Despite the flurries of action and Tomas' best attempts to stay awake and savor the time he got all to himself with his dah he fell asleep.

Throughout the hologram of Micky Martian Illya sipped at the tea from Kalizda. It did very little to stop the pain, but it did soothe some of the aches. Out of sheer exhaustion Illya fell asleep before they were half way through the extended show of Micky Martian. When Illya woke up the show was over, but the twins were awake and jabbering merrily at each other from across his chest. Each of them seemed satisfied to have a piece of him for themselves.

By the time the evening was over Illya was more than ready for bed. He was hopeful that a little medicine would help him sleep. Instead he lay awake a good portion of the night sweating and craving more. It was already hitting, the withdrawals. There wasn't enough medicine to sate his need for them. Finally, he was about to get some rest and Kalizda tossed and turned in the bed only to startle awake. Each jolt sent another shock of pain through his entire back. Normally this shouldn't have been enough of a jolt to bother him, but the withdrawals made it far more difficult to manage the pain and it gave strange sensations in his spine on a regular basis. There was a precious few minutes of uninterrupted sleep, but he wasn't liking that either because all he could dream about was getting another round of medicine.

When the morning finally came he woke with a groan and tried to lay as still as possible. Somehow Kalizda looked almost as bad as he felt and that was rare. "Ugh...yah awake too eh?" Moaning the words out he reached over to her with his hand and squeezed her arm gently. "I jes stay en dah bed for a while eh?" Naturally Kalizda insisted that he get up and Illya winced. "I stay here for while. Eat breakfast en bed and have meh medicine before I get up." As it was to be expected she was adamant that he get up and take Cypher to go get a case for his ribbon. Illya grumbled a little, "I get et wit him in dah afternoon." Despite all his efforts to delay rising from the bed Kalizda insisted and he eventually had to try and get up.

A horrible stabbing pain started in his lower back and then spread like a fire as he tried moving. "Aaagh!" Gritting his teeth Illya slowly shifted himself to get his legs over the edge of the bed and he let out a long, shaky breath. Tears stung his eyes and he gulped back another groan as he forced himself to stand. His back hadn't hurt like this for a long time. Half stumbling he put a hand out to brace himself against the wall and half drug his right leg as he worked his way over to the chair. With the back pain and some additional problems it was even harder to walk with his prosthetic.

Getting dressed took a long time and Illya's eyes were rimmed in red by the time he finished getting himself dressed. Limping heavily back to the bed he gingerly laid on it and groaned. The light touch of Kalizda's fingers felt nice until they reached a spot too close to his lower back. "Mmmrrrrmmph...Kalizda et hurts. Please dun touch meh back." By the time he managed to get up from the bed again he was late for breakfast, but he made it and while he was up he took a little time to lay on the heated couch until he got his first dose of medicine and then took Cypher out to pick a box.

The nearest shop was a Chip shop and that was the first place and the last place that they were going to visit. "Cypher we go en here." Illya pointed to the door. "Dis woman makes dah best boxes. She made dah one for meh." Cypher beamed up at his father and pushed the door to the shop open. As soon as he stepped in Cypher spotted a large box with ornate carving and he pointed to it. "Dats dah one I want dah." Illya blinked a few times. "Yah tink yah can fill dat box up?" Cypher nodded vigorously. Illya was tempted to simply end the shopping trip there, but he chose to actually try and invest in this moment. "Well, first yah go around all dah store and yah look at all dah boxes and ask dah lady about features. She will tell yah all about dah box and yah learn what es best product for yah."

With no small amount of pride Cypher wandered through the shop with his little ribbon clutched tightly in his small brown fist. He observed the boxes and asked about each one while opening and closing them many times. When he finally made his choice Illya handed Cypher a wad of credits. It was important to teach his son how to barter with credits. At first the woman raised her brow, but she knew what Illya was trying to do and so she wrapped the box and then quoted a price. Cypher carefully counted out his credits and then shoved them across the counter with his chubby little fingers. When the exchange was finished he pulled his bag closer to himself and let it slide off the counter and into his little chest. Strutting all the way home he proudly held onto the bag with his case. Once they were inside Illya helped his son fix the ribbon inside and they set it on one of the high shelves in the living room. "Dere, now we can all see yah award." Nodding to his son Illya smiled weakly and then took himself to lay on the couch and do some more homework. Before Kalizda left for a little bit she gave Illya some tea and put the kids down for a nap.

Thomas sidled into the living room and settled into the cozy arm chair across from Illya who was stretched out on the couch, his massive heated blanket flopped over his legs as he drank a familiar smelling brew of tea. The house was altogether too quiet without all the kids and there was a heavy feeling in the air. "She'll be back in a bit," Thomas noted almost idly, "She said you were set with your medicine for awhile. There's more tea in there if you want it though." A moment of quiet passed between then and he leaned back into the chair."Helena and Edgar enjoy the kids. Though Calysta looked a bit tired. I may watch the kids when she comes back." He glanced at Illya and sighed some. "I know things are rough right now, but you shouldn't have waited to so long to tell her about all of this." He had been thinking for awhile and now he had said it. It was about time he and Illya had a talk about all of this and now was as good a time as any.

I was trying nut tah say anyting because dere es never good time tah tell dah lady yah love dat yah have problems wit addiction. Well...many addictions.

Thomas: Yeah, there isn't a good time, but there's better bloody times than when you're a sinking ship bailing out water. many addictions are we talking here?

Illya: Yeah I tell her before jes before I break meh back and den she es really stressed out? *Shoots Thomas a death glare* Enough for meh tah worry about a lot of tings.

Thomas: *gives equally stubborn look back* Make bad excuses all you want, you've known about these for awhile and detoxed once already. You should have told her. And does she know all of your vices now?

Illya: I told her den dat I was addicted tah medicines dah doctor gave meh and I dun know what vice es.

Thomas: Uhuh. *is pretty sure Illya is playing dumb on that one* So you worry about alcohol and percription pain medication. I wouldn't let any thing else catch Calysta by surprise. It's not fair to her and you know it.

Illya: I tink dat for old man of yah kind dat yah nut always wise. Dere are some tings dat are better nut said. I will tell her dah tings dat we can fex, but dere are some bad tings dat dere es noting tah help wit now.

Thomas: I think for a man who's been married more than once, you still don't know women very well. And if you're not honest with her, in the end, she'll be the one to suffer for it. Feel like praying over it? You haven't done that in awhile. Might help.

Illya: Yah poor man for advice. Ef I recall yah dun keep ladies around for long and prayer will nut help all dah problems. Et does nut take away dah past.

Thomas: *shoots Illya a glare* No, it doesnt. But it could help the future.

Illya: Meh future es what et will be. I would kill mehself before I let happen what did in meh past. Yah comfort yahself wit dat. She would nut bear dat burden now, or in dah future."

Thomas: she still will even if you kill yourself. You think that's what she wants for you? Or what I would want for you? God answers prayers. And he favors a man who prays to him with his needs."

Illya: Stop et. Yah jest stop. Dere es no fex for dis and yah dun understand et even ef I say et simple for yah. I have enough of dis talk."

Thomas: Aye, I imagine that's what you'll tell her to."

Illya: *Points a finger at Thomas' nose* She dun know anyting about dis, but ef she asks I will tell her. Et's nut yah business and et never will be.

"I'll try to remember that next time I find my daughter sleep walking or waking up crying or spending hours researching ways to help you without stopping. Not my business, but it is my daughter and you're my son in law who treats her like she should be for the most part and loves his children like he should too. So, you can say its not, sure, but in reality who's to say."

Of course Thomas was going to push the whole subject one ounce further and Illya slowly pushed the blanket off his legs. "Yah bastard. Dere are tings dat yah dun even know about dah Chippequoti and yah stand here and tell meh dat she should know everyting. Yah see how she es upset and dis es nut all for tings dat I do. She es worried for many oter tings and I tolerate yah miserable carcass for her. Dere are many tings dat I would do for her and sometimes et es better nut tah tell her all tings. Yah tink she liked tah know dat et was Terrans I was sent tah infiltrate and kill dat drove spiked metal rods into meh hands and drill dem into meh bones. Dat I have tah work and serve dose Terran filt for over a year jes so I could get information on dah Federation and den kill dem? Dose tings are what boter her and I cannot fex. Dere es nut fex for dat kind of ting. Now yah jes shut yah mout and forget what yah tell meh in all yah wisdom."

Illya was even more worked up now but Thomas let him battle back as things came spilling out. He stared at the man, both in shock and at a loss for word for just a moment. What could he say to that? He'd never been tortured or had to deal with those things...and while it was horrifying it explained a great deal in part and made his point all the more vivid. "Aye, you cant fix those things and they arent your fault," he replied with a hard swallow, "But you can tell her about them so she understands. She deserves that much. You can help her help you now. What else is there? You look to pills for what happened? To drugs?"

"She already knows dat! Dere are tings worse dat I never tell her because et would be too much for her tah worry about." Illya's brow had pulled down into a tight scowl and his eyes grew fierce. "Drugs and pills are nut answer for what I tell her. I take dah medicines for oter tings. Yah really tink et es good for her to understand even dose tings worse? Chippequoti Elite live and fight so dat oters dun have tah see dah war for what et es. Yah dun understand because oters shield yah from et and dat es meh duty even now. She should not know dah war dah ways I do."

"She's already experiencing it and by not telling her you're making things twice as hard on her. Aye, you protect her from war but to better protect her, talk to her. Maybe I dont understand your duty, but I do know my daughter. Not telling her things worries her ten times as much as coming out with it and letting her face it." Thomas gazes at Illya with determination. "If there are things that are worse than what she already knows, you should tell her. Don't wait till its too late."

Illya let out a long breath and then gave an audible growl. He hated it when people talked to him like that and he started to slowly get himself off the couch. "She worries about enough and now yah ask meh tah tell her more when she's already upset. Dese tings come out en dere own time and some wait until I'm gone."

"Gone, as in she could hear it from somebody else so you don't have to face whatever it is that is causing this? That's convenient," Thomas growled right back as the Chip made his way off the couch. "She shouldn't hear those things from someone else. Not after all of this. You don't have to tell me, but you sure as hell should tell her whatever else is going on for her sake and your own." This conversation was going somewhat like he figured, but all of these reasons why he was addicted were different than what he thought.

The longer the conversation lasted the more quite Illya got. Gradually he settled into a sort of frown and blank stare. He wasn't hearing much more of what was being said. Instead he was left staring at the wall as if it held some deep secret. There were a lot of things he didn't want to talk about and yet they seemed to be coming to the surface anyway. After a long while Illya shifted his gaze. "Yah jes go."

Apparently, Illya was done with the conversation and that was just as well. He felt bad for the man, and yet he knew pity was not something Illya would want. Yes, it would stress his daughter for a time but they would both be better if they came clean with one another literally and figuratively as it were. At his blank dismissal, Thomas clapped his hands on his knees and rolled to his feet. Crossing over into the kitchen he poured up another cup of tea, doused it in honey, and sat it before the man on the coffee table. "Drink that and think about it. I'm going to feed the animals." Then he gave Illya one last look as he strode out of the back door.

A sudden sharp clap made Illya jump slightly and he glowered at Thomas. The man was absolutely unbearable sometimes. Making a sudden sharp sound like that was just about as rude as a person could be. Thomas made a little more tea and Illya slowly sunk back into the sofa. He sipped at the tea until he felt his back slowly begin to loosen up some and the tension eased. Too much tension kept him unbearably sore, but the tea helped a little. Since the kids were napping, or out in the yard playing Illya closed his eyes for a few minutes and had an un-restful nap.

So many things were playing about in a horrible and imaginary way. Even after Illya woke up he could see blood on the floor and Kalizda nearly walked into Jonas. What was worse was the fact that there were pieces of some of his men barely hanging onto the rocks and he could feel the blood drying, and crusting on his hands. Rubbing at his hands he frowned and tried to get it off. It was everywhere and he cringed when Kalizda stepped on a chunk of flesh. Just the sound of it made him want to puke. Closing his eyes Illya groaned, "Uuuhhh no. Kalizda?" He was sure he'd seen her, but at the same time he was seeing a lot of other things and he knew the withdrawals hit hard last night, but he wasn't sure he should be seeing things. "Es everyting ok en dah house?" She seemed a little confused, but answered and he nodded his head, but kept his eyes closed. "Ok, I jes tink I dun want tah look at anyting right now."

After a while the vivid images faded and he managed to get through dinner without his stomach protesting too much. However, as night came his dreams returned with a vengeance. There were prying hands plucking at him and pulling. They were trying to get close and he felt them put their hands on his chest and whisper. He didn't want this. Other times they were rough and they beat him. Some of the images he couldn't even put words to. It was horrible and he relived it all. The parties, the cold nights on the ground, the starvation, the beatings, and far worse. Moving further and further away from the hands that sought after him, he finally felt himself on the edge. Could he really just end it here? Finally in a last effort he pushed at the hands and yelled, "Dun touch meh! I dun want et. Leave meh alone." Ducking his head under the covers he huddled there and tried to calm himself, but his breathing was still uneven. After a few seconds he heard the flick of a switch. They'd come back for him! Illya's eyes flew open and he pulled the blankets tight while he tried desperately to think of where he could go. It wasn't time to kill them yet, but he needed to do something. He couldn't handle them giving him one more beating, or forcing him to be with someone again.

Instead the nightmare began to fade and Kalizda was there in the bed with him. She was sitting at a distance and she had the light on. It was the look on her face that made him suddenly feel as if he'd been lying to her since the day they met. Illya wanted to hold her close and at the same time he was sure she wouldn't want to hold him after she knew. Was Thomas right? Should she really know now. Would it be easier for her to know this from him? If she didn't know until after he was gone would it hurt her more to know that he'd lied to her and hid from her so many things? They were all questions he knew the answer to, but he didn't like what it meant.

"Ah...Kalizda." Lowering his head some he pulled his blankets high enough to cover his face and began crying. He didn't like it when she saw him like that, but he couldn't stop either. Maybe it was the withdrawals, the pain, stress, or all of them. Illya didn't know and he wasn't sure that it mattered anymore. When her little fingers touched his shoulder he cringed some, but he didn't move away from her. Finally, Illya was able to stop crying and he remained hidden under the blankets. "Kalizda?" Waiting for her answer he managed to croak out a few words, "I need tah tell yah some tings."

She seemed to be quiet and for a moment Illya wondered if she was still there. Cautiously he let hand make a short exploratory mission to discover that she was still in the bed with him and he felt her fingers curl into his palm. Rubbing the back of her hand with his thumb he started off slowly in Quoti. "I didn't tell you that I had problems with addictions to many things starting after Lahna. I killed all those men and I felt terrible after that. There wasn't a choice. If they stayed there and we had no place else to put them they would begin killing all the children and our agreeds. It was a bad choice to make, but it had to be done. After that I drink more and more until it wasn't enough and then I started taking pills. Some of the pills made it easier and nobody said much. Pills were easy to get until after we were trapped on Quoti and then I drank and mixed herbs as much as I could. It dulled the pain, but it dulled many other things. Kalizda, I have addictions for almost all my life and they only got worse."

Illya stopped for a long moment. He didn't know if he should tell her anymore, but he knew if he didn't tell her now he'd know he was hurting her if she chose to stay with him and it would be his fault. "I..." Stopping again he sighed and then started again. "I didn't think I could make it without the medicine. There are too many things that bother me. I am very happy with you and the kids and I want to get rid of the medicine, but you should know something. Maybe you won't want me if you know this. If you don't tell me now and I'll know that I need the medicine for a while longer."

There was a nagging sort of feeling. Did he want to look at her when he said this? "Kalizda, there were other women and some men." Wincing at the words he decided he should look at her. He should know if she was going to leave him. "It wasn't my choice. As a slave they made me do a lot of things I didn't like. Outside of the slavery I never chose to be with another person like that." Illya only met her gaze for a short period of time before he quickly looked away again. "I know I'm selfish and I don't tell you this before, but it is difficult for me. It was not in my report because of the shame. No one knows about this. You don't like the desert, but I like it because I'm not cold there. Chippequoti can live in very cold places and not wear much, but I was made to sleep in the snow in just thin shirts and pants because they wanted to know how strong a Chippequoti body was. The Federation had many ways of testing and as a slave they enjoyed torment without killing." Glancing up to her face again he felt a growing fear. Would she be repulsed by him? She knew what he was now and it wasn't heroic in the least. Everyone outside seemed to think he was a hero of sorts, but they didn't know what it meant to be a 'hero' if this is what they thought a hero was. It was ugly and it was something he would have gladly run far from if he had been given a choice.


Curious Adventurer
The night was long. Miserable and long between the both of them tossing and turning, then with the kids slowly waking up in turn. Everywhere she turned someone was needing something from her. Even if she had the mind set to read something on her pad, continuous messages would filter in. Updates on Zkree movement, memos, needs of Kaereal. They all chimed through her tired head like a freight train adding to the sounds of Edgar fussing over breakfast Cypher talking to her about school. Lohgan was stamping her feet somewhere in the house. She just needed a minute to collect herself and it would be fine.

“I’m taking the kids to see Helena. They needs some time in the sunshine and it will be good,” she said to Illya blankly, “I’ll be back in a bit, yeah? Try to sleep some.”
She kissed his cheek lightly and tried not to touch his back. He had been in literal tears trying to get up his morning and she knew he was tender. Her fingers swept over his hair, smoothing the rumpled curls. It was hard to see him in this sort of state and something in her stomach turned over. It felt like a hard, jagged rock. It wasn’t fair to him that he should be enduring this. Swallowing down that heavy stone, she collected the children to walk to their great grandparents’ house in the hopes that would expend some of that rampant energy they seemed to have inherited from their father.

Calysta sat in the chair across from Helena and felt herself sink slowly into the soft, oversized cushion. Had she not had Cypher running around offering to help Edgar on the garden, Lohgan untying her boot laces rather than playing with the coloring page she had brought and Edgar plopped in her lap dozing while his brother was squeaking happily in Helena's arms...she might have been tempted to take a nap. A long one. Helena said something as she tickled Tomas' tummy and Calysta blinked slowly. "Hmm? Oh...fine..." She hoped it was a question about how everyone was doing because that's how she answered it. Nodding blearily, she rubbed at her dark rimmed eyes and sighed. "Just fine...nothing a nap wouldn't cure. That's all I need."

The older Chip woman gladly took one of her great grand babies in her arms. Tomas was a happy little baby and she grinned as she tickled his belly. "Ooh just like your daddy when he was little. Always ready for fun and a little laugh." She missed the days of having her own babies, but it was good to have this little great grandson in her arms. Kalizda made a somewhat mumbled response and Helena smiled gently, "Just a nap hmm...I thought you came here for a little more than that. If a nap is all you need I can watch the little ones for you." It was good that her grand daughter spoke in Quoti with her because her Trader's Tongue was not good.

Helena's words prickled at her just a little and a silence fell between them for awhile. What did she come for? What was expected of her. "I...I don't know what I need," she faltered, "I don't know..." Calysta rubbed at her eyes and sighed into her hands. "I haven't slept much. Neither has Illya. He's trying so hard. He just..hurts. And he has a right to given what happened. It's not his fault." Lohgan managed to unlace her shoe and began working on the other one. "Lohgan, go play on the garden if you aren't going to color, okay?" Her voice was strained and her girl gave a naughty face before stomping. "

It sounded like Kalizda was tired out. It wasn't anything new for a woman in her position, but perhaps it was a new idea for her to delegate some of the work. "Well, it sounds like you could use a little help then. What is everyone doing to help you? Even Lohgan is old enough to help with some chores."

"Lohgan helps in the kitchen, Cypher in the garden....I just..." the words wouldn't come out and her face turned red before she swiped at her eyes a little more angrily. "Its not their fault either and they are doing what they can. We wouldn't be doing this...we wouldn't be doing this if his back hadn't been broken. I know that's selfish and this needs to be done....he needs to get through this but he's struggling so much and I just...he's gone through enough. His own people did this. His own people and I hate it." Her eyes turned angry revealing a grey, stormy gaze and she worked her jaw. "So much pain and hurt and for what?"

"Ah, I see. You think if his back wasn't broke that you wouldn't be here asking for help." It was a nice idea, but misguided. Helena waited for a short moment. "It's alright to think that, but there are a lot of things going on. I think his back has only made it obvious to you. It is much easier to see physical pain than it is to see other kinds of pain. This doesn't mean he can't help you. Sounds like he doesn't have any chores at home. It's important to have him do something to contribute."

"I know he's hurting beyond that. I know," Calysta said almost out of frustration, "I want him to help around the house but I also don't want to make things worse. The bastards from Zkree almost killed him and the imperialist tried too. And I know that the men who did it are gone and I should be satisfied with that. Shouldn't I? Illya is alive. It makes no sense for me to be here and still be angry. None but I am." Her hands gripped the chair tightly and her entire body trembled with the effort.

Helena waited for a long moment. It wasn't entirely what she thought, but these sort of things rarely were. Kalizda was angry, not upset with Illya, but angry with the ones that hurt him. "Do you feel like maybe they stole something from you and Illya?" It sounded that way, but she wasn't about to jump to that conclusion without asking first.

Calysta hated herself for looking upset. That wasn't why she came here. Was it? Her eyes focused on Helena's wrinkled face and bright eyes looking back at her with more years of experience than she could fathom. "I haven't slept properly since the explosion and even less since the assassination attempt on him...but it was more than that. He's been pushing so hard and it has nearly destroyed his chances in Skycorp. He doesn't smile so much...we haven't...we doesn't matter. They took more than his physical health...they took my children's peace of mind and Illya's too."

Slowly the woman nodded and a gentle smile came to her face when she looked down at little Tomas. "Yes, it is terrifying to live in times of war. People do terrible things at the most unexpected time, but you can still see that you're children can experience happiness." Looking up to Kalizda she sighed, "Just stand by him and you'll find out Illya has quite a bit more fight in him. The more you demand the harder he fights. Sometimes when the one you loves starts to give up it is important to make sure they know you still need them. It helps them to fight a little harder."

Calysta was worried about Illya and perhaps what Helena said was true. He'd never once failed her or disappointed her. He'd always worked hard and she had to have faith in that. She needed to trust him more. He was already doubting himself and his ability to handle this. If anyone showed faith ans trust in him, it had to be her. Calysta swiped angrily at her eyes and gave Helena a more mild look...a less a angry one at least and her shoulders slacked. She thought about Illya for a long moment, sniffling slightly and then nodded. "You know....he um...he was the first person to call me beautiful. I dad did...but he doesn't really count...yeah?" It was a silly thing to pop into her head and she sighed. "I will try."

The poor little woman was overwhelmed and Helena let her speak her bit before she leaned forward. Resting a large, wrinkled, brown hand on Kalizda's knee she chuckled lightly, "Ooh, my sweet child. A father knows best when his child is beautiful. You were beautiful the day you were born and the gods preserved you for such a time as this." Nodding almost to herself she leaned back in her chair again and smiled. "Yes, you are beautiful. Illya is lucky to have you. You're faithful and you're loyal to him. Those are two traits he admires greatly. He would do anything you asked of him if it was truly important to you. You want him clean. It hurts, but he will do it. Don't worry my dear. I've heard the way he talks about you and I might have caught that look in his eyes a few times. He's most sincere in his assessment of your beauty."

Though she said something as silly as being called Beautiful, it was more so that he was her best friend and he saw her as she was. She wanted to do right by him and to support neck because he was her best friend and the idea of losing that was terrifying. Eleanor was right about him needing to get clean and even though it hurt and she knew he was doing it for her, she hoped that when he made it through he would have found her worth it. Men would have caved with such an injury and so many other injuries over that. They would have given in to the drugs and he was trying to heal without them in large part. "He's my best friend and I just want him to be happy." She let out a small, almost nervous laugh between sniffles and manage the week smile at the woman she called grandmother. " I must look a wreck right now. I'm sorry that I unloaded that on you. Thank you for listening, deyma."

It was good to hear that her granddaughter loved her grandson so much. "I gladly listen. That is what it is when you are an elder, but it is a special privilege of a grandmother. Kalizda, I love you like my own because you are part of my own flesh and blood." Bouncing little Tomas on her knee she watched the boy laugh for a moment. "You are bound with our people and it makes me happy to hear that you consider Illya your best friend. He works very hard for your approval because you are much more than a woman to him. Edgar and I will help all we can."

What she said was a comfort in a strange way. Not for single moment had the woman said she wasn't doing enough. She had reaffirmed that even at their lowest, Illya thought she was worth it. Even if it was painful or hurt too much. She was more than just a wife to him and he would try for her if for no other reason. He needed her help, yes, but she needed him. For once it wasn't a shy, almost sheepish thought to need someone. It wasn't her weakness, though, it was her strength. Calysta nodded as she leaned back with Edgar snoozing against her chest. "I am proud to be a Chippeqouti and Illya's agreed. To be considered your flesh and blood. You're my family." Her eyes were drooping some and she slipped a hand to Edgar's back rubbing gently as he snoozed. "Would be alright if I closed my eyes for awhile?"

Now that Kalizda was relaxed a little more Helena could see her granddaughter about to drift off. "You just take a little nap. We'll consider it part of the benefits of coming to visit. I get to steal the children away for a few and you get to rest."

Calysta slept like a dead woman in the plush chair and like little lost ducklings, her children slowly began to migrate around her when it was nap time. Edgar dozed in her arms, while Tomas was happy to stay with Helena and Lohgan plopped herself down on top of Calysta's thigh before curling up. Cypher was the last to give up and he chose to flop down face first on the couch for a mid afternoon nap in the sunlight. By the time she arrived home, Illya was still sitting on the couch. The kids rushed in ready to help Papa prepare for dinner and play outside before the sun went down. The nap she had stolen was enough to keep her moving for a little while longer and she stood alongside her father in the kitchen chopping vegetables for their stew without feeling like she was going to fall asleep at the counter. Every now and then her father would look over at her and his brow would crease. "I'm fine, Dad," she insisted in Terran, "Don't worry, yeah?" She had seen enough worried looked from her father to last a life time.

When the vegetables were done, she poured up another cup of tea for Illya and wandered into the living room. Her Chip had a deep frown on his face, which was understandable but his eyes were wide as if he had seen some thing wild. "Illya? I brought you more tea." His response was to ask if everything was okay in the house and his words were sluggish while his eyes slid over to her as though he were trying to focus and couldn't. "Aye, everything is fine." She used the back of her hand to check his temperature and found that he was a little warm. He was naturally warm though. Illya said he didn't want to see anything and she sighed some. Maybe Helena was right? "Try to get some rest, but...I'll need some help feeding the twins at dinner," she replied. There was no response from his blanket pile and she frowned, making a mental note to keep a closer eye on him through the evening.

That night, she climbed into bed more than ready to attempt sleep. She was fairly sure she would drop off into unconsciousness like she had at Helena's and even Illya's restlessness wouldn't wake her. That was proven wrong within the first few hours. Illya rolled over on his back away from her. It wasn't something he normally did but she let him do it. He was probably horribly sore and she didn't want to risk hitting a tender spot by accident. Instead, she crept a little closer to him and contented herself with a hand on his shoulder where it was safe. He shuffled away from her and in her half asleep state, her hand sought him out again only this time a hard slam shoved her hand back, making her yelp in both surprise and a touch of pain. "Dun touch meh! I dun want et. Leave meh alone." Illya was yelling wildly about not being touched and that was all the more she could stand. She turned on the light and found him curled up under the covers, cowering in absolute terror. He hadn't been this upset in a long time, if ever, and she was worried that if she pulled back the covers he might start swinging. What had gotten him this upset? Had she done something? Pushed too hard this afternoon by asking for help? Or were they both just tired and he was going through withdrawal? Rather than touching him, she kept her distance and rubbed at the hand he'd shoved off. It wasn't broken by any means, but it was jammed and none too pleasant.

Suddenly, he said her name and it came out a sob with more crying behind it. He cried and cried as she watched his shoulders shudder with the effort. Her own throat tightened up and she waited a long moment before daring to reach out to him. Her fingers had barely grazed his shoulder as his cries quieted a little. Illya didn't move away this time and that was good. A sniffle accompanied her name. "Aye," she croaked out, "I'm here."

Whatever had happened was terrible and she didn't know what to do other than to let him talk. I didn't tell you that I had problems with addictions to many things starting after Lahna. I killed all those men and I felt terrible after that...... Kalizda, there were other women and some men. What was he talking about? He seemed terrified that she would leave him but she didn't quite understand his muffled Qouti until he kept talking. It wasn't my choice. As a slave they made me do a lot of things I didn't like. Outside of the slavery I never chose to be with another person like that. Oh.

Calysta sat there quietly. It wasn't from lack of words so much as it was her throat was too tight to say them if she wanted. Her Chip had been through so much pain. All she wanted was to reach out to him and tell him. To say anything. The words wouldnt pass by her tightened throat and her eyes burned with stifled tears. A minute.ticked by. It might as well have been a year. What could she do? What could she say? Before she knew what was happening, she was leaning forward and her free hand wrapped up chastely around his shoulder as her other.hand brought his up to hold close between them like a little barrier between them as they hugged. "I'm so sorry, love," she sniffled into his chest, "I'm so sorry that happened to you. It's not your fault." Her words came out a croak but she kept trying. "I love you."

She moved in the bed and Illya tensed up. Was she going to get out of the bed and tell him she wanted to be separated? Instead she put an arm around as much of his shoulders as she could and he felt his entire back tighten up. Illya's jaw clamped shut and he let her move his hand around that she held with hers as she wanted. After the horrible dreams he could barely stand being touched, but at the same time it was his Kalizda and she was someone he chose for himself and he loved her. Gradually he relaxed and let her get as close as she wanted. With a sigh he let his shoulders slack some and then he let a few tears of relief fall. "Yah nut leaving meh?"

He was stiff underneath her at first and she wondered if touching him or hugging him had been a bad choice. She was committed now though, right or wrong move, and she stayed there just like that. After a long moment, he seemed relaxed a little bit more. His muscles went from bow strings to Slack under her fingers and more out of instinct than anything she began petting at his neck slightly. Eventually she glanced up to his tear stained face. More tears were stuck to his long lashes and he was looking at her with an unreadable expression. Then, out of all things, he asked if she was going to leave him. Her eyes widened some and then softened into a gentle gaze. "No, Illya," she whispered, "I love you and that includes your troubles. We made a promise to stick.together yeah? It's okay to talk to me."

Illya nodded when Kalizda said she was going to stay with him. He was more than relieved at this point. "Ok." Carefully sliding his hand out of her grasp he moved it to her back and decided to try holding her. Despite the initial discomfort of the entire situation he found himself relaxing a little more as he held her a bit closer to himself. Even if he was feeling stressed out and he was seeing things it still felt good to hold her. "I'm glad dat yah stay wit meh. Et hurts tah tell yah dis and et hurts tah quit dah drugs, but I want tah feel all dah happiness when I'm wit yah and dah kids." Looking down at her he tried not to let tears fall on her face and moved his hand from her back to wipe his eyes. "Dis es first time since I start drinking too much dat I tink I can live well witout someting tah dull meh mind."

A tentative hand escaped her grasp and lightly made its way around her back. She let him take his time and do as he pleased. This was his comfort, not hers, and he needed to set the pace. He wiped at his eyes and confessed something she had suspected for awhile but could never conclusively say. It didnt change some things though. "Illya," she whispered back, "I want you to be happy. And I know this is hard and it looks impossible but when we get through this I think it will be good. You'll be free to be happy like you want to be. The children love you and want you and so do I." Her chest ached for her Chip and all she could think.of to do was assure him things would get better.

Being close was good feeling and Illya relaxed a little more and moved his hand to her back to rub gently. "Yah want tah help meh and I dun want tah waste et. I will be free and I will live happy wit yah and dah children." He hadn't expected to ever get another family and he certainly hadn't expected that he would get to keep them after all this came out. "No matter how et hurts. I will do dis because I want et more den anyting."

"First time free since that year." She nodded and held him all the closer, hoping whatever comfort she was capable of was understood in her embrace. Silence passed between them and Calysta's tired mind drifted in and out of thoughts until one slipped from her mouth. "I know it wasnt easy, but thank you for telling me." Her grip grew a little tighter as she squeezed him some and then released. "You don't have to worry over it anymore."

The more she moved the closer the more comforting it became and Illya scooted a little closer despite the twinge of pain in his back. For a while they were quiet, but when Kalizda spoke he nodded and then answered, "Dis es jes someting yah know. I dun want tah say dis tah anyone else. Yah jes know now and and I get clean and we be happy togeter."

"Its not mine to tell," she replied, "We'll follow the steps.asked by the counselor and it will be okay." He was warm under her and the more he relaxed, the more relaxed she became too until she found exactly how.exhausted she really was. "We'll make it through together."

While Kalizda was talking a horrible feeling started to sink into his stomach and Illya shifted a little. He felt horrible and his back was hurting, but somehow his stomach was unsettled enough that he thinking perhaps he was in more pain than he thought. Suddenly he felt all his dinner start to creep up his throat and Illya pushed away from Kalizda and started to dash for the bathroom only to vomit a few inches in front of the toilet. "Ugh...I'm sick."

Before she knew it, she was being tossed off to the side of the bed in a frenzied haste. Before she could process what was really happening, other than the fact that she was launched into the mattress, she heard the distinct sound of wracking, then the splatter of vomit hitting the floor. Wincing, she stumbled to her feet to check the damage. "Aye," she said, looking over the.chunky puddle in front of the toilet. It was on his lips splattered on his feet and chest some too. Without hesitation, she grabbed the waste bin and tossed a wash cloth in the splash back, then handed it to him. "Its okay. Give it a minute then strip off your shirt. I'll wash you off first then you can at least be in bed."

Illya wiped the vomit from his lips with the back of his hand and then gingerly got to his knees so he could get out some cleaning supplies from under the sink. While he was trying to get some things to clean up with Kalizda came in and offered to clean him up. A sheen of sweat had started to cover Illya's entire body and he shook his head. "I jes clean dis up first." The first thing was soaking up the mess with disinfectant wipes and then tossing them into the garbage. He was almost done when another wave hit and this time he actually got to the toilet in time. The upcoming day at classes was already starting to sound long.

She started to try cleaning up the mess but he was insisting on doing it himself. It wasn't that she particularly wanted to clean up vomit, but he was already sick and she didn't even vomiting yet again plus, he was doing it the long way. After her second child she has just gone to buying a special disinfectant powder that would soak up vomit enough to sweep it up while also killing the germs. He started using disinfectant wipes instead an attempt to clean up after himself before throwing up in the toilet again. "Its okay. I have some stuff that will soak it up and make it easier." She reached underneath the sink and pulled out a container of natural powders, then began to sprinkle it over the remaining vomit. The powders did their work and fizzled slightly as they killed the germs. She rolled up her sleeves and settled a hand over Illya shoulder, rubbing gently as he retched again. When he was done, she let him breathe for a moment, then urged him to peel off his shirt. "It's alright. Easy to clean." Kneeling, she took one of the wipes and swabbed off his toes before grabbing another wash cloth and rising it with cool water. She rung it out and laid it over the back of his neck to combat the nausea. "Go ahead and take off your shirt when you can, yeah? Already this was shaping up to be a long night. It was hard seeing what the drugs had done to her Chip and what was more was knowing what had pushed him to that point. She wanted to hold him and tell him she was with him, but it would likely be cleaning out the puke bucket for the night. "It's okay."

Whatever Kalizda grabbed out from underneath the sink Illya didn't know, but it was much more effective. It felt strange to somehow know that he was the helpless one in this situation and still have her there without making him feel like he should do more. Illya wanted to do more and he was frustrated at his inability to do a lot of things between the back pain and the sickness from the withdrawals. When he'd finally finished the second round of puking he pulled his shirt off and then stared back into the toilet intently. He was still wondering if he should move away from it. After a few minutes he decided there wasn't anything else and used the rag from the back of his neck to make a quick wipe down of his chest with a little soap. That would have to be good enough for now. He was tired and he wanted to go back to sleep. Grabbing the bucket, Illya slowly shuffled back to the bed.

Illya wandered back to his bed and she finished cleaning up the wipes and the toilet along with sweeping the floor. On her way back to the bedroom from downstairs where she had put the broom, she checked on all the children. They were all sleeping soundly at least. She swept up the crystalized vomit and some how her mind wandered over what he had told her. The thought of it made fresh tears prick at her eyes and she swept them away. A small sob came out when she couldn't hold that back anymore and all she could do was clamp a hand over her mouth to stifle the sound. Her knees sank slowly until she was sitting on the edge of the tub, eyes clamped shut and mouth covered, refusing to make a sound. She knew that happened to slaves. She knew it had nearly happened to her on more than one occasion, but hearing it from him made her chest ache horribly. He was counting on her to keep it together and he trusted her with something so hurtful it had took him this long to come anywhere near it. Swallowing hard, she collected herself and went back into the bedroom.

He threw up the entire night, which given how upset he was and how much he was detoxing was made sense. All she could do was get up every now and then to empty his puke bucket and get him some water along with a cold rag. When the time came that they had to get up to prepare for flying to Kinte, she asked if he wanted to go. Of course, he insisted on going. Calysta wasn't sure if she should stop him or not, but he was determined and that was something at least. Illya was thoroughly miserable looking and she knew neither of them had slept properly in weeks. Still, she put a little make up on the bruise forming over her hand then packed up Lohgan and the twins before hauling them along with Illya to the docks. The flight out to Skycorp was filled with exhausted silence, save for the cooing sounds of her boys toddling around the living room. Calysta had never been more grateful for auto pilot. There was no way she should fly the ship manually with how tired she was.

When it came time for Illya to descend down the gang plank toward the Skycorp compound, Calysta walked with him in the morning light and stopped them right in front of the gate. Normally, she would have kissed him good bye but this time she wasn't sure if touching him was a good idea. He hadn't wanted to be touched really last night, and though she had hugged him, the embrace had been less than relaxing for him. Instead, she smiled tiredly up him and offered over his lunch container along with his back pack. Her eyes caught on his, holding him there, and she nodded. "Hey," she said gently, "Make it through today and i'll come pick you up at the end of it. We can walk home together." Swallowing, she put the bags into his big brown hand and patted his knuckles. "I am glad you're mine, Illya, and I've never been more proud to be right where I am with you." With that, her smile brightened some and she sent him into class hoping he would be alright.


Anonymous Me
Of course the next morning was an early one and Illya got up as slowly as he could without making him and Kalizda late. He only needed to pack a few things. He would needing his boxers this week so he wouldn't shock anyone too badly. No need to go traipsing into the water for this practical in nothing, but his skin. Somehow the packing felt like a blur and he found himself dizzy and sick feeling in only a few minutes. Instead of finishing the packing for himself he watched helplessly as Kalizda took care of it for him. Regardless of how badly Illya wanted to be the man and do these things for himself he ended up laying down and trying not to puke while Kalizda packed the things out to the ship and left the twins in their crib. All he had to do was wait for her to bring the ship in closer to the house and then he'd walk himself in with the twins. He could do at least that much.

Gradually the sick feeling left and Illya managed to get himself up and gather the twins. With one boy under each arm he wobbled unevenly toward the ship. His right leg was hurting and he was almost sure he could feel his prosthetic throbbing. Inside the ship Illya put the twins into a crib again, stripped his clothes off and laid in the bed. Kalizda came back to the bed with him and the two of them let the ship guide them to port on autopilot.

Normally Illya would have gotten up with Kalizda to run the trajectory for landing, but he didn't feel well enough to get up and try it and Kalizda was letting the ship do the work for her too. While the ship made the auto calculations for the landing Illya got up and put on his clothes on. He would have to put his boxers on and his Skycorp jumpsuit. The band on the boxers put some pressure on the incision in his back, but it wasn't so bad now as it had been. By the end of the day he would know if it was something he could do all day again tomorrow. With his eyes in a squint, hair ruffled, and sheet marks on his face he limped slowly into the kitchen of the ship. Kalizda handed him a lunch bag and his pack. He could carry that technically and he was going to have to. She offered his cane too, but he didn't want that. "Nah, I will be fine eh?"

With his lunch bag and pack of things he would need Illya walked down the plank of the ship and walked toward the gates. He realized after a few moments she had landed them in the handicapped spot. It was nice he didn't have to walk far, but he certainly wasn't a cripple. At least not that he was willing to admit. Just as Kalizda was turning to leave she decided to give him a hug and then she saw him off. Illya stopped at the gate briefly to show his id card and then he glanced back at Kalizda. Once he was inside the gate Illya was going to have a bit more walking to do. At the guard gate he glanced at the clock and decided he had to run.

There was barely enough time to get himself into the Skycorp complex. Illya was at least walking this week and he limped heavily on his way to the role call area. There was a chance he would barely make it, or he might be a few seconds late, but he couldn't very well do much about it. That was until he saw Swyft only a few feet in front of him and he knew he didn't want to be the last one to arrive. With as much effort as he could muster Illya broke into a light jog and quickly passed the instructor despite his uneven gate even when jogging.

Swyft continued on his path, pad in hand and on his way to the morning attendance formation. The weekend had been far too short and he knew some were bound to be late from the party scene in town, at least some of the young Kaereleans would be. Foriegners sometimes didnt like the party scene on Kinte. As he was walking he heard the sounds of an uneven gait trotting along behind him. He didn't turn back to look but allowed the Runner, whoever they may be, to pass him on his left. It was probably somebody running late from the bars and didn't know who they were running beside. He liked to catch them off guard when they passed him like . They let them know he was always paying attention even if it looked like he wasn't. As it was a large Shadow passed over the ground and it led straight to a large man he immediately recognized as the Chip. Cadet Blackwolf was hobbling his way ahead toward the classrooms. He swallowed the order to stop and raised a brow for a moment. The man was mighty determined to make it there. He didn't slow his steps to allow him to gain a lead but began jogging slowly behind him.

Illya heard an odd clop behind himself and he turned his head slightly to see Swyft was going to make him work for it. His stomach hurt from all the puking, but he wasn't going to let that stop him. When he turned the corner on the hall he charged ahead a bit faster for a little sprint to the classroom. There was a little cone in the hallway and he wasn't sure what it said because it was written in languages that took more than a glance for him to recognize. However, he quickly discovered it meant a wet floor and he slid toward the doors to the classroom. Slamming into the doors he felt the left door give way and it groaned as his weight caused it to bend the hinges and break the door away from the frame. Catching the door before it fell Illya hissed under his breath. "Damn et. Dey make everyting so cheap dese days." The doors were supposed to swing out, not in, but running into it shouldn't have broken it. Illya carefully propped the door up again and figured he'd let Swyft discover the broken door.

Swyft fought a small smirk as the Chip increased his speed through the breeze way and into the building before turning the corner out of sight. Not a second later there was the screech of boots and a heavy thud along with some metallic clanging. Frowning, he turned the corner and found the Chip leaning a door against the wall and quickly walking away. There were scuff marks on the freshly mopped floor right beside the sign. It didnt take much to figure out what happened. This time, Swyft stopped and called out to the cadet. "Cadet Blackwolf," he said, his voice echoing down the hall, "Halt."

Before Illya got much further he heard the order to stop and at first he felt a momentary bristle of indignation rise. He was still getting used to taking orders again and especially from someone not Chippequoti. Stopping in place he turned and looked straight at the instructor. More than likely he was going to be ordered to fix the door, or he'd be ordered to hold it open and still be late for role call because Swyft would arrive first in that case.

Swyft walked with purpose over the wet floor and up to the Chip with an unreadable expression on his face as he approached. When he came within a proper talking distance he folded his hands at his front, noting the brightness in the man's eyes. He was staring back and was certainly not thrilled he had been ordered to stop. "Cadet Blackwolf, it appears you've broken the fire door in the hallway," he said. Then man would have had to be a practical cannon ball to manage that, and Swyft vaguely wondered how heavy he was. "You're familiar with the policy of broken equipment here on the compound. This evening you will fix it and you will pick one member of your team to help you. Pick the one you feel would be most suited for assistance." A chime rang out from his pad and Swyft glanced down at his pad. "Hm. Seems I'm running a bit late myself. Probably about 5 minutes late."

Overall the circumstance wasn't as bad as it could have been. Illya saluted when Swyft finished and he moved the door the hallway. More than likely nobody would want to mistakenly have it fall on them. His back spasmed with the effort involved in moving the door and he leaned it against the wall before walking into the classroom for role call. Glancing down at his hands he saw blood on them and he wiped at his right hand a few times and then his left. It wasn't wiping away and so he rubbed his hands on his uniform and the blood was still dripping. Momentarily he could feel himself start to panic. He was bleeding everywhere and he didn't know where from. Then it occurred to him that his name had been called out and he answered, "Here."

Swyft let the Chip go and walked casually into the bathroom to take a piss. He didn't like admitting it, but the sudden urge was becoming a more frequent occurrance, even if this time he was partially letting the cadet get to his space. Getting older was for the birds. When he was done, he washed his hands and walked out. If the man hadn't made it there by now, he wasn't going to. When he came in, he saw the instructor giving the Chip a strange look as he he echoed 'here' in Traders Tongue. Blackwolf was practically squirming in his jumpsuit but from the adjacent angle he couldn't tell why. "Cadet Blackwolf is there a problem?"

When Illya looked back down the blood on his hands were gone, but he had another question directed at him and he shifted in his seat again. His back was hurting even in the short time he'd been sitting and his leg was practically on fire right down to the knee. The rest of it was metal and he wished he could somehow take it off and use it to cool the rest of his leg. "Ehmm." Closing his eyes for a second Illya did his best to calm himself and give some sort of coherent answer. "No, sir. Dere es nut problem."

"Good," Swyft said. He could very well tell the man had something wrong as he circled around the class room. Probably a fair amount of pain along with some other issues he figured might crop up. Still, the man was standing there and he wouldn't call out the Chip beyond that in front of his peers. " At the end of this week, you will be taking your first shot at the flight simulators. Each individual will be given a task to work at while in the simulator. Passing marks at all three stations will be required before you move on to actual craft. Additionally, there will be a seminar on New World diplomacy in your Alliance Legal Course. A guest speaker has agreed to teach this seminar and the information she gives will be on your final exam."

It sounded like the week was busy and he was already behind. Illya hated to think of the worksheets he had built up in some of his other classes. He had the math done and good bit of the science, but he still had the history and languages to complete. Those were going to be difficult for him to do until they got to the last 100 years of history. The last 100 years of history he remembered very well and he could probably tell them almost everything that happened without having to look at the books. Still, he felt sick and exhausted just thinking of what he had to get done this week to be ready for the practicals in the ship before he could get on a real one with his team mates. Glancing around the classroom Illya could see his team mates were looking a little worried. They probably thought he wasn't going to make it and he would hold them back, but he was determined not to. At last the role call and morning speech was over and they could begin moving toward breakfast. Illya wasn't hungry, but he still had more homework he could do while the others were busy eating.

Swyft ended his notations as he did every day, then exited to allow the cadets to go about their day. He would be keeping a closer eye on the Chip through the day. He didn't want the man to fail out, but there was still a large amount of work he had to catch up on, and the commander was well aware of the scores the cadet had earned in the subjects he was missing. There was a long road ahead. When everyone scattered into the cafeteria for breakfast, Wynry and Tiberius wandered over with their trays- the Terran flopping down his tray a little more roughly than than his female teammate- and sat with Illya who looked as if he were armpit deep in work. "Don't mind him," Wynry said to Illya, "Hes just in a foul mood is all." An awkward moment of silence passed as Tiberius poked at his oats and Wynry stared at Illya until finally, she broke the silence again. "You know we could help you with that, right?"

With his pack still on Illya wandered into the cafeteria and found his usual center of the bench near the north wall. Once he was seated he began pulling out his heaps of paperwork. He would turn in all the math to Swyft before the next class and what he had of his science. For now he was going to work on the history because it was the next subject he wanted to make progress in. When his classmates sat across from him they seemed a bit out of sorts, but he was going to ignore them for now. Instead of getting peace and quiet he heard the question from Wynry and stared at her for a long moment. "Eh, I dun tink yah help meh right now. Yah eat and I maybe have help later."

Wynry looked to Tiberius, perplexed and at a loss for a moment, but the Terran didn't look up. Instead, he made himself busy poking at his oatmeal as if to keep it from getting up from the bowl and crawling away. Frowning, Wynry looked back to Illya with more determination. "That is alot of work," she said, "Getting some help sooner might be better. We are a team, after all."

There was another offer again and Illya grit his teeth slightly. He was doing his best to be polite, but he didn't know if it did well. It was so much easier to be direct because at least there wasn't any mistaking what he meant. Meeting Wynry's gaze he sighed, "Yes et es. Yah eating breakfast now and I dun see how yah can help when yah eating. I'm working on dis and I'm jes as fast going trough et alone as I am ef yah stare at meh while yah eat."

Wynry stared back at him stubbornly then let out a long breath through her nose before grabbing up her tray. She snatched up the omne juice cup and downed it, then stalked off into the cafeteria with the rest of her food. It was only Wynry's reaction that made Tiberius look from his well-dead oatmeal. "Take it easy on the kid," he grunted at Illya, "Ever since you've been out, she's been trying to think of ways to keep the team going and you from flunking out of here. She doesn't want to see you fail anymore than she wants to fail herself. You're all she'll talk about sometimes." The Terran was sure part of it was just old fashioned hero worship with a little crush, though he and the Chip both knew that was her youth showing more than anything. "She looks up to you." Wynry would flay him for talking about her like she was a kid if she heard it, but it didn't make it any less true and luckily her hearing was terrible. About that time, Wynry returned without a tray and chewing a large amount of food in both of her cheeks. The woman swallowed and then crossed her arms at Illya. "I'm done. Let's study."

Momentarily the girl seemed to show some irritation and Illya couldn't blame her. In many ways he felt the same about this whole thing. It wasn't as if he could change the fact that his back had been broken and the arm only a short time before that. These had been difficult weeks and he didn't like that he was behind. Tiberius grouched at him some and he sighed. "Fine, I jes remember dat and I know dat yah look up to meh because yah shorter." The attempt at humor was a bad one, but it was all the better that Illya could do for now. Turning back to his work he filled out a few little boxes and named some of the stars that were left blank. He'd memorized the map and that was coming in handy. Suddenly Wynry re-appeared and she was determined to help him study. Illya shoved his pile of homework toward her and grumbled, "Peck what yah like tah have meh start on."

Tiberius rolled his eyes and went back to stabbing at his oatmeal as Wynry plopped down and shuffled the papers over to her. They were organized by subject but not much else and some of his Alliance lae was scattered and hadnt been touched. Not that she expected it to be. He wasnt much for those classes and those would be harder. "Here. These first. There's that test coming soon and you need the practice. You don't need to know these...not really. But this have to know." She pulled a pen from her pocket and began to circle the important bits. "You've got to study smarter, not harder." Wynry went through paper after paper and then got on her pad. "These are the hypotheticals we need to know for the role exercises."

"Wu..." Illya stared helplessly as Wynry started to mark things on his many pages. "I dun know how tah study. Chippequoti always memorize."

Wynry's eyes went wide as saucers and her fingers paused over her pad before she glanced at Tiberius. "Did he just say-" Tiberius sighed. "-That he's been memorizing entire courses this entire time? Yes." Her eyes shifted back to Illya and she shook her head in absolute shock. "Oh dear Goddess." Running a hand through her blonde hair, she closed her eyes and took a deep breath. "Okay. To make it through this...forget memorizing. You wont remember it in enough time. There is too much in too little time." She plucked the paper he was working on out of his hand and looked at it. "Studying is about knowing what to focus on more than anything. Like this....see... this is minor here. Just a bylaw. If you know the whole concept. You don't need to memorize. You can reason it out."

"Yah teach meh." Grabbing one of the papers Illya pointed to it with a dark, thick index finger. "I learn tah study like dis and den I dun have to memorize so much eh? I already memorize dah stars and most of dah science, but et es easy now."

Wynry's eyes went wide again. She wasnt a teacher, not really. How did one go about teaching a grown man well over 4 times her age how to do the simple things, like study for a test? She wiggled her nose slightly and then nodded. "Okay, I'll teach you, but its not an over night thing. If you already know they planets, thats good. We're going to focus more on what you dont know. See this here? In Alliance Law? You need to know the big picture and basic rule to these. If they ask a specific question, it may not be stated in memorizing the rule itself, but knowing what they are as a whole. Like a formula. You know the basic can solve many types of problems with it." She had no idea if any of that was making sense but she looked at the paper he was working on and shook her head. "Harder subjects always come first."

"I like tah show progress." Illya held up the stacks of the papers he had already done. "Now I have tah work on dah hard stuff eh?" He wanted to get this over with and catch up. "I know one law of Alliance well. Yah dun kill oters." That was easy and he knew it should have been basic, but he didn't know it till he was told as much.

"We can work on the easy stuff later when you need a break from the hard stuff," Wynry replied. A small smile came to her lips when he mentioned the one rule he did know in the Alliance. "Aye, there is no death penalty here. There was a very long time ago, but the rule was abandoned in favor of life imprisonment which includes labor like building civic buildings, farming, and other things." Tiberius gave up prodding at his now cold food and shrugged. "On Terra, they had no problem shooting up with lethal injections for crimes. They used to use electrified chairs." Wynry winced at the words. It was no wonder the man left his homeworld once the Tannas had gained a foothold. "That's horrifying." Tiberius didn't seem entirely concerned by it and pointed to the papers. "Don't pretend Kaereleans didn't have the death penalty once. They used to drop people right out of the sky into the Wilds. A long drop with a sudden stop into poison gas where animals can eat your carcass." Wynry shot the Terran a look. "I know that. We do not do that anymore here, not after the Great War 500 or so years ago." Turning to Illya, she tilted her head. "No death penalty, and citizens are entitled to the protection and list of rights you'll find in that paper there. You need to know those rights, and be able to identify when they are being violated. You also need to know the protocol for talking with non-alliance people." Tiberius chuckled and looked at Illya. "Pretty sure he already knows what not to do. His wife broke one of the biggest codes in there."

All the talk about the different death penalties and the past put Illya at a bit of a loss. He didn't know that much about any of their cultures and he wasn't entirely sure that was something he cared to know about. There were ways they could be much worse and they only seemed to follow their rules when it suited them. Glancing at the codes Illya shrugged. "I dun know dese. Kalizda jes tells meh ef I break a rule, or she tells meh dat I have bad idea because et breaks a rule."

"Well, you're going to know them after today," Wynry replied with a raised brow, "You wont have to ask your Kalizda when you know them. Start with the list of basic right...the freedom of thought...marriage..,expression..movement....public assembly...the ownership of property. Then we'll go over Skycorp specific rules. Suchas, before engaging alien species in battle, any and all attempts to make first contact and achieve nonmilitary resolution must be made." She patted his arm and then plucked up the papers just as the bell rang signaling their first class of the day. "We'll work more on it this afternoon after PT, yeah?"

Gradually a frown came to Illya's face. He didn't understand why she patted his arm. It was as if she thought somehow he was incapable of achieving some things. "Achieving a non-military resolution? Et would all be non-military ef I was involved now. I'm retired from dah military because dey say dat I'm nut fit tah serve anymore. Damn Alliance rules."

Tiberius smirked slightly for the first time in days. If anyone knew how discharge went, it was him, but he knew their Kaerelean teammate would view that differently. "Those rules are there for a reason," Wynry replied, "Besides being in Skycorp isn't entirely civilian. Sometimes we're commissioned out on diplomacy work. It's not all that bad." She studied him for a moment as she gathered up his papers. "You would still want to go back into the military, even now?"

The girl tried to sound like she knew what she was talking about, but Illya knew she hadn't an idea about war, or the military. "Dah reasons are because yah people dun know war as well as dey tink dey do. Yah history say dat yah at peace because yah find too much destruction, dere es much more den dat. Even ef yah people nut fight dah Federation dere would be war en time. People get greedy and dey want more. Dat es how Chippequoti end up in trouble. Dey ask for dere wages from serving dah miners as protection and when dey dun get et, dey start a war tah get what money dey were owed. I almost died for dat money and I dun tink I would go back to dah military now. Nut for dose reasons. Ef I would go back et would be tah make sure we kill every last Federation we could find and make sure dere will be safety from dem, but I would do et for meh family first. Ef yah fight, yah learn tah fight for dah ones dat matter most."

Wynry wasn't sure what to make of his reply. It was short, a bit accusatory, and not entirely wrong all in the same moment from what she could hear of it. She stared at him for a moment, unsure of what to say and clammed up until she thought about how to reply. "I think if we are going to fight for anything, family would be the best reason. Wars over money make a waste to people's lives that are lost. Kaereal may not have known war for a long time, but I can say that the cause was for a bigger goal than payment of a contract. An empire sought to make people slaves, and the people fought back for their lives.The destruction the conflict caused shocked all our peoples into peace." The she lapsed into silence as she gathered up his things and helped stuff them back into the folder. When the papers were in his folder, she handed it off to him and grabbed up her back pack, tossing it over her shoulder. "Excuse me." Without much else to say, she walked toward the door in her usual brisk pace.

Why she walked off so quickly Illya didn't know. He took the folder of his homework pages and slowly put them back in his pack. Glancing at Tiberius he shrugged, "I dun know what makes her so touchy. What did I say?"

Tiberus grabbed up his own back pack and his tray of uneaten food, taking only a final glance at Wynry as she slipped out of the door. "Probably somewhere in implying her people don't know war, and just the fact that she is a woman. War I can help you with, women...are a far greater challenge altogether. Your guess is as good as mine on that one."

"Huh, I dun imply her people dun know war, I jes say dey dun know et." Illya grabbed his pack and he winced some. "So uh...I break fire door dis morning. I have tah peck a team mate tah help meh fex et. Yah help meh and Wynry make sure dat we bot study while we work eh?"

How he had lived with a woman so long with such blunt words was beyond Tiberius. Had that been him saying those types of things, there would have been no end to the fussing or cussing. Or both. He was about to say something when Blackwolf mentioned something about a door needing a repair. That sounded about right for the Chip. "Yeah, I'll help. Not like I have better things to do anyways," he half joked. He wouldn't be talking to his former sweetheart in the evenings anymore and that left his afternoons depressingly open to anything else.

The reply was a bit more nonchalant than Illya expected and he shrugged a little. "Well, dat's only cause yah dun plan better tings. Yah get lazy and ef yah nut careful yah get fat too."

Tiberius snorted dryly and started toward the door. "Well, in the event that does happen at least I'll have you to remind me not to get fatso," he smarted back, half in jest. "C'mon or we'll be late and you move like a snail right now. We'll fixed your damned door tonight."

"Yah might be slow too ef yah back was broke only little over 2 weeks ago and yah leg hurt." Gimping toward the classroom Illya winced again. His back was starting to have spasms and he felt like puking again. For that brief moment a sweat broke out over his upper lip and then he started to feel cold. Those fevers and chills were miserable. Stepping into the classroom behind Tiberius he glanced at his desk in the back and decided to lay on the floor in the back of the classroom and nap through the navigation lecture. He knew this stuff well enough he didn't have to be awake for it.

The floor felt cool under his back and at first that was nice and quickly dozed off. Within a short time the floor felt too hard and cold and he shifted a little to find the floor even colder elsewhere. With a dissatisfied grunt he moved back to his original spot. Somewhere in his blissfully unaware state someone was trying to talk to him and Illya mumbled in his sleep, "Goo away...." They insisted and he pushed at them with one of his hands, "Shhh let meh sleep." Despite his efforts to convey the importance of the nap the intruder insisted again and he sat up bleary eyed. To his slight embarrassment he discovered it was Wynry and Tiberius. Gathering up his lunch sack he dropped it into his pack and then struggled to get off the floor. His leg certainly didn't feel better and he had one heck of a time trying to get his back to bend much. He had flexible rods, but they didn't allow quite as much motion as he would normally get without them. "Ugh..damn rods are making meh back stiff." Finally, Illya had to get on his hands and knees before he could get up. He felt like a ridiculous old man, but his choices were limited.

Of course the next class he had to be awake for and then they had lunch. Before the end of the day everyone had physicals to do too. With the end of the week being the start of simulations Illya had to get checked along with his team. It all sounded overwhelming, but he was going to take it one step at a time. Illya slowly drifted toward the walls of the hallway to lean on for his walk to the next class and when he got there he couldn't help wincing at the thought of standing at his desk, or sitting for the entire period.

It was a long language class that he fumbled through and scribbled in Quoti all over on the short quiz. This was supposedly the quiz to allow students to know what they needed to brush up on before the exam. The results would get posted by the end of the day and Illya knew what his results would be, he needed to brush up on all of it. With lunch finally being close Illya drug himself through the halls toward the cafeteria and gingerly found his usual seat. "Uurrrmmm..." Groaning a little he leaned back to grab his pack and take the lunch sack out of it.

In the top of the lunch sack Illya found a little note. "If you're reading this, it's lunch time, and that means you're only a few hours away to coming home! Have a good rest of your day and I love you. -Caly-" A slight smirk spread across Illya's face when he read it. He was only a few hours...until he had to fix that damn door, but after that he could go home. Somehow that little strip of paper seemed to draw undue attention and several people at the table leaned in to look at it. A few chuckled and Tiberius snorted, but then turned to teasing him about getting notes in his lunch bag like a little boy. Frowning a bit Illya glanced at Tiberius. "Meh moter never write notes for meh lunch bag. She jes peck meh up and kiss meh in front of all dah oter boys when I go tah school meh first day. Dis es nice, but I dun mind a kiss anymore and especially nut from meh Kalizda." About time he finished the explanation Illya realized he hadn't had a kiss from Kalizda since she found out about his past. Did she find him repulsive now and she was staying with him out of a sense of duty? It was an alarming thought and he grew somber and quickly finished his lunch before shoving the note in his jumpsuit pocket.

For the PE time Illya walked and jogged intermittently. He wanted to show improvement, but his leg and back were not permitting. Since he was quitting the drugs his stub of a leg was hurting a lot more and metal keeping the prosthetic attached to him hurt every step. Taking deep breaths and letting them out slowly he tried to relieve some pain that way, but it only worked to a point and then he gave up and sat down in the middle of the field before gingerly laying back. He didn't care if he got dirt on himself. After a few minutes Illya slowly got to his hands and knees and then up again and walked over to the beginning of the field. Looking at Swyft he tried to grin though it was more of a grimace. "I improve and I walk dis week. Next week I run." The next week would be 4 weeks since his surgery and he was sure he could run by then. All he needed was to take it slow during the weekend and sleep when he could. "I am dismissed tah go get meh physical eh?"


Walking to the medical bay took long enough that Illya was there just in time to line up with a few others that were already appearing. There was a line of technicians and instruments that they used. When one of them saw him walk in they grabbed a small manual. It was apparently something that they needed to have to know if things were normal for him, or not. They hadn't had a Chip before and they wanted to know. The technician followed him through to get measured for height and marked a little box stating he was short for his race, but tall for Skycorp standards. The man at the scale sighed irritably as he stared at his screen without ever looking up. "How many times do I have to tell you kids not to try and prank me. One a time!" When the scale didn't change and a round of giggles went through the room he looked up and then murmured a few words under his breath as he had the attendant come over and mark on Illya's chart where he was at for Skycorp and Chip standards.

The entire process felt a little bit like he was a chunk of meat to be assessed and Illya hated the flashing light test. With his history they had him lay down and he waited for the lights to start. Within seconds he had a blinding headache and he lose track of time, but he didn't convulse. A slight shaking at his shoulder snapped him back to reality and nodded to the man, "Yeah, I'm ok." With his testing done he stumbled out of the exam area and went to find the door. Someone left all the materials he would need sitting next to it and now all he had to do was wait for Tiberius to arrive to help and Wynry to quiz him on all the things he didn't know.


When it was finally time to get home Illya was tired out and completely exhausted. Kalizda was waiting for him and she looked tired, but she walked. As glad as Illya was to see her, he didn't want to walk. Instead of trying to make it all at one time he nodded toward a park. "Maybe we sit for a while eh?" That while turned into a long while because Kalizda fell asleep nestled in close. All while she was sleeping against him he debated if it was for the need of sleep, if she actually would get that close to him if she knew she was doing it. She'd never lied about these things before, but it was starting to make him wonder about this circumstance. She was a good woman, but perhaps she couldn't look past this.

As soon as Kalizda woke up she moved away from him. It stung deep in his heart. He wanted her to love him the same. She said she did. This didn't look like it at all. "Et's alright." With a pained smile Illya slowly got up off the bench and he offered her a hand. Was it right to ask her? He wanted to. This wasn't the place. It would have to wait until they got home.


Curious Adventurer
Calysta left Illya at the gate, watching his back as he turned to go into the compound. When we he disappeared out of sight, she sighed and returned to the ship where the twins were awake in their cribs and grumpy for breakfast. Calysta fed them using their high chairs and took her time teaching them how to use the little utensils, just as she had taught Cypher and Lohgan. "Up into the mouth," she chuckled to Edgar. He had a tendency to get impatient with his fork and knife then abandon them in favor of inhaling his apple sauce or anything else as fast as he could. "Chew..." It was slow work that took patience but she didn't mind. She normally got an hour of sweet play time with the twins before they went down for their nap with full bellies. "Ten little toes like little Wild Beetles scurry in the sand.." She tickled each of Tomas' tiny toes making him squeal with laughter and then turned to Edgar. "Ten little fingers like birds in the wind..." She clapped Edgar's plump hands together to make the pleasing sound he liked then went again, naming things as she sang slightly off key. Of course, it was hard to believe they were more than a year old now and starting to jabber among themselves in a mix of Qouti, Kaerelean and Traders tongue. Every now and then she was sure she caught them communicating two each other with grunts and waves of their fists.

Once they were down for their nap she could work as she needed to. Ever since the failed attempt at negotiations with the rebels on Zkree and the appearance of a man claiming to be Essod, things had been difficult. Six had been cooperative which sounded nice but also made her look at him doubly hard. He was giving as much as he knew to intercept Zkree codes and reestablish contact with the rebels. Supposedly. But she had not been able to verify that information yet and she couldn't trust Six. He could give them codes to a channel that would feed them false information for all she knew right now. The man claiming to be Essod was also suspicious. At no point before their sudden radio silence did they mention him coming to Kaereal and it seemed more the convenient that the rebel second in command should appear as he did. Six had said there was no way Essod would leave his people behind. Still, it wasn't enough evidence to discount that this man was the real Essod and if she did anything counter it could hurt relations with the rebels. She told neither prisoner that she had the other in custody either. She pondered these questions and more as she worked on her daily tasks and also preparing her lecture for her seminar at Skycorp. Some policies had changed and she had to brush up on them, but by and large they were the same.

By the end of the day, she had most of it done and had cleaned up the ship too. She changed the sheets on their big Chip bed and made it carefully. Illya had been sweating moreso than usual prompting the need to wash them more frequently to avoid the white sweat stains and stink. It took only a few minutes to replace the old ones with new ones she picked up that were airy. Better than cotton or fibers woven from the grasses. They had come all the way from the colonies and Priscilla had suggested them after seeing the bedding laundry two weeks prior. They were very soft and light which she liked. Once the entire ship was clean, she ensure that the children were asleep for their afternoon nap then set out to meet Illya at the gate. She hoped he found her note and it made things a bit better. It would be hard to resist the urge to kiss on him. Only the night before had he confessed what had happened and while they had hugged...and he seemed okay with it...she wasn't entirely sure he was positive about that statement. It would be better to let him come to her with his comfort level. They hadn't been doing any of their normal activities in any department since he was injured and gone to counseling. Their nights had been struggles to sleep and their morning time was just the struggle to get the day started after a night with no sleep. Sighing to herself, she ignored that prickle in her chest. The one that told her what a touch of sadness and loneliness felt like. "I'm fine," she said to herself as she walked up to the gate, "Just fine."

* * * * * * * * *

"You're doing it wrong," Wynry sighed, "The pinion goes the other way."

Tiberius grunted and looked at her with no small amount of irritation. "I used to diffuse bombs for a living. I think I know how to build a door." That earned him a pointed look to which he replied. "Do you want to build the door, and I'll quiz you?"

Wynry hopped up from her seat on the floor and shoved her pad into Tiberius' hands before looking to Illya. "Let's show him how to build a door."

She sat down next to Illya instead and began screwing in the hinge side of the door next to him so it was assembled properly. "Quiz me, Tib."

"How many parsecs per galactic mark does it take using light speed to release a standard scout ship from the pull of a black hole?" Tiberius looked at the two of them with a challenge in his eyes and waited.

"Trick question," Wynry answered, "It takes .2 parsecs out of the red zone to escape the pull of a black hole...why you would want to go to one is beyond me...but Skycorp Scout ships don't have engines built for .2 parsec light speed."

Tiberius shoulders sagged. "Well, that immediately became un-fun. The answer is..of course...none of the above."

Wynry smirked a little and glanced to Tiberius. "Want to try your hand at the door building again?" Her tone clearly made it a jab at him in a playful way and for the first time in days, the Terran managed a laugh at his own expense.

They worked on the door together and Wynry gave Illya tips on how to study and what to study a she worked along side them. "When you go to class, focus on what the teacher says is important, not the entirety of the lesson plan they have put out. It's good to know all things, but it's better to know the important things...."

It was well into the afternoon when they finished the door and Wynry nodded to Illya. "We'll work on it more tomorrow. I sent a list to your pad of the things the professors have focused on till now. That should help."

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

Calysta had been waiting for about an hour and a half outside the gate for Illya. Pacing had helped kill the time and she took to walking back and forth. One of the guards offered her some water and a place to rest if she wanted, but she politely declined and kept her steps going. When Illya's large form emerged from the doorway, there was a singular urge to run right up to him and pounce. She had missed him all day and she knew how childish that sounded, but a a part of her didn't care. "Hey," she said taking his hand, "You were held over?" He explained about the door as he walked with her in uneven steps and she laughed a little. "They'll be sad when you graduate. The more you break, the more new equipment they're getting. By the time you're done we might have an entirely new compound, yeah?"

She could tell by the way he was moving that he was hurting, so when he lead her to a little park bench and offered to sit there for awhile she didn't mind. In fact, the breeze was warm and the sun was pleasant on her skin. She sat with him and talked a little bit more before she found her eyes drooping. It would be the first real sleep she had in days if she let it happen. Neither of them had slept the night before and hardly at all in the morning. There hadn't been any time to sleep during the day. A nap would be alright. Just a short one to close her eyes for 10 minutes while the rested. She carefully let her head lean back against the bench and closed her eyes.

When she woke the air was cooler and the sun and sunk lower in the sky than she would have have thought for a mere 10 minutes. Not only that, but despite the cool air, she was warm and she found that Illya's arm was around her as she nestled against his side. Remembering that she wasn't supposed to be approaching him with things like that, she blushed and any sort of contentment she had from the sleep vanished. "I'm sorry," she winced slightly, "I didn't mean to doze off on you." Sliding reluctantly out of his arms, she sighed and rubbed her eyes. "We should probably get home." He smiled back at her, but she could tell he was hurting. Still, he offered his hand and she took it for the rest of the journey home.

Calysta put Edgar down into his crib and pulled his little heated blanket over his legs. It would get kicked off sometime in the night, she knew, but he would be warm until then and it was always nice to have it with because it kept him calm even when he woke up. He was a cuddler without a doubt. She finished tucking in the twins and tiptoed out of the room toward her own quarters where Illya was supposed to be getting ready for bed. The thought of going to bed wasn't a relaxing one tonight so much as it was a point of concern. She would respect his boundaries even if it took a wall of pillows or sleeping somewhere else in the night. He didn't need the added stress of her expecting physical things. Not when his back was in terrible pain and he was having issues with his past. Her hand rubbed over the bruise on her thumb and she shoved the wistful thought of curling up to her Chip- or dare she think of making love to him- then stepped inside their quarters with a yawn. She found Illya climbing into bed with a crease on his brow. "Are you alright?" she asked as she started to grab her pajamas, "There's more tea if you need it. I can heat it up for you."

Getting ready for bed was not the relaxing task it usually was. Illya had mulled it over in his mind all day after he read that note and jabbed away at Tiberius. He was so blissfully unaware of how the drop off had gone in the morning and then the afternoon only made it worse when he realized it. Her reaction at the park was terrible. However, if he could be honest with her about the other stuff he might as well find out what was really going on. Since it seemed she didn't want him he decided to play it safe and wear his boxers for now. Sitting on the edge of the bed he frowned as he pulled the covers back. About that time Kalizda walked in and she was reaching for her pajamas. They just didn't do that unless she was pregnant and she wasn't pregnant. "No..." Illya shook his head a little. It served as an answer to all her questions. "Kalizda, yah dun kiss meh today and yah dun like being close on dah bench. I miss dat. I want tah kiss yah and hold yah close and maybe ef yah dun find meh too filty I could..." Taking a deep breath he glanced away for a moment before looking at her again. "We could work hard togeter again, eh, make love."

A trailing 'no' grumbled out of him as she pulled off her tunic and grabbed up her pajama shirt. What he said next made her pause and glance at him in her undershirt and pants. What in the Wilds was he talking about? He couldn't get away fast enough from her the night before, and while she knew that he was in part having a bad dream she wasn't going to push things. Not after what he had told her and how he reacted. Now, it sounded as if he was upset that she hadn't been close. She was half wild at the chance to snuggle and more with him, but he might have been saying this out of some sort of guilt too. Blinking at him a few times she tried to gather her thoughts and crossed the room to see beside on the bed. Their mattress dipped low because of his weight and she had to sit a bit farther than normal to keep from rolling down into him. "Is that what you want, Illya?" Her hand settled over his and gave a gentle squeeze. She missed him and it made her chest ache. "I don't think you're filthy. Not for a second. The last thing I want is to hurt you, or push something on you that you might not want. You said you didn't want to be touched yesterday. "

All the action of getting changed to pajama's stopped for the moment and Illya watched Kalizda make her way over to him. She sat at a slightly further space than she had on the bench when she ended up leaning into him. Her little fingers rested on top of his hand and he glanced down briefly. She was horribly confusing. He had told her that night that he chose her and that was what made it different for him. "Yes, I want yah close and I like tah kiss yah and make love. Yah meh Kalizda and I like et when yah touch meh. Et es good because I know dat I choose yah."

He had said it and she had made sure he meant it. Her eyes locked with bright green ones for a moment as she studied him for any signs that he might be simply saying that to make her feel better. He seemed to really want to be close. Enough that he had seemed troubled over it and brought it up himself. A bubble filled with relief burst in her chest and she allowed a soft sigh to escape her. "And I chose you, Illya. I have and always will." She left the mattress slid her down till their legs bumped together and then she captured up his cheek with her free hand, her thumb stroking at his his rosy skin. "I missed you." Saying that brought on even more relief and she found herself kissing him with a little more fervor than she intended.

Illya felt Kalizda slide toward him and she reached up to rub his cheek before he was captured into a wild frenzy of kissing. It certainly felt like she missed it as much as he had. Wrapping an arm around Kalizda's waist Illya pulled her onto his lap and he slowly leaned back until he couldn't hold them up anymore and he fell onto the bed the rest of the way with Kalizda on top. "Mmmm...." It hurt a little, but he wasn't about to stop. Instead of letting her get worried he returned her kisses with as much fervor.

Calysta let herself be pulled into his lap and kept right on kissing him with the sort of abandon she hadn't felt in a long time. A squeak escaped her when they flopped backward but it did little to deter her. In fact, it seemed to spur him on and he grew a it wild with his kisses. They made out for a long minute until he was a bit breathless. Calsyta could have gone longer but she took the moment to look up at him from his chest. If felt good to be close to him. It felt right. Her pink lips turned to a smile and she started kissing him all over again. "I'm making up for the last month," she joked as her little lips trailed to his ear.

The kisses grew more frequent, wild and a little longer. Illya smirked a little as Kalizda practically attacked him. In the midst of the kissing his back started to spasm and he couldn't quite breathe through the pain while kissing. Instead they let up for a moment and Kalizda whispered in his ear, "I'm making up for the last month." Laughing a little at the joke Illya sneaked a quick kiss and replied, "So am I." Carefully he moved his hands from her sides to her legging covered hips and then back to her waist. He was going to try and take his time even if he didn't feel like taking his time. "What do you say to a little more kissing and a little less cloting?"

He laughed and she enjoyed the raspy sort of sound he made as his chest moved. He seemed more than eager to keep going and she wasnt about to disappoint him. He would never believe himself filthy or unwanted if she had anything to say about it. Or do about it as the case may be. At his little suggestion, she smiled and felt a bit bolder. Her hand on his chest snuck downward to his waist until her fingers settled right above his waist band. She was going to take her time and ensure that he understood very well how much she loved him. "I think we could do that. We have all night."

The night was a good one and for the first time in weeks she managed more than a few hours of sleep at a time. She and Illya had made love and then spent time together whispering to one another in the dark of their quarters. "Don't laugh," she giggled into his chest. Already, she was starting to laugh at herself and she fought the urge to keep right on giggling as she tried to talk. "I've been brushing up on my Qouti style words...saving them up..." she chuckled, feeling awkward and her cheeks flushed as she looked up at him. Clearing her throat, Calysta tried to gather herself to court him like she wanted. With a sweet and much more serious face, she gazed at him intently. He was the only thing in the world in that moment. That's how he made her feel and she was going to do the same for him. " Chip...he has hair dark as the night and eyes the shine like the stars in the desert," she whispered to him, "They are green and wild, just like his home with his little bird. And she loves his heart, stronger than a falcon or a desert lion." It sounded nicer when he said things like that but she wanted him to understand that she wanted him and if it took trying something new, she would do it.

She fell asleep entirely exhausted but content to be tucked under his arm for the time being until he had to move for a more comfortable position. If she had dreams, she didn't remember them and that was just as well. In the morning, she snuck out of bed early and made his breakfast and lunch while he stole his last few minutes of sleep. It all sounded very domestic, and somehow she felt better than she had in awhile. Writing out a little note for him to find in his lunch bag, she prepped him for another long day of working at Skycorp, and when he woke she kissed him on the lips and smiled. "Hey there. Everything is all ready to go and there's breakfast in the kitchen."

* * * * * * * * * * *

The next few days went into the same pattern save for sleep. Illya's back was far too sore to be trying anything in the bedroom other than the most intense of snugglings and she had a spot of guilt. Though, she suspected, he didn't regret a moment of it and the time was much needed between the two of them. They had missed one another dearly and while sex wasn't always needed, it hadn't hurt either. The rest of the evenings consisted of her trying to survive his tossing and turning through the night. He would lay this way, then that way, then groan out of either pain or frustration, then start again. If she was in the way, she bounced around the bed a bit like a pinball in a machine, so when he started to did she. The constant interruption in sleep did lead her to have less dreams however. She just slept less and turned to a coma when she did manage to drift off.

In the morning before her seminar a report came to her desk and she read it with surprise. Six's codes had worked and they were confirmed accurate by her spy on Zkree. They now could read Zkreen intel and what she found made her nervous. No wonder she hadn't heard from the rebels. The real Essod had been forced deep underground after an assassination attempt too and with so many people on the run they had kept to radio silence. The Zkreen authorities were still on the hunt for him and his people. With Six having proven himself for the time being and the circumstances around the other Zkreen man, it was very likely not Essod as he claimed. He hadn't given any information up either and had not offered to help. His only comment was that he wanted to see her. Only her. That wasn't going to happen and now she was stuck with figuring out what to do with him. The idea of torturing him for information made her queasy. Not the she was squeamish but she couldn't. She simply couldn't do that. Perhaps it made her a weak leader. A soft hearted, wimp. She didn't know what it made her, but she did know when she crossed that line there would be no going back. She wrestled with what to do over and over until finally she realized, she was afraid. Afraid of what this man had come so close to Pyrta...and her children...for. Afraid of losing herself to this sort of thing. There was only one thing to do when she was afraid and that was to face it.

She called Illya before his PT and had him excused from the physical portion on the account of official Alliance business. He wouldn't want her going alone and this was something she didn't want to do alone either. When he came to the gate, she had his gear already out for him and opened the hatch to the flyer. "Hey, I thought I would spring you from PT today," she said with a strained smile. On the way to the base, she told him that they were going to speak with the man calling himself Essod. Illya had deep circles under his eyes and he was sweating hard already, probably from withdrawal, and she tried to explain a little more. "We're going to see if this man is who he says he is. I don't think he is Essod. He came here for something else, I'm just not sure what." And I just don't know how I'm going to get a spy who has made it this far to admit to it.

Calysta stood at the frosted window and took in a small breath before giving the guard a nod to lift the screen. Illya stood at her side and slightly to the right and she stole a glance at him before the frosting on the window faded to reveal the golden haired man with the mismatched eyes. He was sitting on his bed but when the glass cleared he glanced up with almost a feline jerk and looked smirked slightly. "So, the council woman comes at last," he said, "It's about time." Calysta didn't care for the attitude and the flicker of a smirk made her uncomfortable. As if he knew something she didn't. That was alright. She knew things he didn't too. "Yes," she said, "I thought it was time we meet, Essod." The man slinked off his bed with all prior bumbling he had with Ehud gone and came up to the window. "I think so too. For a woman leading the home planet you're awfully slow to respond to key issues." Calysta kept a straight face despite the insult and stared at the man. "And for someone leading a rebellion on his home planet you are far from home. Why are you here?" He smiled and crossed his arms. "I escaped to find you. To stop that compromised meeting, though it seems you've survived well." Calysta blinked at him and then nodded. "I see. And you hoped to arrive on time? Just in time to save a potential ally? That's very convenient. Considering I received a message from you from Zkree about 30 minutes ago."

At that moment the man's face paled and he glanced up to the guards before looking back to her. "That's not possible." Calysta held firm, her eyes narrowing. "It is when the real Essod was under seige for a few weeks and the Zkreen government's attempt to kill him failed. Now, lets try again. Why are you here?" The Zkreen's man jaw worked over and he glanced to Illya then back to the council woman before he started speaking in Zkreen only.

The meeting with Essod was a bit of a stressful thing and Illya asked for a few other Chippequoti Elite to be on call. He wasn't in the condition to protect Kalizda, not even close. Illya waited with her to see the man and when he did immediately he hated the sight of him. It reminded him of the horrible Nova captain that had tried to take Kalizda. Instead of lunging for the man he waited. This was Kalizda's work and the man was properly locked up. However, it appeared that things were quickly going south for the man and Illya heard him change to Zkreen. "Yah speak so I know what yah say." He didn't like being left out of the conversation and especially when it was someone that would very likely want to see his wife dead.

The man glanced up to Illya through the glass, his eyes cold and thoughtful. "You want me to speak so the barbarians at the beck and call of the Alliance woman knows what I say?" The tone he kept was casual, almost conversational and he looked back to Calysta. "I said that she is a fool for believing in reports trickling in from the Fringes. There are many spies giving false report and you are dumb to believe them."

Calysta took in a small breath but her gaze didn't waiver. "You being among them, now I'm going to ask you again why are you here?" This time the man smirked a colder look, any sort of pretense falling away. "Or what, you'll torture me? Or have your men do it. I don't think you're the kind to get your hands dirty which is ironic considering the muck of dirty genes you come from."

When the man seemed to think himself better he went on with the insults to the Chippequoti and Illya could feel his anger rise. They were not barbarians. He was sounding more and more like a Federation pig. Illya growled a little as the man turned his comments toward Kalizda. Then it all came loose when the man suggested that Kalizda's genes were dirty. Illya slammed into the glass "Yah bastard. Dat's nut what yah here tah say and I can arrange tah have yah head ripped off ef dat's what yah want."

Calysta resisted the urge to jump when Illya's fist slammed against the glass causing it to let out a solid boom. Still, she kept a straight face and looked at the spy who wasn't showing fear at Illya's words. Instead, he stepped closer to the glass and looked directly at Calysta, his breath fogging up the glass slightly as he breathed down at her. "I came to watch and watch I have." He tapped his temple and moved even closer, bending downward so he could look her in the eye. "And I can tell you, The rebels will die Councilwoman. There's no need for you to join them. Withdraw."

"Let me in. I'm gonna rip his fuckin head off!" Illya managed to get the words out nice and clean without much accent and he slammed into the glass again. "She es nut gonna die. I would tear yah apart before she dies. Yah filty Federation pig."

She knew that the Zkreen had a nasty habit of making enhancements on their people even if they were perfectly genetically designed. The fact that he touched his temple bothered her and even more when he gazed at her eye to eye. Illya lashed out, slamming his hand against the glass again and she knew this meeting needed to end. She had gotten what she needed and that was enough for now. The imposter's blue and green eyes practically glittered as he looked up Illya with little worry about his head being ripped off. "I'm sure you're quite capable of doing that, war dog with green eyes. If you don't want that to happen, see that your wife withdraws." It didn't take much to figure out the brute of a man was her husband. Then he stepped back as if he had nothing more to say. "And you will sit here to the end of your life," Calysta said as the glass frosted over. As soon as it was done. she put a hand on Illya's arm and squeezed. "Let it go. We got what we came here for. It's okay."

The only way the Federation would have sent this kind of threat was to try and intimidate them. Everyone was scrambling in this war and the Federation was scrambling more now than they had before. They were being choked out, but the threat wasn't fake. Illya knew when they made these kinds of threats they usually had a way to accomplish it. They made sure they made threats that made a person feel confident and then they would watch a few leaders defy them and promptly carry out their word. It made others terrified even if they only had to kill 1 or 2. It was all run by fear and Illya knew that Kalizda was their target. Once the glass frosted and the audio was cut off Kalizda reached for his arm and Illya was still pressed against the glass with sweat pouring down his face. Kalizda was their target, they must have found a way to get to her. Looking at Kalizda with wild eyes he gave her a fierce expression. "We get what we need, but so do dey. He's federation Kalizda and I dun see many hits dey treaten tah make dat dun happen. Yah let meh help yah make plans tah stay safe and dah children. Ef dey can't get yah dey will get dah kids. He knows who I am Kalizda and et means dey have eyes on us somewhere. Maybe at Skycorp, or at home. I dun know. In dah war sometimes dah enemy would call meh dah Green Eyed War Dog because dey make insult. Meh name es nut dog."

Illya was covered in sweat that she could feel even though his shirt and he still looked nearly wild with anger when his gazed turned on her. Her hand slid up his arm as she listened to him without interrupting him until her hand came up to his sweat slick cheek. "They've already tried once and I know they will try again," she told him confidently, "But I can tell you that I lied to the man. I wanted him to speak like he had the upper hand and he did. I haven't heard from the actual Essod for weeks because they've been forced to comm silence for awhile. He had an attempt on him too. Six helped me decipher a few of the Zkreen codes during the silence and we know what to look for now and how they got some of their information. I just couldn't trust Six too much until I knew that he was right about this one. So, I lied to him to cross check what I knew and I didn't have anything more than the usual threats to go by until now and you know those are pretty standard. We've been ignoring those for years." She gazed at him with a confident but gentle sort of look. "I'm not going to die but we are going to be prepared either way, yeah? We will make a plan."

The mild explanation felt a bit irritating. Illya felt like he had been played. Those in the Federation must have pulled up their file on him and started to feed it as a common part of their diet to their spies. These men were supposed to become familiar with his fears, weaknesses and life. All Illya could think about was all the ways he was vulnerable and his family was vulnerable now. Holding Kalizda's gaze his softened some and he answered her, "We will make a plan and we're going tah kill every Federation recruit dat tries tah hurt yah, or dah kids."

Limping toward the exit of the jail Illya held his hand out for Kalizda. "Yah nut doing dis alone. I'm here and maybe I'm nut much good ef dah fight comes to us, but I can make plans tah help keep et far away and keep all of us safe. I dun want yah putting yahself out dere like some little target eh?"

He slipped out of her grasp and headed toward the surface door with a heavy limp. For a moment, she thought he might be angry with her for having done this while he was injured and sick. She still had brains though and while she was no chip in combat, she had to out think them from time to time. Finally, he turned around and said something that surprised her and some how took a heavy weight from her at the same time. She took his hand and held it gently. "Either way it happens, Illya, I trust you and I love you. You and the children are all the reason I need not to make myself a birdy target," she said, giving him a hopeful glance, "We'll get through it together, yeah?"

"Good, I dun want tah see dah Federation ever touch yah." Illya met her gaze for a moment and then grumbled a little. "Why dun yah tell meh more of yah plan before dis?" He needed to know her reasoning before he got offended over it even if he was already feeling a little offended. It wasn't like this was a top secret mission that he couldn't know anything about and he certainly wouldn't ever do anything to jeopardize her and the kids. He understood these situations just fine.

When he asked his question, a heady blush came to her cheeks and she gave him sort of look. "I've been working on this since the first attempt...when they...when you were hurt. All day, all night if I had to.... But I didn't have anything until this morning when those codes the other boy provided actually worked and I had reason to believe him. Thats when I asked you to go with me." The blush deepened and she walked along side him. "I didn't know what I was going to do to get that spy to confirm what I found and it didn't occur to me to lie to him until I was standing there and he smirked at me. I didn't want to see him tortured for information and I didn't know what else to I let him think what he wanted. I'm sorry it was sudden. I wasn't trained to do undercover spy work or anything, and I feel a bit lucky I've made it this far."

Pursing his lips slightly Illya glared at her. "Yah walk here witout a plan? Yah right, yah damn luckeh dat he dun take yah on some wild trip. Dis es dangerous and I dun want yah tah jes dabble in et because yah tink yah can. Kalizda, little mistakes get yah killed and maybe oters too. Dun hide dese tings from meh."

Calysta bristled a little at the idea that she was hiding things from him. "He was under lock down and I wasn't hiding anything from you. I'm not trying to get anyone killed, I'm trying to avoid it."

"I know dat yah try tah avoid et. Jes tell meh next time before yah do someting wild eh?" Illya was more worried at this point than upset and he couldn't help showing it. "Kalizda, I get very worried about yah and dah kids. Yah know dat even ef I do meh best in dah past I could nut save meh family and I dun want anyting tah happen to yah or dah kids now."

Calysta stopped walking for a moment and her hand tugged his to a halt. Her grey eyes looked over his carefully and her brow creased. "I know you do," she said quietly, "And I'm not going to let that happen to you. Not again. Not ever again."

Nodding silently Illya let Kalizda say what she would. She could do her best to stay safe and help keep the children safe, but she had no control over what happened. None of them did. They could just work together to keep the children safe and try to survive this war. They were both major targets and it was only becoming more clear the longer the war drug on.

He didn't say anything and she knew he was thinking what she was thinking. Brave words for a little woman with little control. Her attempt to encourage him failed, she clammed up and kept on walking with him toward the ship.

She was quiet for the rest of the evening for the most part, keeping to her thoughts other than what was necessary. The rebel named Six would be allowed amnesty on Pyrta under close supervision of Ehud and how he saw fit to monitor him. He would not leave Pyrta without escort under any circumstances. She received video feed as he was released from his holding cell and the pale Zkreen man blinked into the sun as if he were seeing it for he first time and smiled when the wind brushed at his hair. Turning to one of the guards he asked a question and Calysta felt a sort of sadness for the teen. He asked if he could ride in a seat with a window so he could see outside. Six had likely never been this free in his life and that would be an adjustment for him. When that was done and the boy was successfully transported, Calysta resolved to begin preparations on what would be needed to give aid to the rebels on Zkree. She asked Ehud and Kirit for their help in formulating a plan and would ask Illya what he thought when they had something put together. He would have input and if he liked what they came up with she would okay it.

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

Calysta tugged at the neck of her new Skycorp captain's uniform. She was proud to be in uniform again, but it was highly annoying to be wearing one at the same time. Swyft had insisted she come looking professional rather than in her usual grey tunic and leggings. So, here she was waiting outside a class room in boots, her dress uniform, with her hair in a long braid. She'd even bothered to put on make up to make herself more presentable.

A round of applause signaled her to open the door and step into the largest of the seminar rooms. The lights were already focused on the podium and a wave of nostalgia warmed her chest. It felt like walking into the past for a glimmer of a second. Those times were the hardest in her life, and yet, she looked at them with a little fondness too. That feeling dissapated when a few people outright gasped in surprise as she took the podium. "Thank you Commander Swyft," she said into the microphone which was still set much too tall for her, Swyft stepped forward and quickly bent the microphone down to her level for which she gave a grateful nod. "I haven't stood in this hall for a long time and I am no less pleased to be here now." Her eyes scanned over the crowd, looking for Illya as she spoke. When she spied him stuff into a small chair at the end of the row, she gave him a smile and continued her lesson. "I've come to talk to you about making first contact with other races and what that entails. I have made first contact several times along side council members in the past as well as in my current role. You've learned that no contact is made unless that species has developed off planet capabilities in order to preserve their order and way of life. You've all learned that contact is made only when a before engaging alien species in battle, any and all attempts to make first contact and achieve non-military resolution must be made. There are a few rules that you have to consider regarding this second rule and it isn't always an easy task...."

She went on to describe her experiences, making sure they understood common pitfalls and things to look out for when contact is made or unavoidable, then took questions at the end. There was one question that surprised her and it came from the large Udine woman in the back. "So, you say that Skycorp is neutral and they don't follow the wars of extraterrestrial species beyond official Alliance members, and yet you broke that rule and the rule of non-military aggression in regards to the Tannas too when you went AWOL."

It was a tough question and she had a point. She wasn't asking to be cruel or to jab at the council woman. This was a legitimate concern, one that she had made sure to avoid speaking of while in the class, Calysta looked around the room and considered her answer carefully. "Yes, I did break the rules," she said, "And I lost my commission for it and if I had the chance to take it back. I wouldn't. I made the decision to do what I believed was right, and in the end we can debate rules here till Kinte crumbles into the Wilds, but each situation is different. You've demonstrated my main point here today, Cadet. Abide by the rules, and they keep you safe. You wont always know what to do in the field when things go wrong and no rule accounts for everything. I knew the price when I did what I did and I accepted it. What you do in the field is up to you to decide and for you to claim responsibility for. Make decisions you can live with." There was a slow, almost stunned round of applause and she gave Swyft a nod again before stepping back from the podium to allow him to take their attention again.

Calysta shook the hand of each cadet as they left the room and was met with a myriad of looks. Some disapproving, which she was used to, and some wild eyed with what she thought was admiration. That was something she wasn't used to in the slightest. Finally, her big Chip came out of the class room to join the growing crowd of curious cadets around her. "Cadet," she smiled up at him warmly, "You seemed very interested in my lecture today."


Anonymous Me
The rest of the week at Skycorp was painfully slow and the weekend was short. It seemed that Illya barely got home and the kids all wanted him. Even if Cypher wanted to be a big, strong man like his dah, he desperately wanted to be a child too and be close to his father. The boy almost clung to Illya in every moment that he could. Cypher found every excuse to read to his father to show him his skills in deciphering words and he showed Illya many of his school projects.

"Look dah, I make drawing of dah ship dat we fly for dah teacher. Dey ask what meh favorite ting es and I tell dem dat I like tah fly in dah big ship wit yah and mam. Den we are always togeter." In the next picture he drew an odd looking stick person with things hanging on it and some of them Illya thought resembled large turds. "Eh, what are dose?" Pointing to the unsavory stick figure Illya waited for an interpretation from his son. Cypher beamed with pride, "Dat's you! Yah holding all of us. I try tah draw mam white, but she dun show on white paper very good, so she's nut dere." With a knowing nod Illya simply accepted that he was the large, deformed person with quite a few little turd children hanging on him. "Looks like yah art es uh...." Meeting his son's gaze he had to think of what he might say that wouldn't hurt the boy's feelings. "Looks like et was someting yah tink about and take yah time on. Good job."

Nodding enthusiastically Cypher soaked up the encouragement and then pointed to the little cup on the table with a mix of grass and weeds with a few flowers too. "I got dat for mam. Girls like flowers."

"Yah got nice little arrangement for yah mum dere." Illya knew that the little arrangement of 'flowers' looked rough at best, but his son was trying to please them and do nice things. "Now, how about we try tah make some nice food for when yah mum gets out of her office. Den she dun have tah work so hard tahnight eh?" With that Illya got up from the couch and worked with his boy to get a snake stew ready. Since Illya was the cook he made the stew with extra thick gravy. He'd noticed that Kalizda got excellent flavor in the stew, but the gravy wasn't nearly thick enough. Tonight he'd made dinner as a special gift to her and he would make it nice and thick for himself. "Den we have crem after dinner eh?" Again his son agreed whole heartedly with the plan.

Dinner was only a few minutes late, but Kalizda looked pleased enough to step out of her office to see dinner was already mostly done. Cypher was put to setting the table and Illya was trying his best to finish the flatbread with one twin on each leg grasping at his pants and wailing as if they were starving. Lohgan sat on the counter near the stove and dipped into the kettle of stew with a little spoon to help herself to some bites. There were little splatters of gravy all down the front of her, but she was pleased and that was all that counted right now. "Dinner es comin up!" With a yell Illya stepped back and he grabbed his flatbread out of the oven. "Hurry up, yah get to yah chairs and Cypher help yah in dem." The twins started to scuttle off toward the table nomming the whole way and Lohgan held her arms out for her dah to help her off the counter. When the mad scramble for the food was finally over, Illya went over to pull Kalizda's seat out for her and served her first and then the kids. "Now we can eat."


The weekend had flown by and Illya found himself back at school again. His days were long, nights short and cravings were worse, but the withdrawal symptoms aside from the cravings had seemed to level out a little bit. To save himself some time Illya had started to do his homework at night when he couldn't sleep and he was turning in large volumes of it at a time. So far he was caught up in his math, science, navigation, half his history, and half his language. That was going to leave him with only recovering enough to work on the practicals that he'd been watching intently when they went into the pool to practice. He was planning on getting himself caught up by the end of the week and he knew Swyft didn't review files except once a week. Last week he hadn't done as well, but this week he was intending on getting the rest of it done.

So far there was only one class that was far more problematic than even language and that was diplomacy. There were so many little rules and customs that he had started to lose track of it on the first day. They were coming up on a small class project of scenarios that were going to be acted out and he was dreading them. So far he'd scored the lowest on every diplomacy quiz. Like most of the other class grades the scores were posted for everyone to see. He held the top scores in math, navigation and a good place in science. He'd lost the best spot in science due to his inability to remember certain things about different celestial bodies. He'd memorized the chemistry part and the small section of physics was easy, but a lot of the other things were still hit and miss.

With a lot of diligent work Illya was nearly caught up by the last day for the week. He hadn't broke anything else and he'd worked almost all night every night to be sure he could surprise Swyft before he left for the weekend. Getting up and moving one more day felt torturous, but Illya knew that he could do it for just one more day. That was all it was going to take. When he got to the compound it was close to the time he would need to be showing up for role call ad he slipped into the doors for the morning check in only a few minutes before he heard the sound of Swyft's boots coming down the hall. He had made it this time without having to run like he did earlier in the week. All the classes were going like they usually did, with the exception that they would have a guest speaker today.

Wandering through the hall with Wynry and Tiberius he glanced at the two of them and grinned a little. "I turn en meh work tah Swyft tahday so dat he can update meh record before next week. I tink we can still be caught up wit dah rest of dah class. Finished almost all of et. Jes little language left." Learning the Terran and Kaerelean language was almost his worst subject. Illya was surprised to find out his opening diplomacy score was below 50%. Almost everyone knew it was that low, but he thought surely he knew a little more than that about diplomacy.

Stepping into the large auditorium Illya limped his way toward one of the front seats. There weren't any seats here that were Chip sized, so he sat toward the front. He would need to pay attention to this speaker because their information was going to be valuable with his tests in the future. Whatever focus he had for the speech was gone and his entire focus was on the fact that Kalizda was the one speaking. Illya leaned forward in his seat and he watched her intently with only the occasional glance around the room. It was in part a matter of habit to watch for strange behavior, or anything that could be considered threatening. It was not likely that anything would happen here, but they were in an open sort of school and there was a good chance someone here wouldn't like her and they would get a chance to hurt her if they wanted.

Gradually Illya started to relax as he realized that no one here was going to do anything stupid for now. Every now and then Illya would catch Kalizda looking at him and he'd wink at her, or grin a little more broadly. It was good to have her here for a while and he wondered if she would be around long enough to have lunch with him. It seemed like Kalizda had barely taken the stage and she was getting off again.

Illya waited in his seat for a few of the other students to get up first and head out. He planned to be one of the last because he was moving slow and because he wanted to catch Kalizda in the hall before he had to move to his next class. Once he felt that enough of the students had moved through he struggled out of the small chair and carefully pushed the seat back up. He'd almost permanently made the folding seat non-folding. Grabbing his pack he gingerly slid one arm through it and then the next. The line was still moving slowly, but when it was his turn he grinned broadly at Kalizda. "I was very interested in yah lecture and I might be interested in yah too. How yah feel about a little alien encounter wit meh?"

When Illya spoke most of the movement in the hallway came to an abrupt halt. How incredibly bold it was for the Chip Cadet to smooze up to the councilwoman and further inappropriate. The cadet's passed shocked glances, entirely curious to see what the council woman would say while Tiberius leaned against the wall resisting the urge to laugh at all the ridiculous wide eyed looks everyone was giving Blackwolf. If it was one thing the man knew how to do well, it was start a rumor. Calysta's face flared hot red and her smile turned slightly shy. He was doing this to tease her and she knew it, but she would rise to the challenge. Or try to. "Oh, I'm afraid my people's ways are strange. You'll...have to prove yourself at first contact, cadet." Tiberius nearly choked and Wynry covered her mouth in an attempt to keep from laughing at the councilwoman's challenging reply. She was playing coy with Illya and it was worth it to see the increasingly shocked looks on everyone's faces.

Suddenly it grew quiet in the hall and Illya ignored it for now. He liked to rile people up and he liked flirting with Kalizda even more. A bright red flame burned under Kalizda's pale skin. She gave a bold attempt at turning his flirting around and it was even better. They were in a good game now and he moved a little closer. Placing one hand on the wall behind Kalizda he gave her a quick wink. "I tink I can handle yah strange ways. As for dah first contact, yah should consider dere es a lot of meh for such a small woman. I'm sure ef yah give meh chance I can impress yah."

"Well, damn," Tiberius snickered under his breath as Illya didn't give up the game. Calysta glanced at Illya and her eyes followed his arm planted on the wall above her shoulder as he leaned over her. When her gaze met his again she smiled a lopsided sort of smile despite all of the heat in her cheeks and tilted her chin up. "Aye, but you forget never to underestimate even the smallest of us," she said, "We're the hardest to impress." With every world she slid a little closer as if she were telling a great secret until she grinned widely and retreated again. "I'm sure your diplomatic skills will come to good use during this first contact." That comment illicited a chuckle from the crowd because they all knew exactly how diplomatic Blackwolf wasn't.

Her coy game was heating up and Illya liked it. He leaned in a little as she moved a little closer herself. "Yah have tah let meh try before I can say ef yah hard tah impress." Illya was sure he was going to win this round with how red her cheeks were and then she mentioned the diplomacy. A flash of mischief went through his eyes and he chuckled right along with the rest of them. "Mmm...yah damn right meh diplomatic skills are gonna come in handy." Dropping his hand from the wall he stepped back just enough to get the space he needed to rest a hand on each hip and then leaned down and kissed her.

If the cadets watching the scene had jaws like a snake their mouths would be dragging the floor. Cadet Blackwolf had outright grabbed up the woman like he owned her and kissed her. Tiberius watched on with no small amount of amusement and Wynry's cheeks turned a deep shade of pink as she squinted her eye shut against the scene. When he chuckled, Calysta knew she'd had it and no sooner did she think of something to say was her husband wrapping two warm hands around her hips then pulling her into a case. She let out a surprised little mumble and kissed him right back. One hand settled on his chest and the other slipped around to his neck where her fingers played with the curls of his hair. By the time they were kissing she had all but forgotten the rest of the crowd around them until someone let out an encouraging whistle. "Go, Blackwolf, go!...Holy Goddess' above I can't believe he did that...and she's kissing him back...I didn't think the council woman could kiss like that..."

Illya had been waiting the entire session she was talking to catch her up and kiss her. This was just the right time. He still had a few classes to go, but a little kiss was more than welcome. The entire hall erupted into a mix of statements. Most of the things being said were a blur because they were all being said almost at the same time. Some were hushed and then others were louder, like the whistle and someone calling out loudly. Illya turned slightly and he frowned a little. "Yah herd of Nyte Beasts, go gawk somewhere else. Dere's nut much tah see here." Taking his jacket off he held it up to sneak in one more kiss. While he was still close he leaned in toward her ear after the kiss and whispered. "Yah gonna eat lunch wit meh tahday? Did yah leave meh a note, or did yah plan on saying et in person?" With a little grin he leaned back again so he could see her. More than likely the students in the hall were wondering now if they were just busy kissing, but it was primarily a mini conversation.

She could hear a few whistling sounds but Illya kept right on kissing her in front of all the cadets undeterred. If anything it increased his tempo for a moment before he told them off and then swept his fight jacket over them both. Calysta stole another kiss under their little tent as he pulled away just far enough to whisper in her ear. The touch of his breath on her cheek tingled and she liked being so close to him as he asked if she would eat lunch with him. “Aye, I thought I might deliver my words in person today,” she whispered back. He had lipstick on his lips from kissing her and she was half tempted to leave it there to show the cadets who the man belonged to. Her thumb brushed at the corner of his mouth and wiped away some of the more wild red marks before she leaned in a little closer again. “I wanted to surprise you a little. Of course, it will probably cause a bit of a stir. Council Woman invades Skycorp cafeteria to kiss the first Chippeqouti man in the class.” She said the words as a coy smile curled to the corner of her lips. There was the sound of shuffling feet beyond their jacket barrier and then a throat cleared expectantly. Calysta’s cheeks blushed again instantly because she knew that sound. “Swyft.”

It was entirely pleasing that he was going to have his Kalizda join him for lunch and Illya grinned blissfully unaware of the lipstick marks on his lips and around his mouth. There were even a few lipstick marks on his left cheek. "Et's someting dey will have tah live wit. We get tah laugh all dah way ho..." Before Illya could say anything further he heard the familiar sound of Swyft interrupting. Slowly lifting his jacket Illya saw that the hallway had mostly cleared and he straightened himself out. "Sir." He was likely late for classes now, but he needed to wait to be dismissed at this point.

Swyft raised a brow at the couple, noting the lipstick all over the Chips mouth. His eyes flicked from him to the councilwoman and back again. "As much as you're likely enjoying yourself, the next class is starting, Cadet." Calysta's face was entirely pink by this point and she gave Illya a playful sort of look. "Apologies commander. I wasnt trying to keep one of your Cadets occupied." Swyft quirked a grey brow again and nodded. "Hmm. This one has alot of work to do, but lunch is soon. " Calysta stood on her toes and kissed Illya's cheek gently. "Go and I'll see you soon, yeah?"

"Yes sir..." Illya agreed that he was enjoying himself and he he was late for his next class, but he was still waiting for the dismissal. Instead of getting it from Swyft he got it from Kalizda with a little peck to his right cheek. Winking at Kalizda he turned and jogged down the hall. He was coming to the bend and saw the janitor pushing a mop bucket in just enough time to jump over the bucket and give a hoot. Turning the corner from there he jogged the rest of the way to his class. A few of the students glanced back at him and smiled and he had no idea it was because he was wearing the Council Woman's lipstick. The class couldn't go fast enough and when it was out this time Illya was the first one out the door of the classroom and he raced to the cafeteria to find he beat Kalizda there and just meant that he would hold a good spot for her in line. When Kalizda entered the cafeteria Illya waved to her. "Over here." Not that she couldn't spot him, but he liked to make sure she couldn't miss him.

Calysta couldnt resist smiling as she heard Illya yell down the hallway excitedly toward his next class. It was the most chipper she had seen him in weeks and it was impossible not to take some joy in it. When he was gone Swyft invited her to walk with him to the flight deck and she nodded. Even the prospect of new air craft couldnt cut through the anticipation she had for eating lunch with her Chip. When lunch came around she spotted Illya easly because he was close to 7ft tall, tan...and waving at her furiously. A broad smile came over her face as soon as her eyes landed on him and she walked over as a few others watched or nodded in recognition. She slipped a hand up to his chest and stood on her toes to add another lipstain to his cheeks. "Found you," she chuckled. About that time Rezna walked up and crossed her arms with no small amount of amusement on her face. "You continue to surprise me Blackwolf. How does a mug like yours keep getting kissed on like that?"

When Kalizda reached Illya half the cafeteria was staring at them, but he didn't care. It was good to have little wife here with him. Leaning down slightly he made it easier for her to kiss him and he wrapped an arm around her waist. Naturally, someone was going to interrupt and Rezna had to be the one. Illya shrugged at her question and answered plainly, "I dunno, maybe ets same way yah considered female. Et jes happens."

Calysta let him sneak an arm around her waist and pull her a little closer as he quipped back to Rezna. A low 'oooh' sound rose up from those who heard the remark and Rezna frowned. "Yeah. I'm no dainty female, but on my planet there's no use for that." Then she did something somewhat rare and nodded respectfully to Calysta before departing. Calysta wrapped her small arm up Illya's back, careful not to hit tender spots along the way and chuckled. "I see you've made a few friends." Wynry and Tiberius caught up with them but opted to let them sit a table alone together before they got their trays. The mean spirited cook went from sour to sickly sweet at the sight of the councilwoman and even handed her an extra dessert of omne pudding with cream. Calysta sat with Illya, smiling all the while and slid her extra portion over to him as they chatted. "They let me test fly one of the new flyers today," she grinned, "If you racing flyer was fast...this one is a real eyelid peeler." She could tell others were still staring, particularly a group consisting of one boy and two girls inching closer to listen. "It kind of figures the.council woman would date a Chip. No wonder she likes them over her own."

Having the Council Woman with him was handy because the lunch lady was a lot nicer. Illya made sure to ask for extra meat on his platter and he got it, even if the lady glowered at him when she thought Kalizda wasn't looking. Walking over to the table Illya sat down with Kalizda and he grinned broadly when she gave him her extra pudding. It was good to see her smiling and talking about the flyers. "Yah telling meh dat yah need one?" He had a feeling she would want to go racing again. "I tink I could make enough money tah get yah one soon." While they were talking a few younger members started to lean in closer and Illya shifted to look at them. "She es Chip. Chippequoti adopt her. Kalizda woman es nut outsider tah dah Chippequoti. Now yah know dat she prefers her own kind eh?"

Calysta let Illya reply to the curious cadets. This was his work place and she was.going to hang back and let him do as he would. Illya's reply made the boy stagger a bit but he came back fast with more.questions. "Does that happen often? Can you only date then if they are adopted? How does courtship work in the Chip culture?" Now, the flow of questions was spewing out and attracting attention again. Calysta blushed lightly at the.attention and slipped a hand over Illya's under the table.

It was one of the few times that Illya had actually said anything about his culture here at Skycorp and it immediately turned into a flood of questions. "No, et doesn't happen often. Kalizda es adopted as Chippequoti out of few." Of course the follow up question was essentially asking if Chippequoti were exclusive to their own. "Chippequoti can be wit oters. Jes nut preferable all dah time and Chippequoti dun court. We turn 17, girls 17 and older come tah look at all dah boys dat become men and dey ask one dey like. He says yes and dey bot walk over to dah Elders and say dat dey are agreed, yah say married. Den dey are togeter for dah rest of dere life. Dat es how Chippequoti do et."

"You mean, you just pick? Just like that?" A murmur of surprise went through the group and the curious boy was writing away in his notes. "Fascinating. And why did you choose him council woman?" Apparently a woman had a fair amount of power within the social structure and they were curious what she would say. "Well, um. We sort of picked each other." The note taker grinned at them "And what about children? I've heard babies are highly prized."

Illya sighed when the questions seemed to multiply instead of diminish. He didn't want to spend his lunch talking to this kid and especially not after he brought up the subject of children. "Yep, babies are very special tah dah Chippequoti. Now I eat meh lunch and yah eat yah lunch."

The looked disapointed but when the council woman nodded to him, clearly confirming that was her wish as well, his shoulders slacked and he scuttled on back to his own lunch. Calysta turned to Illya smiling and.chuckled. "They're curious. Ite not a bad thing. It just means they've accepted you and learn." She took a bite of her sandwich and inched a little.closer to him looking like a school girl who had a crush. "Now where were we? Oh! The flyers!. I havent raced since I was pregnant with Lohgan...not after Elian...I might try again at the flight festival if I can." He had offered to get her a racing flyer on top of everything he had already done for her and she was half tempted. She loved flying fast still. "Maybe we can save up together, yeah?"

Kalizda was still thinking the best of people, but for all Illya knew these kids could just be gathering information for more diabolical purposes. "Well, yah know dat dah next question was gonna be ef one of us had kids eh?" That was the way these things seemed to go. "Maybe yah jes offer tah come back again and teach a little about Chippequoti culture and yah bring one of dah Elders wit tah consult on bigger questions yah maybe dun know. Den yah can talk about Chip diplomacy too." He figured that was good enough for now. It was something Kalizda could think about and then she moved onto the flyer conversation. "Oh, I tink we could save togeter. I would like tah put bet on dah best odds for flyer again. Maybe dat will be yah dis time too."

Calysta nodded at his idea. It was a good one and might help pave the way for more interested Chips to join Skycorp if they liked. Edgar would be best suited for that task and she could even have them come to Pyrta on a field trip or show a hologram if the elder was too tired to come out to Pryta. "Edgar would probably like to come. I like that idea actually and I think I will propose it." She leaned up and kissed his cheek. "Thank you." Settling in her seat, she chuckled a little and looked to Illya. "Imagine their surprise when they ask how old Edgar is." They talked a little more when he mentioned wanting to put another bet on her to win, she raised a brow curiously. "You would still bet me after all this time, huh?"

Even if he hadn't been much help it was nice to know that Kalizda thought he had a good idea. He could still be useful even if it wasn't in the usual way. A grin spread over his face and it stayed there long after that part of the conversation was over and part of it was due to the kiss he got. "I would bet on dah best racer. Yah jes gotta be dah best and I know yah are. Chippequoti like meh dun settle for anyting, but dah best eh?"

"Oh is that so," she chuckled, her cheeks flushing lightly, "I'm glad I can impress. When we win, I'll take you out for a night on the town, we'll dance and sing the old floating songs...I'll tell anyone who will hear about my little bird wings and the warm Chip breeze that makes me fly. I'll tell them all he goes by the name Illya and he's mine." She was feeling wistful now and thoroughly flirtatious with all his attention today. "And at the end of the night we'll watch the sun come up and still enjoy the win."

"Hmmm...good, den we better plan tah get yah faster flyer for dah races and I will get good seat for dah race and best room tah stay in dat night." Watching her do things like this made him nervous sometimes, but he also knew that she loved it and she was more than capable. More of the nervousness sprung from the fact that last time she raced there was an attack and he nearly lost her for it.

"Maybe we can go looking on Juiya over the weekend if you want to. We can take the kids too. It won't be but a few more months until we have to look at the...safest...flyers for Rose." It seemed settled and she laid a hand over his, her thumb stroking his rough knuckles. He was so good to her and she knew he was doing this for her and their children. Her eyed searched his face for a long moment and she almost wanted to ask if he was still happy doing this. She hoped he was and maybe she would ask when they were alone at home and comfortable. For now, she was going to talk with him as much as he liked and shower him with affection as much as she could. A naughty little thought came to mind when she thought of the lack of a note with lunch and she decided to try a little something someone had once suggested to her to see what would happen. Towards the end of the lunch break, she leaned up and whispered lightly in his ear a promise to treat him well in anyway he liked when he made through the day and after the dishes were done from dinner.

Kalizda's little promise stuck in Illya's head all day. The only thing he could think about for the rest of the afternoon and through the physical activity was getting home, eating, and doing the dishes so he could get to some hard work with Kalizda. At the end of the day Illya was on his way out to the gates when he saw the line outside of Swyft's office and he was reminded of the homework he had to turn in. Reluctantly Illya turned back to go get in line with the others and he waited impatiently for his turn.

When he finally got to step into Swyft's office Illya grabbed all the papers out of his pack and he set them on the man's desk. "I only have few days from last week and dis week tah do tah catch up in dah language classes. Yah have everyting else dere. Now meh team es nut behind and I work dis weekend and I give yah all dah rest of dah work first ting on Monday morning eh?" It looked like the man was surprised and Illya wasn't sure why. He was a little late getting all his work turned in, but he did it. "I go home now and I sleep in meh bed and come back feeling better next week. Meh back will improve and dah doctor clear meh for dah water and running next week I tink."

It was all Illya could do to keep himself from rushing out the door of the office, but he held his composure as he waited to be dismissed. When he stepped out of the office Illya gave a loud shout and then jogged for the gates. He was on his way back to the ship and he was going to make some dinner and clean up afterword with Kalizda. Naturally he had the end goal in mind, but he didn't have to tell her that's why he would be so eager to get things cleaned up after dinner. Then he could sleep in the next morning and have a nice, relaxing weekend at home with the kids. Ideas and plans were already running through Illya's mind and one of them was to get the animals at home all washed up and then give the twins some rides on the bear. Before he could finish planning his weekend out Illya reached the gates and he showed his permanent pass to the guardsman and then stepped outside to find his Kalizda. Spotting his little woman he grinned, "Yah ready tah get hoe and have some dinner?"


Curious Adventurer
Calysta stayed busy for most of the following weekend and that was just as well. Illya had his school work to catch up on and when he wasn't doing that he was trying to rest his back. The kids were happy to have them home, however, and she was glad to be with them even if it was between meetings in her office. "Yes, we will still be going on the tour. It's expected. I'm councilman...I won't be releasing my itinerary. You can expect my arrival within the next 6 months...I understand...but this is a safety concern...yes...Thank you." Sighing, she clicked off the hologram and quickly tidied up her desk. That was the last of the meetings for the day and she was more than eager to join her babies and her husband in the family room. Peeling out of her more formal jacket, she hung it on the hook at the back of the door and then tugged off her knee length boots before emerging into the living room.

She was greeted by a thundering heard headed toward the dining room table. First Cypher came around the corner, belly wobbling and a big grin followed closely by the twins. They toddled in with their bowlegged run and squealing for joy at the thought of food. Lohgan wasn't face behind. Her red curls bounded with every stomping step and drops of what looked to be gravy making their way down her dress front. Rose came down the stairs at the call for dinner and came to the table, plucking up Edgar and placing him in his high chair. Calysta scooped up Tomas as he crashed into her legs and did the same, buckling her boy into the chair so he could eat all he liked. "Oof, you're getting big my boy." Coming in last was her Chip. He carried a pan of flat bread with him which joined a pot of snake stew her father had carried in. When all the children were settled and the food placed on the table, Illya pulled out her usual chair for her. She smiled to him and brushed her fingers over his hand gently as she took her seat. He was trying his best and she let him see to dinner as he wanted. "Aye thank you, love."

It was more than good to have dinner altogether with her family. Rose told her all about the new book she was working on. Volume II of the Chippeqouti legend and folklore would be much anticipated. Lohgan recited her Kaerelean alphabet and her Terran alphabet well and earned herself a round of applause to her delight. Lohgan beamed up a smile to her Dah and Mam before spooning more stew into her already messy mouth. Cypher was happy to present her with his latest work of art while his Dah ladled him another bowl of snake stew over steaming flat bread. "Look at it, Mam. I drew dis and I already show et to Dah."

Calysta looked over the offered paper, holding it up between her fingers at the corners and smiled proudly. "And who is this?" He explained it was his Dah holding everyone, but there were the wrong amount of figures. Then he explained that she didn't show up and neither did Rose. They were too white and he had picked her flowers too. Calysta resisted the urged to chuckle at the conundrum and then nodded to her eldest son. "Ah, I see. Well, the flowers you brought were lovely and I think I have the perfect place for this." In truth, his artistic skills weren't quite that of his older sister's but he was proud and there was effort behind what he had done. "When you finish your second helping, we'll go put it on the fridge, yeah?"

That little idea caused him to wolf down his dinner like a starving nyte beast and then scuttle off into the kitchen with his picture. It was all Calysta could do to get Tomas out of his high chair and set him to playing one last hour before bed then follow her son to the fridge. She took the picture as if it were the most priceless thing in the world and carefully clipped it to the fridge front, taking care that it was hung just right for all to see. "There we go," she said, kissing the top of her boy's wild black curls, "Very handsome." Cypher smiled at her and then hugged her around the legs tightly before thundering off to the living room to join his siblings. He was more than half as tall as she was now and growing in sudden spurts. It wouldn't be long before she had to buy him a whole new set of clothes.

After dinner, she instructed the kids to help clean up the toys out of the living room. "I show yah how teh do et Lohgan," Cypher said as he picked up his battered Monster toy. His sister scowled and put her hands on her hips. "I know how tah do et, Cyphwer." Cypher shrugged and pointed to his twin brothers. "But meh broters don't." Then he kept right on cleaning. With the kids more than capable of tidying up the living room, Calysta stole away her husband to do the dishes in the kitchen. As he dipped his hands into the soapy water, Calysta rubbed his back gently. "Thank you for dinner tonight." Her eyes caught on her sons...sweet...creation on the fridge and she chuckled. "The picture doesn't do you justice."

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

The end of the week couldn't arrive quick enough and Swyft sat in his desk as the never ending parade of cadets circulated through his office for their mid- year reviews. Most were doing well, and the ones that werent now knew what was necessary to continue as a cadet at Skycorp. He saw the Terran man, one of the few that had decided to come to learn scientific missions rather than continuing his military career. Tiberius' past was a difficult one, but it didn't seem to be affecting his studies so far which was pleasing. The Udine woman was doing well, if not better than what most expected of her. She was here on an externship and most Kaereleans figured she would have herself tossed within a week due to her manners. As it was, the woman managed to behave more often than not. At least enough for her to continue. Wynry came after that. Despite her disability she seemed to be excelling in her studies. It was the practicals he was concerned with regarding the young woman. She had difficulty hearing the comms and visible cues were difficult with the limited motion and vision in space suits. She would likely never be a pilot as she was unable to hear any commands from her navigation or engine crew reliably. She could make an excellent navigator. The small, too skinny Pyrtan came in with his ashy blonde hair it's usual fly away mess. The kid had built some bandy muscle on himself and his grades had improved as of late. He didn't stand with his shoulders rounded anymore either. Gaining some confidence in himself was important.

Finally, he came to the Chip. When Illya entered, Swyft noted the slight hitch in his steps. The back injury was still holding him back from the practical portions of his training and all of the classes he had missed were putting him in serious jeopardy of failure from Skycorp. Nevertheless, he strode in quickly and plopped his backpack onto the map covering his broad desk before unloading folder after thick folder of class work. Swyft blinked as the stack grew and then listened to the man explain. "I only have few days from last week and dis week tah do tah catch up in dah language classes. Yah have everyting else dere. Now meh team es nut behind and I work dis weekend and I give yah all dah rest of dah work first ting on Monday morning eh? I go home now and I sleep in meh bed and come back feeling better next week. Meh back will improve and dah doctor clear meh for dah water and running next week I tink."

Swyft's eyes scanned over the folders and then he glanced up to Illya. He had never had a cadet catch up on so much work in so little time and he half wondered if his wife had split the load. Not that he could ask. How would he accuse the Council woman of the home planet of cheating on navigation homework? He nodded to the man. "I will update your file this weekend. See that you come back ready to work again," Swyft managed to say, "You've got some practicals to deal with and your team will look forward to having you present."

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

Calysta poked her head into the bedroom and smiled at her Chip who looked like he was more than ready for what she promised him at lunch. The dishes were all clean and put away and the children were in bed with her father there to watch them if anything went wrong. Calysta came into the room and sashayed over to him, but didn't offer to take off her clothes or make a move to even attempt it. Instead, she sidled over and and wrapped her arms around his neck as he sat on the side of the bed and kissed him slowly for a moment. " you feel like coming on an adventure with me tonight?"

Now that everything was done all Illya had to do was wait....and wait. He'd been in the room a whole 2 minutes, but it felt much longer than that. Wherever Kalizda was at Illya didn't know, until she stepped into the room and walked over to the bed. Her soft arms wrapped around his neck and Illya sat up on the bed a little bit to kiss her more. Helping her get out of her clothes would be plenty exciting. That was until she stopped kissing him and mentioned an adventure. Frowning a little, Illya tilted his head and blinked a few times. "Eh...what kind of adventure?" He had one in mind, but it was clear she had another one in mind.

A small frown took over his expression and he asked what kind of Adventure she was talking about. She didn't want to give away her idea entirely surprise for him oh, but she could tell he was eager and that came with its own need for reward to. Her fingers played with the curls at the nape of his neck a she tilted her head with a smile curling at the corners of her lips. "I had an idea that might make our night more enjoyable, if you're willing to wait 15 minutes and come with me."

It was impossible not to laugh a little and Illya chuckled. "Eh....I guess dat I could wait a few more minutes. Let meh get up and put on more clotes." Waiting was going to make it feel like a long time, but if it would make things more interesting and enjoyable he was willing to try it for her.

He chuckled almost good-naturedly at her and then offered to go put on clothing so that he could go with her. Smiling, she kissed him on the lips and then released him to get dressed, waiting patiently for him to get everything he might need. Of course, she had already arranged a few things to be taken care of. When he was done, she took his hand and led him down the stairs ever so quietly so the children wouldn't wake up and wonder where their parents were sneaking off to. She brought him out to the skimmer and then flew them within a matter of minutes to the Silver Mountain which was waiting for them at the dock. Once they were on board, she nodded toward their quarters and winked. " wait for me and I'll be back there in 5 minutes." With that said oh, she began to warm up the engines and once they were sufficiently heated she took them up into the atmosphere. It didn't take much to breakthrough into and took them into a nice, stable orbit around the planet. As promised, the entire trip took around 15 minutes and he was within that time she walked back to their quarters and smiled at her chip before playing with the control panel for just a moment. She did not know whether this would work or not or if he would even like the idea but she figured that it couldn't hurt to try.

"Ive been doing a little research today and came across something very interesting," she said," Apparently, low gravity treatments can reduce pain for those with broken limbs or damage joints by taking off pressure. And I also learned that low gravity can help increase range of motion." With a slow slide of her finger on the panel the artificial gravity on the ship began to slowly decrease from normal parameters. She did not increase it enough to make her husband float, as he was much more dense than she was, but she did slowly decrease it enough to make herself lighter than a feather and to take his own weight off of his back by and large. Little strands of her hair floated around her face and she wiggled a brow at him in what she hoped was a playful way. "I thought you might like to try a much broader range of motion with me." It wasn't the most romantic speech. In fact, she was pretty sure she sounded crazy, but maybe he would like the fact that she was thinking of him and it was somewhat nice to have the planet and Two Moons meaning through the window in a colorful display of green silver and pink. She waited for his answer and her cheeks crew increasingly pink with every passing second.

Sneaking out of the house was fun for a change and Illya waited to laugh until they were in the ship. If she had the idea that going to the ship was scandalous he'd have to show her what scandal was one of these days. It turned out they were going somewhere and she got the ship going. Illya was a bit surprised by that and he decided to go with it for the time and see where they went. When she stopped the ship they were stalled somewhere in space and Illya looked out the window at the moons. "Ooh, wow..." Glancing back at Kalizda he saw she was adjusting some controls and it felt like some pressure left his body. Illya smiled a little when Kalizda explained her reason for wanting to have lower gravity. He hadn't thought that it was that easy to tell his back was hurting so much, but he could appreciate her concern and her humor even more so. "Try new range of motion eh? I dun know ef et will make all meh capable of new ranges, but et might help meh back."

Calysta chuckled a little and pushed off from the panel her feet pedaling her off the floor a few times as if the air were made of whipped cream. In a spot of playfulness she touched down in front of him ans sprang right back into the air to land a peck on his cheek. "I thought" her cheeks grew even brighter, "I've heard it this and I was curious."

"I guess dat we will see how much we can make et eh?" Illya chuckled a little and he pushed Kalizda far enough away to spin her around and then he pulled her back in. "Well, yah fly like little bird now."

"Aye," she giggled as she twirled and then settled against him, "I'd fly anywhere for my Chip. And if he ever needed a reminder of that, I think I'd have to.give it to him just like this." She trapped him up in her arms as much as she could and kissed him. One good thing about low gravity is that it made his neck, his ears and his jaw so much easier to reach. Her hair floated around them in Wild curls and she smiled into the kiss before leading him toward the bed. She did promise 15 minutes after all. If they grew tired after their fun, she would leave them in orbit for the night. Maybe he would sleep better with less pressure on his back for a bit. At least he seemed to like her idea and wanted to try it with her. She settled him onto the bed and made it her mission to treat him well for as long as he desired.

Illya couldn't help grinning and he held Kalizda close so she wouldn't float away. Heading back to the bed with her, he laid down and it was surprisingly easy. There wasn't much protest in his back from the motion. "Ooh, dat's nice." Leaning in he wiggled his eyebrows at her. "I tink we should try someting exciting eh? Should we start wit letting dah clotes float away?"

She laughed at his little brow wiggle and suggestion about their clothing. It felt good to see him actually relaxing and it made a weight come off her chest more than what the gravity supplied. "Aye," she giggled, "Lets start with this." Her fingers worked on the buttons of his shirt until her cool hand managed to find the bare skin of his chest. Teasing him a little, she went right back to kiss him just to make the moment last that much longer.

For the first night in over a month, Calysta slept peacefully. Held to the bed by Illya's warm arm, and snuggled against his chest, she slept deeply. Enough that the ship could have imploded and she wouldn't have noticed. It was more than pleasant to be with her Chip after a nice session of hard work, sleeping soundly. He didn't toss or turn at all with pain and that was good for them both. The night passed in orbit and it was nearly 10 hours later that Calysta stirred. Mumbling to herself, she kept her eyes closed and nuzzled deeper into Illya's bare chest to press her cold nose to warm skin. Her hair wafted here and there, ticking at her nose. She bothered to swipe at the stray strands then proceeded to burrow further into her Chip's arm. It didn't have to be morning yet, did it? She had slept so good and she wanted to cling to the peace for just a little while longer.

It was another stolen hour of snoozing before she felt Illya's hand slide up her side and heard a strange sputtering sound as he shifted around. "Mmm...Good morning, love," she mumbled in Qouti, "How are you feeling?"
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Anonymous Me
Somehow the night passed almost in the blink of an eye. Illya hadn't expected to be that comfortable with less gravity and especially not after he'd worked hard with Kalizda. There was still some pain in his back, but he'd barely woke once, twice and before he could adjust to make himself more comfortable he would have already fallen asleep again. When Illya finally woke up it was because he was gagging on something. No matter how many times he'd turned his head, or tried to swallow the thing kept creeping further down his throat and ticking it. Coughing and turning his head did nothing and he finally reached up with one hand to pull at whatever it was.

There was a stripe of something on his chin and it led into his mouth. Pulling it out Illya discovered he had a nice swab of Kalizda's hair that was now thoroughly doused in his saliva on the end. Casting her hair out of his mouth he set it free to float about as it would. He wasn't planning on telling her he was the one that gummed up her hair. The majority of the time it was him and not the kids if she woke up in the morning with spit encrusted hair.

"Mmm..Morning." Mumbling his reply Illya shifted to adjust himself and found it far easier than usual and he did so with minimal pressure to his back. "Feeling pretty good." Pulling on Kalizda was easy and she just floated right over him and he held her close to himself. "I think I like this fancy way of sleeping." Since she started out speaking in Quoti he decided to stick with it. "You're face is like the sun and your hair the shadows." Flicking a few of her curls out of the way he chuckled. "Your hands like rain to heal the desert. This is my beautiful woman, my Calysta Marie Monroe." Sometimes it was fun to use her actual name just to see if he could get a reaction out of her. Any reaction would be fine in his book because he was pretty sure she would be pleasantly surprised. Getting a little quiet time with Kalizda was refreshing after the weeks of non stop moving and going and doing.

The withdrawals didn't help the situation at all. Kalizda had been working almost around the clock to try and take care of him and neither of them were sleeping worth a darn. "What you say to us trying this again?" Illya had to at least try and see if she'd want to try it again and it sounded like he'd get to try it again. "That's good, because I wasn't going to stop asking anyway." With a playful growl Illya turned over in the bed with Kalizda and he made a few sneak attack kisses.

As enjoyable as the morning had been it couldn't last all day long. Illya had to get up and he needed to spend some time with the kids and take care of the animals. It was about that time of year when they would be needing to be brushed out. The dogs were easy, Keysha he would need to be careful with and Cin was going to be difficult. Illya didn't relish the idea of hurting his back all over again.

Eventually they had to get up and Illya noticed the gradual change in pressure. It was as if with each little pound of pressure added by gravity that his back was about to be crushed. A gradual sort permanent frown grew on his face, but he didn't say anything. When he did get up from the bed Illya reached for a pair of his pants and he pulled them on with a little difficulty. His back was still making it difficult to bend over enough to get his pants on. Some days were harder than others and he had a hard day at Skycorp the day before. When Illya finally got his pants on he zipped the front of them as best he could and then found that part of it didn't want to go. If the zipper was having problems he figured buttoning the top of his pants would help.

Illya pulled on the pants hard and then winced when he felt them dig into his lower back. "Ugh." With a grunt he forced the pants to button, but the zipper worked now. Glancing down at his stomach Illya could see that it wasn't the usual defined abs that he had. Instead he'd somehow managed to turn his stomach into a soft looking belly with a little bubble barely bulging over the edge of the pants.

Despite the fact that his stomach was barely bulging over the edge of his pants, it hurt. Illya didn't like having his pants squeeze his back that tight, or his stomach for that matter. With a grunt he released the button on the pants and he let out a long sigh. "I uh...I tink I get dah big stretchy pants dat yah get for meh." They were technically sweat pants that she got for him to take to bed, but he didn't think he'd like wandering around in his usual pants today considering how small they were on him. Slipping out of his pants he set them aside and then glanced as his Skycorp uniform. Did his stomach bulge show in that too? He certainly hoped not. He would look like, a fat, easy target if it did.

Sheepishly sliding into his baggy, stretchy pants Illya glanced at himself in the mirror. Even his shirt was a little tight across his chest and stomach. He really did need to lose some weight. Illya didn't remember getting so big, but it happened and quite suddenly. Catching Kalizda looking at him he laughed a little. "I get fat. Yah still like meh and yah want meh, but I need tah be en shape. Dun want tah look like fat, lazy Chip."


Naturally, the children were more like a horde than a nice, orderly little troop. Cypher was at the head of the gang and he nearly jumped onto Illya when he saw his dah coming up the walk. Leaving them all week was hard and the kids seemed to notice that he was gone. It reminded Illya of when he had been little and the times that he waited for his dad. Since he wasn't in the military anymore Illya found it harder to leave the kids, but he was determined to be a better father than his had been.

Bending down as far as he could without causing too much pain Illya caught Cypher. "How's meh first boy eh?" Almost immediately he was answered with a fast paced slur of excited words. Most of them he missed, but he did catch something about a day that each kid would bring one of their parents to school to talk about what kind of jobs they did. "Dah, do yah wanna come?" Cypher smiled hopefully at his father and he waited for some kind of answer.

Illya had already missed several days of classes and he hated to miss another, but he missed those for medical reasons and going with his son to class and still have his son excited about it would only last so long. "I tink I will come wit yah." With his answer there was loud hoop from Cypher and the boy was already slipping from his arms to run off and do whatever it was that seemed so necessary. Lohgan was of course already standing at his side and pulling on one of his hands because she wanted up and the twins were cooing at him with big grins. They all wanted to see him.

The afternoon was spent primarily outside in the backyard with the kids and teaching them about the animals. Illya got bulldozed by the bear once, or twice before Cin seemed to realize that there was a reason his mother wasn't playing with him. By the time Illya finished taking care of the animals he was exhausted. Under normal conditions he would have had more energy, but the withdrawals and the back pain had drained him of most of his energy.

Beckoning to the kids after he'd cleaned up the cat and hosed the bear off Illya wandered into the house. Behind him, Keisha sauntered in and he let her. She was getting old and he could tell some of her joints were beginning to bother her. Taking himself to the couch Illya laid down and turned on the heat. He wasn't on the couch more than five minutes and the cat along with the kids came to pile on top of him. For the rest of the weekend Illya did what he could to relax between the various little trips with the kids around the house, to the backyard and his own homework. The final night before returning to classes Illya tossed and turned and finally sat up and worked ahead in his books. he could show Swyft that he'd even got ahead in his studies and that might help with his request to have a day off to go with Cypher to his classes.


The instructor stood at the front of the class with a serious look on their face. Illya had his pen poised and he was ready to listen for more of the strange rules regarding diplomacy. So far whenever he'd been asked to answer a question he'd managed to give an answer that made half the class burst into laughter. Even if he'd read the books and listened to all the recordings from the classes he didn't make it to, he couldn't believe that diplomacy was that hard. When the instructor announced that they were going to get some scenarios and live practice with each other Illya sighed in relief. Finally, he was going to get to do something instead of sit here and try to understand why some things were not considered diplomatic. Diplomacy didn't have to make a person trusting and stupid. "Finally." Glancing at his classmates he grinned, "We can do someting and I tink I'll do good at dis. Let meh do dah talking for dah first practice eh?"

Wynry and Tiberius had been sitting there listening to their team mate answer the occasional question in their diplomacy courses and felt somewhat dumbstruck. Some of the answers...were....certainly Blackwolf's style and that was the problem. When he asked to try the first scenario Tiberius fought the urge to cringe and Wynry kicked him under the desk. "Aye," she said, "Maybe it will be good to get some live action practice among themselves over the scenario and then approached all three of them as the teacher read the scenario aloud. "You and your crew have been stopped in an unknown quadrant by a ship."

Listening to the scenario Illya nodded. "Alright, I have meh crew station around little hidden places in dah ship tah pick off dah oter crew ef dey are nut friendly. I offer tah open portal." He was trying to capture the freer sort of spirit of Skycorp and attempt to be smart about it too.

Tiberius and Wynry exchanged looks with one another, surprised that Blackwolf had given a somewhat by the book answer for once. The instructor nodded at the answer and read the next portion aloud. "You are boarded by a crew of assorted races, and they claim themselves to be pirates." Rezna stepped forward with her hands on her hips, flanked by her other two team mates. "They demand that you surrender and come aboard their ship without issue. Their ship cannons are now prepared to fire on your starboard side and destroy you if you do not comply."

Sighing Illya rolled his eyes. "Ef dey are dah Nova pirates dey are nut a problem. Ef dey are oter pirates I agree dat we go aboard, but all meh crew stays togeter. We work for dah pirates witout issue." He didn't have a problem with that. He'd worked with pirates before and he knew how to beat them.

How would Nova pirates, the most notorious group this side of the galaxy not be a problem? A small murmur rose up in the class and the instructor shooshed them before looking down at the scenario. "You display cooperation and your ship is taken then sold while you are enslaved on the pirate ship. One of your team is injured. You will eventually be traded in a slave market unless the captain wants to make you a permanent part of the crew. After being told this by the first mate you have the chance to respond."

Illya took a deep breath and he grumbled a little under his breath. "I assume dat dis es nut dah Nova. Nova pirates have been inactive en Alliance territory for some time. Wit new group of pirates I would have tah do someting different. I tell dah first mate dat I meet dere captain. When dah captain comes out I kill him and tell dem I take command of dah ship."

This time a murmur rose up that the instructor couldn't quell and he was looking at a loss. That sort of answer had been said before but it was rarely chosen. Rezna snorted and crossed her arms. "Yeah, I think you'd be in for more of a fight with a captain like me." The class watched, some chuckling as the Udine dramatically faked her death and flopped on the ground. "The crew attacks and erupts into chaos at the death of their captain. Some of your captured crew mates are killed in the chaos." Sam stepped up and grabbed Wynry, pulled her to the side and 'stabbing' her. "You're dead now," he shrugged bluntly. This left the Kaerelean man, Tiberius, Sam and Blackwolf all facing each other down.

Narrowing his eyes slightly Illya nodded to Tiberius and then responded in kind. Grabbing Sam he passed him off to Tiberius and then grabbed the Kaerelean man. "We take remaining crew and lock dem in a room togeter. I tell dem dat ef dey are loyal to meh dat dey will kill dose nut loyal to meh. At end of few days I open door again and I find greatly reduced numbers of unfriendlies. Now I have enough crew tah kill dah rest ef dey were loyal to dah old captain. Ef dey are loyal to meh, den I have enough crew left tah do what I need."

This time the room went stone cold silent and nobody said a word about what the man was suggesting until the 'dead' Udine woman crackled out a laugh. She put a hand in her stomach and the more she laughed, the louder she got. "Oh, good gods. I like this guy." She laughed so much she had tears in her eyes and the instructor's lips pursed in annoyance. "We'll try a new one. Reset." He flipped the page and waved at them. "You are approached by a ship and it hails you. They order you to stop and warn that you will be boarded momentarily. You are in a strange part of the Beta quadrant with no known friendly ships or planets nearby."

Illya knew he could win this scenario much more quickly. "I get meh sword and stand near the portal where they are about to board and have crew placed in sniper positions again. Send hail to them and ask dere purpose for boarding."

"The only reply is 'Inspection' and the portal opens 10 people of an unknown species begin coming through armed with pistols and blade weapons." This time the room was practically on the edge of their seats waiting to see what the Chip would do next as Renza strode up to him and stared him down nose to nose, challenging him to do something.

"Dey are armed, give vague response and et es meh duty tah protect meh crew." Illya stepped right up in front of Rezna and punched her in the gut gently. "I kill dah oter crew as dey come trough dah portal one at a time. We send back one more message and inform remaining crew on board oter ship dat we need more specific answer."

Rezna didnt feel the punch much, but she smirked and fell down anyways. The instructor sighed some and rubbed his temple as he read out the rest of the scenario. "In response, your ship is fired upon and critically incapacitated, some of your crew perish in the explosion and the rest are left until your ship is destroyed including yourself." Rezna stood up and dusted herself off as the instructor continued. "These are scenarios based off of real encounters by Skycorp crew. In the last example, the race was the Terrans who had barely made it into space flight with little to no Traders tongue. They believed the ship stopped was carrying slaves and Terra was attempting to regulate and eliminate the trade at the time. They came aboard not knowing what to expect and unable to communicate, but for the few Traders words they knew. With a little patience on the part of the captain, they were able to resolve the issue without loss of life. This was first contact with the Terran planet. Had the scenario played out as our cadet did it, we would likely be at war with Terra rather than the Federation. What you do out on your commissions matters. You have the right to protect yourself, but...Cadet Blackwolf...I don't have to tell you what it is to be in a situation where language barriers are frustrating and require patience. You may have a seat."

It felt entirely insulting for the instructor to assume that this was the ending. If someone boarded a ship with weapons and a vague response they should assume there would be trouble. "Dis es bull shet." With a hint of indignance Illya plopped into his seat and the entire desk shuttered. "Meh crew would nut die like dat. We might have been at war wit dah Terrans, but dats what dey get for dat kind of shet. I kill over half a fleet of Cirrellants by mehself and I tink I could handle a few Terrans. Meh crew would nut have died like dat."

The instructor scowled at Illya and placed his hands on either side of the podium. "You would rather start a war and kill millions rather than take the time to at least attempt a peaceful resolution? We are not a military, Cadet. We are here to learn and we are often the first representation of the Alliance. I don't care how many people you've killed, General, but that is not the goal. You fail the scenario."

Illya couldn't help feeling offended over the response. "I'm nut heartless. I would feel badly and I dun want wars, but I tink yah ought tah modify outcome. Meh crew would be alive. Dat es most offensive tah consider dat Chippequoti Elite would be so poor at battle dat dey would lose against Terrans."

The instructor set his jaw and looked at the cadet with a solid gaze or irritation. "Cadet, you are not among the Elite here. You are among Skycorp cadets. You are not a general here and you have missed the entire point of the exercise." Tiberius even shot Illya a look of annoyance, but said nothing as he stood there with his arms crossed. "If you want to continue the argument, the door is right there."

Keeping his mouth shut for the time Illya simply remained in his seat. Arguing wasn't going to do him any good, but he couldn't see why the man didn't take the individual crews into consideration. It was not realistic to believe that he would have stayed on his ship like a helpless little whelp and let him and his entire crew perish. Whatever the point of the exercise was he didn't understand. Making a positive example out of the captain that 'figured' this situation out was a bit of a problem. It could have just as easily been an unfriendly circumstance and he could have been murdered with his entire crew for his blind willingness to 'work with' these people. That captain put his entire crew at risk.

With the scenario ended and the class equally went quiet and the instructor called up the next group, though the scenario was hesitant and any excitement for the task had evaporated entirely. At the end of class, Tiberius didn't wait for the rest of the team. He simply got up, collected his things, and left. Wynry blinked at the man's retreating back and then glanced to Illya. "I think you have some work to do on diplomacy." She said it flatly and then wandered out of the class beside him.

When the rest of the class went through a few scenarios Illya put in a few more notes, but he still couldn't see the pattern. They were insane if they thought that this was good policy. Kalizda would have gotten herself killed if she had been a man. Since she was female and so small, Illya took mercy on her and that was the only reason she was alive. Their diplomacy was haphazard at best. They did not teach the Skycorp students to be nearly careful enough. Slowly he got to his feet and glanced at Wynry and then at Tiberius' retreating back. "Yeah, I tink meh agreed tells meh dis too sometimes."

"I can see why," Wynry said, "I can see why she shot you too." They walked down the hallway and she sighed some "We do put our lives on the line in this job. Its not easy or risk free. Sometimes things go badly and sometimes they dont. The point is to try and explore. Imagine how your wife must have felt attacked and crashed on a planet with someone your size coming at her? But, she still didnt try to kill you." With that, they arrived at the next class room where Tiberius was already waiting wordlessly. "Maybe you could use some sort of diplomacy with your teammate too," she added before taking her seat.

"Well, et concerns meh dat dey want people tah put dere lives at risk in dah spirit of exploration and good will. I know why meh Kalizda shot meh and I congratulate her on et." Illya limped along next to Wynry and he gazed at her for a long moment before he said more. "Maybe meh diplomacy wit oter classmate es hard. Terrans do many tings and I dun trust dem very well. Chippequoti used tah be more gentle wit dere enemies and we respect dem, but dey break dat respect when dey do unforgivable tings."

"I can believe that," she said, "Terrans attacked my home and you helped save it. You and Tiberius are both my teammates, however. And I trust Tiberius, Terran or not. Just something to think about." She slid into her seat and pulled off her back pack before glancing at Tiberius. He didn't bother looking back and kept his eyes straight ahead on the podium.

Since it was an easier class Illya spent a bit of it thinking about what had gone wrong in the previous class. He realized that he probably sounded a bit hostile towards Terrans and he did have a Terran team mate. It was a bit odd for Tiberius to go off without them and when it was finally time for lunch Illya made sure to walk next to Tiberius. Just so the man couldn't avoid him. "Tiberius, I dun make remark tah be personal to yah. Et sounds dat way, but I work hard nut tah say dose tings. Yah forgive meh eh?"

"What's to forgive?" Tiberius said grunted, "I'm sure us lowly Terrans are hardly worth the effort it is to insult us " He hitched his pack slightly and didnt look at Illya. "Why I should be honored that you came over and bothered to concern yourself with a Terran teammate. Don't let any of the others see you associating with the Terran of the group. It might make you look less of an arrogant asshole."

It sounded like Tiberius had enough of whatever Illya said and he didn't know why the man took it so personally. Illya didn't think he's said these kinds of things that often. "Yes, et sounded bad and maybe I sound arrogant arsehole, but I tink yah take et personally. We would work better as team ef yah jes do, or say what yah have tah. Et esn't like I say dese tings often." Making excuses was not a good thing and Illya was doing his best not to make excuses. "Ok, well maybe I say tings before I dun remember dem. I dun know, meh Kalizda tell meh dat I say terrible tings all dah time and I try tah fex dem."

"And exactly how am I supposed to take it?" Tiberius said, "We would be better as a team if the racist bastard of a teammate could keep what he thinks about the worthless Terran scum to himself. And if you want to know what I think. Here's what I think. You've got some sort of history with Terrans, fine. I don't really care, but shit could just shut up on the subject long enough for us to get out of here and then you wont have to deal with Terran's anymore. Except for your wife. She's part Terran too, isn't she?" Then he kept right on walking just as angry as before.

A hint of pink came to Illya's cheeks. He was slightly ashamed for his actions and he didn't know how to fix it this time. "Ok, I keep quiet during diplomacy class." Despite his attempts to understand the diplomacy it wasn't making sense and he had taken dozens of notes in the classes and read the books faithfully. Some of the answers he had to get right. Glancing toward Wynry he shrugged. "I tink yah warning about Tiberius was late."

Wynry winced wishing she could hear more of the conversation and yet none of it at the same time. When Illya dropped back beside her, she tilted her head at him with a look of concern. "Maybe, but don't give up. Give him some time to calm down and then try again. When anyone is mad, sometimes its best to give a little time." A moment of quiet passed and even she seemed unsure of what to do or say. He had said some awful things and she wasn't sure how she felt about it.

Nodding his head Illya wandered down the hall toward the next class. He was feeling on edge and he wasn't sure what was bothering him, but he had this horrible feeling niggling in the back of his brain. There was someone watching him. Taking a quick glance over his shoulder Illya didn't see anyone there, but he was sure they were. Someone had a cloaking device and they were watching him. All through the rest of the classes Illya felt like there was some sort of breeze at his back and perhaps even the hot breath of someone leaning to close behind him in class. Every time he would look behind himself there wasn't anyone there and he'd simply resume his studies, but not without the concern that they were still there.

By evening it was becoming clear that while he performed well in the exercise part of the day his back hadn't. Illya limped heavily on his way out of the gates and he winced with almost every step. Because it was just him and Kalizda for the most part, Illya decided to lay in the bed to eat dinner. Sleep would have been welcome, but he didn't get any sort of quality rest.

Instead he kept shifting around in the bed that night and he would wake with a start every two to three hours. He could still feel someone in the room and he started to murmur curses under his breath at the outlined shadow in the room. It wasn't until nearly dawn that he saw who it was and he jumped in the bed. The man was huge, he was one of older Elite and he was just staring at them. Blinking a few more times and breathing hard Illya watched the man literally fade in front of his eyes. With a groan he rolled over in the bed. He had to be seeing things again and he wasn't feeling up to telling Kalizda she had another thing to worry about. He'd keep this one to himself for now.

As the week drug on Illya slept less, worked further ahead in his studies and fought with seeing things off and on. To make matters worse, with less sleep his back had begun to ache at the deepest layer in his bones and he could barely move the morning of their first practicals. Before he had to get up Illya ran a hand over Kalizda's and he grinned at her as best he could. They had been trying to enjoy a little time in the mornings. "Yah beautiful dis morning." Leaning a little closer he gave her a kissed her and then started to move to get up. He would need the extra time to get ready this morning. Even if he didn't think she'd give him medicine he was going to ask. "Kalizda, I need medicine. I know yah still have meh suckers. Jes give meh one. Meh back hurts and today we have practicals."

Of course, Kalizda told him she would make him tea and she offered to rub some ointments into his back to ease the pain. Refusing wouldn't do him any good, but he needed more than that. The tea only seemed to unsettle his stomach and Illya moved even slower to keep it from sloshing around so much. His back was still on fire and he sat almost perfectly still in the small flyer on their way to Skycorp. When they landed Illya gave one last pleading. "I know yah have meh medicine. I dun need much, yah give meh one sucker. Dah tea dun help."

There was no luck and Illya grit his teeth. When he got into the compound his first stop was at the medical center and they said they didn't have anything for him. The second stop was the bathroom where he could wipe his face off. He was sweating almost uncontrollably. Finally, before heading into role call Illya stumbled into a stall and puked a few times before he emerged and wiped his face down again. By the time Illya got to the classroom where they were calling off names his hair was starting to drip with sweat and he paled slightly with his lips turning a slight greyish tint. He was sweating, but freezing at the same time and he hated it. When his name was called Illya answered with a less than enthusiastic, "Here."

Within minutes of leaving the role call Illya ducked into the restroom again and he cursed under his breath as he found it necessary to puke up the rest of the tea. Once his stomach was empty he regained some color to his face, though it was more of a fevered flush to his cheeks. They didn't get a regular class, instead they were set to simulations and Illya was assigned to one station that he wasn't as familiar with. It was also far more difficult to focus when he felt like he'd might have to puke at any given moment. Before he got into the simulator Illya sat down on a bench and he took a few deep breaths. He would need to do his best to focus and at least get them passed this simulation. If he wanted an assignment on Kalizda's ship he would have to do this and his team had to pass.


Curious Adventurer
Calysta felt Illya's hands tug her close to his chest and she sighed in contentment, smiling as he said he felt better than before. The gravity-less night seemed to have done him a world of good. She knew it had done her more than what she thought too. Not only did she get to work hard and cuddle with her Chip without interruption through the night, but they actually awoke feeling well rested for the first time in a while. His breath tickled her ear as he whispered sweet things in Qouti to her. He really was feeling better. They hadn't done that in awhile and she grinned when he said her full name. Calysta Marie Monroe. He had the ability to say her full name from the start of their friendship and he had chosen not to on the idea that it was annoying to her. Something she had discovered only far after it was too late to avoid the nickname Kalizda. Now, she was used to being called by her Chip name and she took pride in that. Every now and then, however, it was nice to hear her full name whispered like a dear secret from his lips. She was his Kalizda and his Calysta Marie Monroe. When he offered that they should try this again, she chuckled and nodded. "Aye, I think I could get used to this."

"That's good, because I wasn't going to stop asking anyway."

He attacked her with a flurry of kisses and a playful growl which she simply couldn't resist. With a squeak, she dissolved into a fit of breathless giggles against the nibblings he left on her neck and shoulder. "Is that so?" she laughed. Their morning was blissful for the first time in awhile and she went by far too fast. It was inching toward noon when they decided it was time to return to the surface. While they got ready, she slowly increased the gravity level by level allowing them both time to adjust. Having the full weight return to his back all at once would have been hard on his back and her stomach. So, they took it bit by bit until normal perimeters had been achieved. She had managed to get fully dressed while re acclimating to proper gravity, but Illya seemed to be struggling with his pants. Eventually, he gave up and pronounced sheepishly he was getting fat.

She raised a brow a him and walked over to slip a hand around his waist. "You've gained a little, and when your back feels a bit better, it will come off again," she said, stealing a kiss. It wasn't his fault that his injury kept him from being active as he normally would be. Wait gain for an injury like his was fairly common and there were a few ways she could help that wouldn't hurt his back. Part of it would take some work on her part, but it would be good for the entire family ultimately. "In the mean time, just know I love you, yeah?"

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
The weekend flew by in a flurry of children, animals, paperwork and planning. Calysta let Illya take things at his own pace and was happy to see him in the yard with all of the children.
The twins were learning to toddle around now and running outside with their father and siblings was good for them even if all they could do was babble in a strange mixture of Qouti, Kaerelean and traders tongue. She sat on the back porch with her father and worked on a few reports. Ehud and Kirit had been keeping an eye on Six, who had apparently enjoyed his shopping spree and altogether loathed his haircut which Ehud had insisted on. What was more, was that he didn't like seeing a doctor either. When she read the reports on his health, she could see why. The kid had been butchered more than once. His innards carried scar tissues and at one point in time it looked as if his heart had been replaced piece by piece. It was partially mechanical. The only reasoning the Ehaui could give for such experiments was that the Zkree had probably attempted to extend his life span by making easily replaceable mechanical parts. He was it experiment for the sake of their quest for perfection This seemed to include his brain. Seams behind his ears and on the base of his skull showed that they had attempted cognitive micro-chipping, but that it had never been fully completed. She wondered if the agent that had come to Zkree claiming to be Essod had the same sort of tech buried into his brains. There was a slight concern that the Zkree could trace Six or even use him to spy without his knowledge, but the Ehaui reported that there were no signals or any kind of network connectivity. When asked, Six tapped a scar at the base of his neck and stated that when he was rescued they had ripped those things out of his head for the safety of the rebellion. The other portions simply couldn't be removed at the risk of killing him.

Reading those things made her slightly queasy and it reminded her of some of the awful things that had been done to the Chippeqouti too. Kirit had sent another report that stated getting supplies and weapons to Zkree would be difficult between the Cirellant Fleet still skirmishing on the fringe and the tight border security on the planet itself. Six had been asked how he had gotten off the planet with his team to begin with and he had explained that they had an insider who had gotten them fake cards to the transport ship. "It's funny," he'd said, "They said I was wrong. Impure because I came out different than their design...but I didn't look any different on the outside. I look like everyone else except the scars and I hid those."

Calysta felt a tug on her foot as she read the report and realized Edgar was playing with her toes, breaking her out of the horror she was reading. He met her with two pearly bottom teeth in his grin and she smiled before scooping him up and tickling his tan little belly. "Oooh you are a rolly one," she said, cuddling him close and nibbling on his cheeks. He squealed for joy and she couldn't help kissing his head protectively.

The joyful sound brought the rest of the children over. First Tomas wobbled to her and started climbing her legs, then Lohgan didn't hesitate to nearly dogpile her brother to stake her claim. Cypher swooped in and wrapped his arm around her waist, laughing as he was squashing the rest of them. "Dog pile!" he laughed. Lohgan wiggled and laughed, looking up at her Mam in delight. "We squashed you!"

Calysta flopped back and wrapped her arms around them, giving them all a squeeze. "Oooh you got me and I got you!" It was a fun game that ended when she couldn't take the weight of their tiny, but dense Chip style bones. "Alright, alright. We're going to cook for supper. Go get cleaned up, yeah?" And in a thundering herd they slid from her lap and barreled inside. Her Chip came loping up the stairs, his back clearly hurting. Rather than saying anything, she caught his hand as he passed by and gave it a squeeze.

She was so incredibly lucky. Staring up at him for a second, she smiled and then shot him a little wink before releasing him to join the wild party inside. Keysha followed him, looking as stiff as Illya and she didn't protest the cat coming indoors. There weren't any real little ones she might pounce on and even if there were, the cat didn't seem to be in the mood.
A war cry of giggles told her that the children had piled in on Illya now too in order to continue their game. "We squished yah Dah!" she heared Lohgan cry out in victory. Chuckling to herself, she plucked up the pad which had fallen to the porch and went inside.

Dinner was roast and gravy, mostly because it had been easy to fix and leave in the oven for an hour and it was something she had learned to cook from her father. Priscilla and Sien were joining them for dinner since Ehud was doing some sort of training scenario with his men and would be out late. Calysta leaned against the cabinet and sipped on her after dinner tea as the kids helped pick up the living room. They had chatted back and forth a little about Ehud and how things were going.

"I think it's going well," Priscilla admitted, "He asked me to marry him and said he did care for me. He wants a good mother for Sien too." Calysta raised a brow. "Those are good things, but you don't quite-" Priscilla smiled a little. "Like a bride?" She shrugged and sipped her tea. "I've been down the aisle before and when I do it again, I want it to be for the same reasons I went down before. I'm giving things time. Time to let Ehud say if this is something he really wants or's just a place holder he needs and he thinks he wants me."

Calysta stayed quiet. She could hardly talk on the subject. Isla had been long gone when she met Illya and he had no other living children from his previous marriage. "I think he does love you. He looks at you and anyone watching can see it. He stayed with you on the colonies. But I think what you're worried about is something that will always be a foremost concern for him. He loves his son and wants him to have a good life, that included picking someone he knew would be a wonderful mother. I don't think it's a bad thing he considered it. I would see it as...a compliment and a vote of trust. Chip's don't trust easily and they love their children. He trusts you with his son. He sees the way you are with him and he admires that too."

Priscilla sipped her tea and her lipstick left a stain on the porcelain cup in the perfect imprint of her lips. "I won't live as long as he will either," Priscilla noted quietly, "In 20 years, I will slow down and he will be much like he is now. Before long, he'll be doing this all over again. Didn't that worry you when you met Illya?"

Calysta nodded. "Aye, I wasn't supposed to live this long, given my health conditions for a long time. We talked about it once or twice and it helps. Talk to Ehud about it and tell him it concerns you. Trust him a little, yeah?"

Priscilla nodded and sat her tea cup to the side. "Thanks for listening. Talking with other people is something I did miss when I was First Lady. At least, talking with people who would be open in their opinion. Surprise, surprise that politicians aren't so frank."

Calysta snorted. "I don't count as a politician?"

The beautiful blonde woman shook her head. "No. Sure, you're the council woman, but a politician you are not. You care about your people too much and you're far too short."

They laughed a little at her teasing as the children turned cleaning the living room into a wrestling match and Cypher easily pinned Sien with a whoop of victory. Calysta let them play as they wanted and turned to the pile of dishes in the sink to tackle them. "Would you mind doing me a favor, Pris?"

Priscilla glanced to Calysta and nodded. "Of course not, you've only let me stay in your home and taken care of me when I had no where else to go." The dry delivery made them both laugh again and she waved her hand. "Of course, Calysta. What is it?"

Calysta's cheeks turned a little pink and she sighed. "Will you...ah consider giving me cooking lessons?"

The woman tilted her head. How much was Calysta willing to take on? She was council woman, trained with the Elite men at least twice a week, then flew back to Kinte to pick up her husband, then had kids, their school work, a garden and animals on top of it all. "Uh, sure. But you're cooking is fine, Caly."

Calysta stole a glance into the living room and then looked back to Priscilla. "It's okay, but I need to know more. I need to know..healthy. Or at least better than gravy every night. If you think I'm only okay at it now, when I first married Illya I could hardly do anything at all. Anything I learned, I picked up from my father or Illya, really. I learned a little from Illya's mother and that's it. "

Priscilla's eyes went wide. "You mean any cooking you've done came from Spam Sandwich King, and the man who likes enough gravy to drown a planet?"

"Aye," she replied.

Blinking a few times, Priscilla looked at Calysta and then nodded. "We'll set aside a time and I'll teach you some basics that will help with..ah...healthier cooking. Then we'll try a few recipes, hm?"
The tiny councilwoman's shoulders sank in relief. If she could learn to cook a bit healthier, Illya wouldn't have to work quite as hard to keep himself in shape and that would help his back all the way around. "Thank you. Tomorrow while Illya and Cypher are at the school might be a good time to try."

* * * * * * * * *

The day was barely started as far as Illya was concerned. He'd had another bad night of sleep and tried to sleep as long as Cypher and Kalizda would let him. Eventually he had to get up though. After Illya got himself dressed in something decent looking he combed and oiled his hair. He would try to give his son the same consideration he would want for something like this. When he was finally ready Cypher was pulling him almost the whole way to the classes. " will be fine." Despite his attempts to calm his son, it seemed to fail. Once he was in the classroom Illya saw his little chair set aside and he went and sat himself in it. Surprisingly the chair was sturdy enough it didn't even creak. The first few people Illya listened to and clapped politely along with everyone else. When his turn came up it suddenly struck him that his son wanted him to tell an entire class of kids about his work. What would he tell them? Meeting his son's eager gaze Illya stepped up and gave it his best shot. "I uh...well, being a General es a lot of work. Dere es many times dat I stay up late tah make sure dat meh men have food, clotes, medicine, and good places tah stay. During dah day I make plans for dem tah exercise, drill, and practice using swords and guns. We would practice hard every day so dat when people in dah Alliance were in trouble we could help dem and we would be good at et. I dun work as a General anymore and now I'm learning how tah work on a shep wit Skycorp. Dere are a lot of jobs wit Skycorp dat are nut captain, but dey are jes as important. En Skycorp I will work en security and ets kinda like being a General. I make sure dat meh crew es safe."

The children gazed at him expectantly, wondering if that was it. Other parents had told some fun stories or at least some jokes or inspired them to try their career. This big man had done none of those things except for the mention of guns and swords. Cypher still stood by proudly, waiting for someone to ask something until a hand shot in the air. "Did you like to fight?" one of the boys asked. Another hand rose up and a girl fidgeted in her seat. "Momma was it scary? Did you have to use a sword and a gun when you practiced?" Now questions started popping up all over the place. "Why did you quit being a General to go work on ships?" Cypher danced on his feet and then dove for his back pack. His plump fingers undid the zipper and he fumbled with something stretching the pack slightly as the class continued to ask questions until he pulled free his small sword, scabbard and all. His mother had told him he couldn't bring it, but it wasn't Mam who was with him and his Dah knew more about them than she did. He would surely approve. "He uses a sword like this one only ets much bigger. Its even taller den me!" That caught all of the boys attention in the classroom and suddenly, there was excited ooohing and awing.

Illya wasn't sure what he was supposed to do afterword, but he found out in a short time as a little boy raised his hand and asked a question. "Well, I dun like tah hurt people, but I tink fighting es a good ting ef yah doing et tah protect yah home and family." He was doing his best to keep it low key, but the questions poured in one after another. "Yes, sometimes et was scary tah fight and yes I use sword and gun when I practice." Questions kept coming and Cypher was fumbling about with his little pack while Illya worked on answering another question. "Sometimes when yah fight yah get hurt and I get hurt and den dah doctors tell meh dat I cannot fight anymore, dats why I decide tah work in Skycorp." Illya had barely finished speaking and his son brought out his little sword. Of course it drew plenty of attention and Illya grinned. "Aye, dats right. I have one bigger, but I'm taller den Cypher." Taking Cypher's little sword Illya held it and gave a silly little wave with the sword. "Et's so small. Maybe ets like little pocket knife eh?" Pushing the tip of it into his pant pocket he grinned. "Eh...nut quite small enough. I tink et's good sword for boy tah train wit." Handing it back to Cypher he nodded to his son. It was time to put the sword away and let one of the other parents talk now.

All the boys were clamoring for a better look at the sword and Cypher grinned as he took his blade back. He was proud to be his father's son. As he slid the sword home into it's scabbard, another little tan hand rose up ringed with a metallic bracelet. Her eyes settled right on Illya without so much as blinking to ask a final question. "Do you hate the people you hurt?"

Before Illya could escape the many questions and prying little eyes of the children another child decided to ask a question. The girl seemed to be a bit more timid and she'd waited until the last second to ask her question. Illya was half tempted to pretend he hadn't heard her question, but he knew after he'd made eye contact he couldn't pull that one off. "Eh, no. I dun hate all of dem. Some of dem I hate because dey were very evil and dey hurt many people and sometimes children. I hate dose kind of people,"

The girl stared at him long and hard for a minute, then seemed a little confused before lowering her hand. "Thank Illya," the teacher said, "Lets give him a round of thanks." The excited children stamped their feet on the floor, except the Terrans who clapped, and offered their thanks. When that was done, Cypher sat down at his desk and they watched the rest of the parents present. When the class was over, school was dismissed early and Cypher scampered up to his father. "Did yah like et?" he asked. He wasn't about to mention that Mam had forbidden him from bringing his sword and planned on sweeping that little detail under the rug.

Attending classes with his son had been informative to say the least. Illya wasn't entirely sure what to think, but he knew what he needed to, Cypher was getting a good education. Afterword his son seemed to be eager to know what he thought and Illya nodded. "Et was good. Yah work hard and yah learn well eh?"

Cypher nodded. "Aye. I work hard then I will be a General like you, eh?" It was possible and he thought of all the swords and adventures he would have like Mickey Martian and his father if he became a soldier and a General. Letting out a whoop, he dashed ahead, fighting a few imaginary foes on the way until he frozen entirely. The little girl from the class was watching him as she headed toward the Tannas side of town. Cypher waved with a giddy sort of grin on his face and she gave him a small smile in return along a wave before venturing down the path alone. "Matias says girls have gross stuff like cooties," Cypher told his Dah, "But I like dem anyways."

It seemed that Cypher was acting like any little boy would and Illya let him. A smile did come to his face when he heard his son's confession about girls. "Dat's jes fine. Ets natural for boys tah like girls. I like yah mum and I agree wit her because I like her so much dat I decide tah live wit her dah rest of meh life. Yah jes remember dat yah dun kiss any girls and yah dun be getting wild wit dem until yah old enough tah live wit girl and build her house."

Cypher only half heard what his father said about girls and agreeing as he watched his friend go. Nodding, he glanced to his father and titled his head causing all his tamed, oiled curls to fall out of place. "I have tah build a house? Did yah build our house for Mam? Papa said that was his house before I was born and my Mam lived there when she grew up.

"Yeah, I build house for yah mum. Et es on desert planet dat we used tah live on. We move here after dah war started and dere was attack at our old home. Maybe someday we go back and visit dah house I build eh?" Illya figured that his son would ask about the house and Illya could proudly tell his son that he made a house for Kalizda.

Cypher looked at his father, reasoning out what that meant. He certainly didn't remember any other houses than their home right there on Pyrta but he had learned about Alliance planets and he knew Chippeqouti lived in the desert. Maybe it was before he was born. "Et could be an adventure," he grinned to his Dah, "And den yah show meh how to build one good so I can make a girl happy like yah do for Mam." It was a fun thought that a girl might be impressed by something he could make with his own two hands.

Chuckling a little Illya held his hand out as they came to a busier crossway. "Aye I will show yah how tah build good house tah make a girl happy when ets time."

Cypher took his father's hand when it was offered and held onto it tightly as they crossed over the busy foot path toward the Chippeqouti village where their home sat just on the outskirts. He was more than happy to have his father's word that they would do something together and to get to spend time with him on a day out of the ordinary.

* * * * * * * * * *


Curious Adventurer
Wynry walked into the mock cockpit of the practical room and sat down at the captain's chair feeling nervous. She had been assigned the post for this practical but she didn't feel prepared for it and with Tiberius as her navigator and Illya as their engine specialist this time, it made her wonder if the two goddesses were being cruel. Tiberius was hardly passable at navigation and who knew what Blackwolf would do? Still, she sat in the captain's seat and rubbed her palms nervously against her leg before nodded to Illya. "Bring us online, engineer."

Being in navigation would have been a lot easier and Illya hobbled his way back to the engines to get started with the practical. His back was hurting and he'd been feeling sick and dizzy with the withdrawals. Wincing some he got positioned at the start for the engines and waited for Wyrry to give the go ahead. He'd done this once, or twice with Kalizda and he remembered it fairly well. What he wasn't as good at was the bending and twisting to get to the final lever. Finally, Wyrny gave teh go ahead and Illya flipped the first switch, grabbed the dampener cable and made sure it had space to move before he struggled to get himself angled and thrust his hand into the control box underneath the panel and pull the lever. Illya's back started to spasm with the angle they were at and he grunted some before he pulled the lever a bit too hard. The whole ship jumped slightly and he laid himself on the engine room floor for a few moments. "Uugh...dat hurt."

Tiberius winced when he knew Illya had missed the portion about warming up the engines before they engage any sort of thrust. There went 10 points of their grade. Wynry sighed went the whole ship lurched and rubbed her temple, trying to keep her patience about her. Illya said something over the comms but she didn't quite catch it. She took it as the command that they were ready to depart and she nodded to Tiberius. "Plot our course to sector Delta- 990A." It would require a jump through one of the light speed rings on the monitor once they left the 'planet' surface. She put her hands over the controls and wished there was an autopilot option on this one, but that was the point. She had to do this herself. Gripping the thrust tightly, she began to edge it forward until the magnetic moorings slowly retracted and the cockpit felt as though they had taken off. "Are engines within normal perimeters?" she called out to Illya/

The question over the com was just in time for Illya to be attempting to peel himself off the floor. He groaned some as he half drug himself toward the diagnostics screen. Blinking a few times and leaning closer he finally made sense of the red line that wasn't supposed to be there. "Eh, we're running a little hot on tird engine. I jes make small adjustment." Limping heavily toward the third engine he loosened the coolant cap and let a little extra flow go into the engine. Looking back at the monitor he saw it drop into normal ranges. "Eh, we're good till someting else goes wrong." He knew that was how these exercises were designed. Someone did crappy maintenance and set certain seals too tight and others loose and it would be up to him to find what was wrong and how to fix it.

Wynry heard something about a 'hot turd engine' and assumed he meant that the scenario they were dealt meant the engine was shitty. She waited for him to do something and then the comms crackled his reply about about being good to go. "Aye. Taking us out of orbit." She brought them up to enough speed to get them to break orbit and then let Tiberius punch in their course before she dropped them into the lowest jump speed possible. "We have T-Minus 2 hours till the jump gate." Wynry nodded and stood up from her seat for a moment. The mock cockpit would scale the time down to about 20 minutes and it was designed to help them stay alert near the end of jumps. The ship made grumbling sounds as they zipped through the galaxy and Wynry opened up the comm. "Blackwolf keep an eye on the engine. If it does anything out of normal running, let me know."

Whatever was making the sounds Illya didn't know, but he knew he had to do something about it. Wandering along the plank toward the center of the engine section he stopped near a few cylinders and listened before he got closer to some pistons. About that time Wynry was saying something about the engines and he nodded in reply. Not that she could hear him, but he was focused on finding that noise and then he heard something pop. It was not a good sound. "Shet." Turning around Illya saw that a red light had come up on the diagnostics and he saw a gasket blew. Making a partial limp run he made his way toward the back of the engine room and snapped up one of the gaskets with his gloved hand and shoved it back in place. If there was a bonus to being a Chip it was that he didn't have to find the gasket hammer to put it firmly in place, he could do it by hand easily enough. "I jes looking for dat knocking sound down here."Apr 23, 2019

Blackwolf said he was looking and that was as much she could do until he found whatever the problem was. He would have to report it back to her if he found it and then they could figure out what to do. About three minutes after he stated he was looking, the ship shuddered slightly, almost as if it had a hiccup and then continued on sounding much quieter. Whatever it was, Illya had found the solution and other than a few nebulas Wynry had thought to steer clear of based on their composition, they arrived at their designated jump portal. Wynry brought them out of the jump and maintained position in front of the gate until she got the clearance from the gate keepers. "Engaging jump gate 5...4...3...2...1..." The ship lurched forward and they sped through the field which rocketed them at light speed to the next quadrant of the galaxy. For a moment, Wynry thought that things might turn out okay...until the entire ship sputtered. The engines made a terrible clank and the power grid pitched the into darkness.

Wynry was almost immediately going to check out their engines and Illya couldn't say no, everything appeared to be fine from here, but he knew there had to be something else wrong. The exercise wasn't designed to be so easy. Thankfully the time with Kalizda and a little study with her explaining the engines had him feeling mostly prepared. No sooner were they in jump gate speed and things started to rattle and then it all went black and the ship gave a final lurch. Illya's grip on the handles of the machinery he'd been next to tightened slightly and then he let go after he was sure they were more stable. She hadn't even thought to ask if he was ready for the jump gate speed. He could have got hurt. Gingerly making his way around the ship in the dark he listened to the engine hum. At least they would have life support and a few other critical things for now. He needed to get to the diagnostic screen and box with the light and tools. More than likely a drive went out. Illya found the toolbox within a short time and he got a light on so he could find the emergency lights for the engine room. Once the lights were on he began wandering around tweaking parts here and there. He found a few others that were going to fail if they didn't have an adjustment. Maybe they were stalled longer than they were supposed to be, but he was tired of making last second fixes. The final project was the drive and he could hear his team mates impatience. "Almost got dah drive fexed." With a few more rotations of the wrench he had the drive back to working condition, but he gave himself the time to get strapped into his seat. "Ok, now yah can go again."

Wynry cursed under her breath in the dark. They would be free floating in space with nothing but life support at this point. After a moment the lights flickered on and the instruments thrummed to life again with the soft whirring and clicking. Illya's voice came over the intercom, claiming the engines were good to go again but Tiberius shook his head. "Yeah, that'd be great...but..uh...I dont know where the hell we are. We dropped off mid light jump through the gate. None of the stars are the same and I'm waiting for the computer to finish calculating where we dropped out according to time." Wynry bit at her lip and nodded to Tiberius...and they waited...and waited. Finally, Tiberius sighed. "Annnd I must have done something wrong. This cant be right." At that point Wynry grit her teeth and smacked her hand on the intercom. "Blackwolf. I'm sending you some information. Run the numbers and find out where we are."

Illya was strapped in and waiting for the surge forward, but nothing came. Takinf a deep breath he decided to try and be patient. They were being patient with his slightly slower engine work. After what felt like forever there was a blast of sound and Illya felt his entire body shake with his heart throbbing. "Wynry, yah might nut hear well, but I do." With a little more grumbling he looked over the numbers and made a few corrections. It was tempting to ask if they were sure of the location, but again, they had not asked him of he was sure of his work. "Dere es yah mat corrected. We ready tah go now."

Wynry waited for Illya to finish the calculations and Tiberius said nothing about her giving the task over to the Chip. Once he was done and the corrected course had been sent back, Wynry had a decision to make. They could turn back and try again at the jump gate which which will kill about '5 hours

or 50 minutes of time, or...they could proceed forward through the jump gate and risk such open space between quadrants that if there were no available stations or help available. They could be set adrift and die in space if the engines failed irreparably. If they did successfully get through the deep space they would arrive within the passing time. Swallowing hard, she pressed her finger to the intercom again. "Illya, how confident are you that the engine will continue running at top jump speed?"

This time when Wynry spoke it was at a more acceptable level. Illya thought for a moment and then responded, "Let meh switch wit Tuberius. I check his work and he checks mine. Den I'm confident for wild ideas."

Wynry didn't reply right away. They technically werent allowed to swap stations once they were assigned, but she wasn't sure that it would result in failure altogether. Ultimately, she knew what a good captain would do, and they would be to play to her crew's strengths and weaknesses. They would fail if they ended up adrift in space anyways and if they went back to the jump gate to try again in the simulation there was no guarantee that they would make it again in the proper time. " Swap," she said over the intercom. Tiberius looked as if he might protest for a moment and then sighed before hauling himself out the chair. "Yes, captain."

Illy knew he had asked Wynry to make a hard decision, but they all knew what the situation was and could be. Whatever her decision they would all follow the orders. Finally, Wynry answered and Illya nodded. "Yes, captain." On his way out of the engine room Illya nodded to Tiberius, "I trust yah engine work better den mine." Tiberius passed by Illya's shoulder on the way down to the engine room. At Illya's comment he grunted back. "A good thing since it's captain's orders," It was difficult to tell if the comment was made in anger or simply a fact he delivered in a wry tone as he was apt to do. When Illya arrived on deck, Wynry pointed toward the navigation panel. "Check his math and make sure it will only take us "5 hours" to reached the jump gate again, officer." Then she jumped on the intercom and ordered Tiberius to run a full sweep which would take 30 minutes if done properly.

The navigation seat was more comfortable and he could work the math faster than Tiberius. Tiberius would be better at checking engines. While Illya was staring at the star map he broke out into a grin. "We can cut across Nova territory and dave tree hours. We could win dah exercise. What yah tink?" Illya made sure he turned the coms on so Tiberius could hear too.

"We run the risk of open space and breaking down," Wynry pointed out, "It will depend on what Tiberius says about our engines." They waited patiently as the minutes ticked by until finally Tiberius answered. "I've run diagnostics and changed a few switch boards out. We shouldn't lose power and the engine mech seems to be in decent condition. I would clear us for extended jump and deep space." Wynry tapped her chin and then settled into her captains chair. "Then we take the course you've plotted Blackwolf. Set it and let me know when you are ready to go." They were taking a gamble, but it could pay off big and at this point, they didn't have much to lose.

It was a bit fun to bend the rules and Illya waited to see if his team would think the same. The final say would be with Wynry, but Illya knew she would value Tiberius' opinion and that was good. At last, Tiberius gave his thoughts and Illya turned quickly in his seat to enter the calculations. "We're ready when Tiberius es. Jes make sure we all strapped in eh?"

"Prepare for jump," she said a little too loudly over the intercom. Nodding to Illya, she waited until he was done and Tiberius gave the signal. "Well, here goes nothing," she said with small shrug. Then she hit the thrust jumping them the fastest speed their little mock scout ship should have been capable of. A few minutes into the launch, she called down to Tiberius who reported that the engines were performing within proper limits. "Good. We should arrive at our destination in 1 hour "one day" in real time. Keep close to the readouts and report every 30 minutes."

Illya was eager to get a head start on this exercise and win. He was more than happy to get through the day and get home. "Eh...We jes go." Sitting on the edge of his seat Illya debated if he could stand for a while to relieve some of the pressure in his back. After they were out a good distance Illya got up from his seat and he paced the floor of the cabin. "We have anyting cold tah put on meh back?" Illya didn't know if they'd have anything like that on the ship, but he hoped so. Before he could go looking a ding sounded and he saw another ship was in their orbital space. "Oh, I tink we jes keep going."

The little ding made Wynry's stomach sink to her toes. That was never a good sound in these simulations. Illya's suggestion was that they just keep going and for now that would work, but she wasn't just going to relax about it. "Aye, but I want you to take a look at the scanners and see what sort of reading you get. We wont have offboard cameras in jump speed, but depending on what sort of energy they use or feed back they send, it might give us an idea if they're trouble." From what she could see, they were gaining speed, following in the wake of their jump which wasn't entirely uncommon when trying to save fuel. Of course it was also a way to attack from the rear while a ship was in mid jump too. Before she could say much more the mock cock put jostled some and a nearly missed fire from a cannon blazed past them, setting off all sorts of sensors. A momentary panic hit Wynry and she glanced at Illya wide-eyed. "Defense stations, quick." Another shot rumbled by and Wynry slammed her finger against the comms. "Tiberius, how do the engines look?" He replied quickly. "Fine for now, but I wouldn't count on them for a direct hit. The last one was close."

Even if Wynry was concerned about the attack Illya got up from his chair and he ran to the guns. "Oooh let's get dah big ones." He liked this part of the simulation far more than most of it this far. Swinging around in the cock pit for the guns he fired off a few good shots and he knew he made a hit on the ship with the first one and probably a critical hit would be his next. "Yeah! Dis es what we call fun."

At least someone was enjoying themselves. For Wynry, every call she made would lead to success for her team or failure. They had remained neutral with the ship until fired upon, and now they would defend themselves. Another blast came by, this one hitting them on the starboard side. There was a small fire but it was quickly extinguished when the pumps vaccumed the air fueling it out of the compartment. Wynry gripped her chair tightly and gave Illya a nod. "It's us or them. Aim to disable them, destroy it if you have to. And uh...feel free to use the big guns."

"Yes!" Illya's face lit up with a sort of excitement and he switched to the big guns before he began firing again. "Dey'll be too slow tah keep up and I tink now they jes be stranded. Maybe I dun kill dem, but unless dey got aid nearby dey would die out dere. Now how far do we got tah go? Meh back es killing meh."

"Let them figure out their own aid," Wynry said, smirking a little, "They shouldn't have been out here poaching and probably have allies within message distance. We make our destination in 30 minutes." She heard Tiberius let out a 'thank god!' from the engine room comm and rolled her eyes. The Terran religion was a strange one to her. One god, and everyone is going to paradise. Tiberius had tried to explain it to her once and she was entirely lost on it. The ship following them began running evasive patterns when Illya began firing, but their ship was already damaged. A final blow sent them careening out of the wake and too far behind to pursue. Whether or not the ship was too damaged to repair or would be lost forever wasn't their concern.

Once they were in the clear Illya couldn't help laughing. He got a little bit of a thrill blasting the other ship out of the air and somehow it felt far more satisfying than it should have. It was probably just the fact that he felt like he was doing something he was made to do. In a way he realized that after spending most of his life as a military man he felt like he was made for war and in a way his skills proved it.

Wynry smiled only when they made it to port at their destination and the hatch opened to reveal the instructor. "Your objective was reached on time. Not the best time, of course, but not the worst. As a team you performed 7.5 out of 10 and individually you were given scores of 6.9 for Wynry. 7.0, for Blackwolf, and 6.5 for Tiberius." The Terran poked his head out of the mock engine room and sighed. "Anyone should have been able to handle that calculation and it was you who brought the group grade down significantly when you couldn't complete the calculation. I would work on that before finals. Your team is dismissed for now."

When they had finally landed Illya was more than happy to be done with the exercise, but he wasn't glad to hear what their grade was. It was a good thing they didn't rely on Tiberius for all the math. Glancing at Tiberius Illya shrugged, "I tink we do better next time. I dun like dat score." He wanted perfection if he was going to be doing a drill of sorts and he had fallen far from the mark. Since it looked like Swyft was free for a few moments Illya walked over to the man. "Sir, I want tah ask what I did wrong. I can use more work on engines eh?"

Swyft had allowed the instructor to give her marks accordingly and sat back into his seat waiting for the next group to try their hand when Blackwolf lumbered over, asking what he could improve on. Swyft put down his pad for a moment and offered for the Chip to sit down. "Aye. You need to know your engines better. You did well with the main drivers, but some...well alot of your circuitry was swapped or the wrong sized board was used. Tiberius fixed the mistakes when he went down there. You were all counted off for swapping, as everyone needs to be able to function at any of those roles, but I think in the field it would have been the right call."

The circuitry being wrong was surprising, but only for a moment. Illya's eyebrows raised slightly and he sighed. He knew he got things mixed up and it was easy enough to read the circuitry wrong. "Eh, et's all dat reading. I dun like tah read so much and I'm nut ever gonna be fast at et." That was a fact, but Illya figured he could memorize a standard circuit board and see if that helped.

Swyft was aware of some of the difficulties the Chip faced and he nodded. "If you work at it enough, you'll see the patterns. I might recommend taking a few of the boards home and labeling them so you have something to remember. If I recall, your wife was quite good at them. She would probably quiz you, if you wanted," Swyft suggested.

"Aye, ef I can get permission tah take home small bit of equipment I will memorize dah circuit boards." Even if Wynry had told him only to remember the important stuff, by the time he got to the important stuff he was almost as well off to memorize things. Illya turned to leave again now that he had his answer, but he remembered to give Swyft a salute, so he turned and gave the man the proper salute. "Tank yah sir. Yah will see improvement in meh drills."

"It's in the equipment room, just be sure to sign your name on the pad so we know who has the equipment," Swyft added. The man was working hard to learn and Swyft had no problem giving him every chance or resource to do so. He would never be science officer and Wilds help the group he was trying to be diplomatic with, but the man was one hell of a shot. The security team would be his focus if he decided to go for officer. The Chip gave him a sharp salute as he turned away and Swyft nodded in recognition. Wynry had waited for Illya at the end of the hall but Tiberius had long gone, lighting out of there as soon as he was free to dinner. "You did well," Wynry said, "considering it was your first practical."

Since they were done for the day Illya was ready to go home, but he was going to stop and get some equipment first. He didn't get very far and he saw Wynry was waiting for him. The girl made a compliment and Illya nodded. "I tink I work hard and we get better score as team next time eh?" He'd watched a few practicals, but he still needed work and he was fairly certain that he could help Tiberius with the math, if the man would let him. "I tink Tiberius es still upset wit meh. Maybe yah tell him tahnight dat I can show him how tah make calculations easy. I dun do et how dey show en dah books. Dey make et harder."

Wynry titled her head and nodded down the hall way. "We'll get better. It was our first run as a team and it was a harder scenario. I think it would be good for you and Tiberius to go over the math together, but if I ask him, it will only sound like I've been talking about him behind his back with you. You should try to talk with him and ask him. He might be in a bad mood because his woman dumped him for a different man, but he's not entirely unreasonable. He wants to pass A deep frown came to Illya's face when she told him why Tiberius had been so grouchy. "Ah, I will talk wit him." Instead of turning towards the equipment shop Illya turned and went to the cafeteria. That was going to be the most likely place to find Tiberius.

Wynry let Illya go to the cafeteria and kept her path to the equipment shop. She could pick up the circuits the man needed and let the two men talk without hindrance. Hopefully. Tiberius sat at a table with his back against the wall and his face to the door. Old habits died hard even on alien planets it seemed. He poked and prodded at his nyte beast roast and crispy red grass feeling more than irritated. His performance had been poor in the sim. He wasnt bad at math perse, but he didnt navigate in space. Ask him to read a map and he was fine, but calculating out of nothing was something he struggled with. Stabbing at his meat, he took a massive, almost vengeful bite and chewed it cave man style for spite. He didnt notice when Illya came in, but he noticed with the table groaned from a sudden weight on the other side. Looking up, he swallowed and wiped his mouth. "Didnt think you'd be sticking around for dinner."

Tiberius didn't look up when Illya entered the cafeteria, but he did witness the comically vicious bite that the man took of his food. Wandering over to the table Illya casually sat down in the center of the bench. He didn't like having his back to the doorway, but he was working on making himself improve on some things and this was one he could try for a few minutes. "I'm nut sticking around for dinner. I tink dat dah books teach bad way tah do dah mat for navigation. Et es much easier den dey teach. I will show yah how tah do et easier tomorrow. For now yah eat yah dinner. Oh and Wynry tell meh dat yah woman leave yah. I tink yah get Chip woman. Chip woman will stay wit her man all her life. I know because I have Chip woman before Kalizda and she died from terrible poison, but she was good woman and she was wit meh for many difficult years. Kalizda es Chip woman and she es wit meh for many difficult times too. Yah need Chip woman."

Tiberius expected some short worded, obvious answer but instead the man became a water of sentences with his thick accent making some of it hard to follow. He got the gist of it enough. The man seemed like he might be there to tell him how badly he had done at first, and how easy the math should have been. Except, he didn’t. He just pointed out that the book instructions sucked- because they did- and he knew a better way. That much was clear. Tiberius wanted to get through this now more than ever, and if it took getting a few pointers from the racist jackass to do it, he would. His next statement about his woman totally threw him off. The only reason Wynry knew was because she had been in the bunk and saw the video chat and that had been embarrassing. Now, he was suggesting he get a Chip woman because they were better. The thought was somewhat funny too, because that wasn’t a racial thing. The council woman was no more Chip than he was racially, but she was apparently still a Chip. “The math help I’ll take,” he replied, “But I doubt you’d be recommending a Terran to a Chip woman, huh?” He said it plainly as if he was obvious and then took another bite of his remaining meat

At first the expression on Tiberius' face seemed to indicate that the man was expecting some sort of criticism. The Terran had even straightened his back some and postured a bit, only for it to fall back into a more relaxed position with shoulders slightly slackened. Of course the posture came right back with the comment on getting a Chip woman and Illya shrugged. "I jes did. Some Terrans can earn respect above dat of common Terran. I know some dat are good and I try nut tah offend dah good ones."

Tiberius wasnt even sure how to take that last sentence. Compliment? Insult? Both? Tiberius blinked a few times and then did the only think he knew to do which was to offer a faint smirk. He really was a racist, but he had some sense about him. "Good to know I've broken the mold, and here my Pop said I would never amount to anything." It grew quiet between them for a moment and he raised a brow. Imagining a real born and bred Chip woman was hard as he'd never seen one. "All the Chip women as tall as you look?"

Gradually a weak little smirk came to Tiberius' face and Illya moved to stand up from his seat. At the same time Tiberius decided to ask about his height and Illya laughed. "Taller, I'm short for Chippeqouti."

"Well, damn." Tiberius let out a genuine chortle and thought of women even taller than Blackwolf with tan skin and dark hair. It was an exotic, pretty thought and his smile grew. "Something your wife is grateful for, I would think." It looked as if the man were turning to go and Tiberius let him. "See you tomorrow."

"Eh, I see yah tomorrow. Jes wipe dat dumb grin off yah face. I got tah find Chip woman dat wants short white man first." Snickering a little Illya headed out the door of the cafeteria. It looked like he'd cheered Tiberius up a little bit and it was fun to make semi rotten comments every now and then

* * * * * * * * * * *

The next week passed quickly. Between Cypher on his first grounding ever for disobeying her about the sword, to finalizing a workable plan to help the Zkreen rebels, Calysta kept a close eye on her Chip. She could tell that the withdrawals were beginning to catch up with her Chip. He slept less, tossing and turning no matter what she did to help. On the last morning before the weekend he woke sweaty and pale looking, but greeted her by telling her she was beautiful. "Mmm..." she hummed into his kiss, "Good morning, my Chip." They had tried to spend time together with each other in the mornings, but with sleep limited and more time needed to get ready in the mornings, their snugglings had been few and far between.

As she walked over to the closet, he caught her off guard by asking for medicine. Not tea or oils. He wanted his suckers and she knew he was in true pain. Rather than hitting him with a denial, she simply told him what she did have. "I have tea and and oils for your back," she said quietly. He looked disappointed but didn't deny the offerings. So, before they made their way to Skycorp, she put on a pot of pain tea and sat down on the bed behind her Chip, knees planted in the mattress and took her time rubbing the clove and peppermint oils into his skin.

The skin of his broad, tan back was damaged from war and surgery, and carried the scars of a severe whipping at the hands of a cruel pirate. The scars were raised from his back and rough, stretching inches across in some places. She rubbed her Chip's back gently, making sure the oils sank in as deeply as they could. When she was done, she leaned down and kissed his neck with equal tenderness. "I'll rub again when you come home tonight, yeah." Kissing his cheek, she went to get dressed and take him to work. When she dropped him off at the gate, he asked her again for medicine and she shook her head. "I'll make you some more tea before you come home so it's ready."

It worried her that he was beginning to ask for his medicine, though she knew it was bound to happen. She would keep close to him now more than before to make sure he was following the program. He could make it through. She knew he could. Her own sleep came in the form of small naps during the day and when she fell asleep stirring a pot during one of her cooking lessons with Priscilla, the woman sent her back to Kinte to take a nap. She had to find a way to help him sleep some how and the only thing she could think of to try was coffee. A little researched revealed a helpful spot on Kinte near the intergalactic portion of the islands. They would be able to find good, fresh coffee there. She fell asleep before responding to an invitation to some sort of fashion show from Kirit's fashonista mother. Apparently, there was going to be a party and show for all of the Chippeqouti women to reveal her new line and Ahvah had sent her the invitation hoping she would come. Did she really have time? She didn't know but it wouldn't hurt to make an appearance at least and she was allowed to bring others. Rose would like to go to something like that and she hadn't spent near enough time with her eldest daughter in the past month or two.

When she came to pick him up, he looked thoroughly miserable. Sweat soaked his hair, making it stringy and limp while his forehead was beaded with sweat and he was ashen too.
Did he feel up to going anywhere? Probably not, but it would be worth it. A spot of guilt swept over her but she ignored it and offered him a smile. "Hey, love," she said, taking up his sweaty palm, "We just have an errand or two and then we'll go to the ship, yeah?"

She didn't want to leave him alone right now and taking him with her might get his mind off a few things, if he could stand the trip. She got him into the flyer along side the twins who were packed together in their carry harness and flew them out to the southern most island of Kinte where the international market was. "It's not too far," she said as she hoisted up the twins and clipped them to her shoulders. The were getting too heavy for this and she knew it, but it was a bit easier than the stroller in this part of town.

Calysta walked slow alongside her Chip through the busy pathways until the came to a small little shop with tables decorated with flowers out front. She opened the door and a little bell rang announcing her presence. Illya had to duck into the door way some to come inside and even then he was eye level with the hanging lights in the room. The place was busy as the street, but oddly quiet. People sat at tables sipping from big cups and talking quietly amongst themselves or working on pads. To the side was a long bartop where a barista stood a machine, apparently waiting for it to do something. Suddenly, it hissed out an entire cup full of of steamed cream, and the barista smiled before rolling it around in the cup.

"Welcome to Little Big Bean, Kaereals one and only coffee roasters and shops. You pick it, we grind it, what can I get-" The barista passed off the drink to another customer before glancing up to the new customers...a long way up. "Huh, I didn't think they grew'em that big on Kaereal," she smiled to them, "What can I get started for you?"

"I was hoping we could sample some of your drinks and maybe get some coffee ground up to brew at home," Calysta said, "Do you have anything with...a mild flavor? Tastes good with cream?"
"Anything can taste good if you douse enough cream in it," she said, "But I think I have a few. Give me just a minute." The barista set to work pouring up some samples with cream and sugar while Calysta leaned toward Illya who was looking a bit sick. "Before you lost your memory, you used to drink coffee at night and it helped you sleep," she explained, "It was hard to get in the past few years with Terra being under Federation control and the embargo, but this place opened up not too long ago and it sells coffee from the colonies. I thought you might like to try it again. It might help. Skycorp finals will be coming up within the next month or two." And I need some sleep too before my brain turns to mush.

Calysta waited patiently, ignoring the fact that a few folks had looked to see who the small woman and big man were. When the barista was ready, Calysta offered them to Illya. "See if there is one you like and we'll get that one, yeah? Then we can get some Terran food to go for dinner." She didn't care for coffee and she worried he might not be up to tasting. If it wasn't, that was alright.
They could get whatever he thought he might like. The barista stared at them, noting the dark circles under the small woman's eyes. Coffee was probably the last thing the little woman needed, really, but a buying customer wasn't about to get turned down.


Anonymous Me
The day had already been long enough and Illya felt himself nearly choke at the suggestion of walking more. All he wanted to do was go lay down in a bed and shove a morphine sucker in his mouth. That wasn't going to happen, but he could at least go lay down. Apparently, laying down wasn't going to happen for a bit yet. For a moment Illya thought about protesting. Kalizda looked tired and he felt somewhat responsible for it. He wasn't sleeping well and that meant she wasn't sleeping well either. A surge of guilt crept up his throat and he simply nodded at Kalizda's suggestion. She was trying so hard to take care of him and he knew it wasn't easy.

Every step toward the coffee house was almost torture. Illya could feel his back twinge with almost every step. However, he'd managed to get through PT at Skycorp and he could make it a few more steps. Cringing a little he ducked to get through the doorway. Instead of receiving silent, or at least quiet service he found himself clenching his jaw at the barista's comment on his height and size. Humor was not something that Illya felt like engaging in at this point. Staring at the barista mutely he waited for them to get the point and just start mixing whatever it was that they had to. The first little taste of coffee with the cream was not very good and Illya reluctantly swallowed the horrible tasting drink. "Ugh..yah have one wit different taste?"

Thankfully there was another taste, actually several more and Illya took a small cup of beans in his hands and smelled it before he took the next one and smelled it too. After going through nearly 4-5 different smelling beans Illya found one that he liked the smell of and had a small cup brewed. The final brew was a nice spiced sort of flavor and it had the sweetness of a tea with the cream in it. Smiling as best he could Illya asked for a little more of it to walk home with. Kalizda bought a bunch of it and explained it used to help him sleep. If it could do that Illya was more than glad to take it.

For the remainder of the walk home Illya did his best to try and focus on the fact that they were almost to the ship and then he would eat dinner with Kalizda and help her clean before going to bed, but he found himself still having trouble focusing on anything besides his back. Instead of making dinner Kalizda decided to stop and get something for them to eat. It was a mercifully welcome idea.

After they were finally ready to head back to the ship Illya felt a bit tired, but he was determined to at least eat a little food. Just getting to the ship was a chore and Illya lazily opened the box of food Kalizda handed to him. He didn't remember seating himself in the kitchen, but he was here. Scooping one mouthful of food into his mouth after another Illya managed to get through dinner. "Et was good." Grabbing the box Illya walked it to the disposal and dumped it in before he drug himself to the bedroom. It was finally the end of the day and he was going to sleep. Pulling his boots off, Illya dropped them on the floor next to the bed and then flopped on top of the covers for all but 2 minutes before he sat up long enough to push the blankets down so he could get them out from underneath himself and then crawl under them.

Whatever the coffee was it did help with the sleep. Illya only woke when he had a more severe spasm in his back and groaned some, but he found it easier to settle back in and sleep again. The week seemed to take far longer than the one before and Illya knew it was because the cravings were much worse this week. He couldn't stand how bad the cravings were and he wanted something to quell them.

Waking early in the morning Illya decided he'd get up before Kalizda and go check the cupboards in the ship for something to drink. He knew she'd never let him have a sucker, but he was desperate and he needed something. Slipping out of the bed as quietly as he could manage Illya stumped his way toward the ship galley. His prosthetic foot made a metallic clunk with every step, but Kalizda knew the sound and he figured she'd sleep through it. For a second Illya thought he heard Kalizda, but he didn't hear her say anything, so he stepped around the corner and into the hall leading to the kitchen. His eyes scanned the cupboards and he tried to envision what each one held. Finally, Illya's gaze fixed on one cabinet door. The left cabinet over the sink. It had a little wine in it. Perhaps the wine wasn't as strong as a Chip drink, but it would do what he needed. Illya just wanted something to take the edge off.

With a quickened pace Illya strode into the kitchen and he grabbed the cupboard door. The door swung open with ease and Illya felt his heart drop to his stomach. Where was the wine? Kalizda always kept cooking wine and there wasn't any in this cabinet. Perhaps he had remembered incorrectly. Moving to the next cabinet Illya opened it and found nothing there. After the fourth cupboard revealed nothing Illya could feel his heart beating faster and the panic begin to rise. In a frenzy he tore through the remainder of the kitchen and found nothing.

Sweat was pouring down Illya's face and he eyebrows were nearly pulled together by the tremendous frown on his face. Finally, he walked over to the small table in the kitchen and slumped into one of the seats. There was nothing in the cabinets and he needed something badly before he went to class. Staring intently at the table top Illya tried to think of some way he might get something to stave off some of the cravings. He could just hurt himself during PT. However, if they were going to give him what he actually wanted it would have to be severe. While he was still deep in thought Illya raised his head slightly and he saw Kalizda standing in the doorway of the kitchen. He didn't know how long she'd been there. There wasn't any point in saying anything because if she'd seen him tearing through the kitchen she would know what he was doing and if she didn't contradicting it would only make her suspicious. Slowly getting up from the seat at the table Illya clenched his jaw some. "Yah awake now. We get shower eh?" Despite the fact that Illya knew he was thinking of terrible things and he should feel guilty, Illya wasn't even close to feeling guilty. If anything he was angry that there wasn't anything to drink and there certainly weren't any suckers to be had.

At the end of classes and PT Kalizda was waiting for Illya like usual and he decided that he had to figure out some way for her not to meet him on time. If he could have just enough time to go get some alcohol. Even something simple like that could be enough if he had it on an empty stomach. With a plan in mind he went home fully prepared to buy alcohol and drink all of it before going home the next day.

It was fourth day of the week and there was only one more day before they went back to Pytra. Illya knew that if he had a chance this was going to be the day. There wasn't anyway he was going to get something at Skycorp. Nobody had that kind of stuff and if they did, it was through the dispensary at the clinic. He wouldn't be getting anyone's medications. His had been through the dispensary and it made sense, but it was also frustrating. Near the end of the day Illya came up with an idea. More than likely he wouldn't have to hurt himself.

Shortly before PT started Illya went out to the field to talk with Swyft. "Sir, meh back es hurting very bad tahday. I dun tink I can run, but ef I get some extra rest tahnight I tink dat I could run tomorrow." By now Illya figured he had built up enough credibility that he could get away with it this time. Besides, it was going to be obvious that his back would hurt and that wasn't a lie at all. The trick to telling the best lies was to make them 90% truth and 10% lie. There were fewer false details to remember and the lie could be repeated perfectly anytime needed. A 10% lie was enough to sway anything in favor of what was desired. Just as Illya expected, he got the time to go home and he felt a little twinge of guilt for lying, but he wanted the alcohol more than he cared about the lie. It was mostly true anyway.

Instead of finding himself free, Kalizda was waiting for him and Illya had to swallow the irritation. Apparently he wasn't his own man anymore. She was keeping tabs on him and she was telling everyone at Skycorp to inform her of his activity. He was essentially surrounded by spies. Feigning a surprised smile he reached for her hand and walked home with her slowly. Despite his best attempts not to look, Illya saw the liquor shop on their way to the ship and he couldn't help staring at it for a few seconds. He would have to be on his best behavior now for the next few days. She would be watching him and he wouldn't get enough alone time to sneak a drink even if he wanted to.


Tiberius was relieved when he managed to make the formula properly for the second time in a row. This way made much more sense, logically speaking. The other way it wasn't altogether wrong but this way seem to make much more sense. He slid his Pad to the side when Illya changed topics. Wynry had been talking about him? She made him sound like some lost puppy in need of a home and he fought the urge to blanche. "Uh, Ive just been staying and studying to pick up my slack. Its just more efficient to stay here." The more he thought about it though, the more a small get away sounded like a good idea. Away from the stuffy compound at skycorp. "Unless you have a suggestions for a quick trip somewhere. You know the planet better than me."

"Eh, well." Illya rubbed the back of his head. "I dun know dah planet so well, but I tink yah should come see dah Pytra. Ets nice little place and dere are some good snake stews dat yah could try. Much better den dah food here." Illya hated to make it sound too friendly and he figured Tiberius would reject the offer, but he might take him up on it. "I could uh...dere might be Chip woman dat es interested. Her name es, Sherri. She's taller den meh and she has blue eyes."

Tiberius raised a brow. After their last conversation, he figured the man had been teasing him. But now, this seemed like a true invitation. Unless Sherri with the blue eyes was some sort of joke. "You're inviting the continent where you live?" His skepticism was clear and he looked up at Illya curiously. "And they're going to be fine with a wayward Terran running around?"

Shrugging nonchalantly Illya smirked. "I do like tah stir dah pot every now and den. Sherri dun know yah Terran yet. I jes tell her yah short and white."

"I'm sure she'll be thrilled to discover that," he replied wryly. Standing up, he dusted off his hands and held out one for Illya to shake. "But who am I to keep a woman waiting. When do we leave?"

Reaching into his pocket Illya realized he couldn't get what he wanted while he was sitting. Scooting back on the bench he found he almost had enough space to reach into his pocket, but he fell off the back and hit the floor with a solid thud. "Agh...damn et." With his legs still on the bench where he'd been sitting Illya reached into his pocket and retrieved the pass for Tiberius. "Soon as yah take dis stupid ting from meh and I get off dah floor. Kalizda will fly us home tonight eh? I arrange for yah tah stay en nice guest house at Chip village and in dah morning yah go to dah bat house."

Tiberius watched as Illya struggled and fought a laugh he went sprawling backwards into the floor, his knees buckling the table up into the middle. He reached out and took the pass before chuckling some and offering the man a hand up. "I hope your wife is better at landing than you are," he joked. It then struck him what he said about the Chip villa and a bath house. The only vision his mind could come up with was a roman bath house from Terran history. Men with fat bellies going to steam rooms and rubbing down with herb oils or leaves. Apparently that was a thing in Chip culture and a day at a bathhouse in a steam room didn't sound so bad. "Bath house, huh? That would be something I could get into."

Illya struggled to get off the floor and he took Tiberius' hand lightly. He didn't actually think that Tiberius would actually be much help. When he finally got himself up off the floor he sighed. More than likely Tiberius didn't quite know what the bath house was. No one outside of Chips understood it till they experienced the bath house for the first time.

Tiberius grunted slightly when Illya took his hand. The man was heavy and while he knew that, it was still surprising to experience the weight. "'re up...." he groaned, helping to haul the Chip up as best he could. "I'd better go get my rucksack if you're planning on leaving now."

"Yes, yah hurry up yah fat louse." Grumbling a little Illya stretched and he managed to crack his back in the process. It relieved some of the pain and he managed to shuffle his way out of the cafeteria. "Get out to dah gate when yah can."

Tiberious smirked and watches as Illya shuffled around like a beetle that had been plopped back over on his back. "Yeah, I'll meet you there in five minutes." He walked down the halls to his bunk room and found Wynry stretched out on her bunk without her hearing aids. She didn't even hear him when he walked in and began packing up his meager belongings in his ruck sack. When he was done, he tapped Wynry's foot and her eyes shot up to him. "I'm headed out for the weekend, you okay by yourself this weekend kid?" Wynry gazed up at him and she nodded. "Aye, see you on Monday." When he turned to leave, she smiled at his retreating back. Apparently, he had talked with Illya a bit and that was good. Tiberius was satisfied his teammate wouldn't have any issues while he was gone and then came out to the gate with his pack piled over his shoulder, pass in hand.

The hobble to the gate took long enough that Illya was barely stepping through when he saw Tiberius. "Hurry up." He couldn't help the slight grin on his face. We'll fly back using dah Silver Mountain." If there was one thing he was proud of showing it was the ship that he bought for Kalizda. "I get et for meh Kalizda because she likes nice sheps. Yah will be comfortable." With long strides Illya was almost leaving Tiberius behind and he chuckled. "Move faster." When he spotted Kalizda on the walkway Illya waived. "Over here!"

It was funny that the man told him to hurry up. He wasn't the one moving slow. The mentioned of the 'Silver Mountain' made him cock his head in curiosity but before he could ask or follow up with it, Illya was off again. Tiberius doubled his strides until they met up with the council woman. As soon as she spotted them he smirked a little at how excited the Chip was to see her. If it was one thing he knew, it was that the man was googoo over his wife. A smile lit up Calysta's face and she waved back before scuttling over. Without a single delay she wrapped an arm around her man and stood up on her toes to kiss him him. "Mmmm," she hummed, "Are you ready to go?" Her eyes slid over to Tiberious curiously. "It was Tiberius, right? It's a pleasure to see you again. Are you leaving for the weekend?" Tiberious looked to Illya, hoping he might explain. He had no idea how the little woman might react to a tag alone and there was no way in hell it was causing problems between the two of them.

The greeting from Kalizda was as expected and Illya grinned. He leaned over slightly to meet Kalizda kiss. "Mmm yah know I miss yah even when I jes gone for short time during school." Illya almost forgot about Tiberius until Kalizda said something. "Oooh, I invite Tiberius tah Pytra. He ride back wit us and rest his tired mind. Too much time at Skycorp."

Calysta smiled when he said he missed her and her little hand rubbed at his shoulder gently. She was surprised that he had extended an invitation, but it seemed like he was much more relaxed and maybe this would be good for Illya. "Understandable," she smiled, "We'll be glad to have you. There's plenty of space aboard the ship and it wont take us long to get there." Tiberius nodded gratefully to the woman and smiled. "I'd be much obliged. Its the Silver Mountain, right?" It struck him how odd a name that was for a ship, particularly a Kaerelean vessel and he chuckled as he walked. "Kind of a different name for Kaerelean ship. Usually its names like Gyl or Cryn or Moon related. Silver is...for that Goddess right?" Calysta stole a glance at her Chip and gave him a knowing smile before taking up his hand. "Something like that."

There was hardly more than a few seconds after the explanation for the guest and Tiberius was asking about the name. Illya smiled broadly. "No, ets nut named after dat Goddess. I named et and I dun believe in dah goddess." He figured that Tiberius ought to know he wasn't the type to stray from his religion and that included his practices in naming things. "Now, yah jes appreciate dah ship and dun stare at et and tink et should be some oter name."

The comment was odd about appreciating the ship but Tiberius just shrugged. "Sure thing. I was just curious." Calysta squeezed Illya's and softly and winked up to him just a little as they walked through the ship yard. Almost immediately when the rounded the corner, he could see why it was called the Silver Mountain. The ship was massive and sleek. "Holy hell. Now that's a ship. You two travel on this?"

Hearing the surprised intake of breath from Tiberius made the pride swell in Illya's chest. "Yes, I buy et for meh Kalizda. Et makes meh proud when I look at et tah know dat she takes pleasure tah fly et. Meh skills tah direct a ship are nut good. I jes be her copilot." Chuckling a little at his own proclamation of inadequacy with flight he nodded to Tiberius. "I tink yah like dis one. Et even has Tannas detectors on et. I dun like dah idea of one of dem sneaking inside."

Tiberius smirked a little. He knew the man wasnt a pilot and at least he could own up to it. When he mentioned the Tannas detectors, he nodded in approval. "Tannas detectors are good," he admitted, "The ones that were given out on Terra saved my life a time or two. The Alliance gave them out for the bases and homes. Nobody knew how many there were on the planet...I used to hear them going off at my apartment sometimes. Down the street. Some were my neighbors and it was...disconcerting."

"I know dis." Illya nodded slowly. "Meh Kalizda and I made sure dat Terra was equipped wit many detectors when dah President Harry was in favor of dah Alliance. He was good Terran and I liked him a little. Chippequoti tried tah protect dah Terrans dat were good because meh Kalizda asked us to. Terra es difficult place for long time and Federation control et long before yah were born."

The way Illya made it sound was that the only reason they had come to help was that the council woman had asked them to. He wasnt sure what to make of that and he glanced at the tiny woman who was still holding her man's hand letting them talk. She said nothing to confirm or deny that was the case but he saw she walked just a little closer to her husband, that her gaze on the ship ahead grew that much more distant. She knew the mistake she made apparently. "Nobody really knew until it was too late. The colonies are trying to keep themselves federation free and Alliance support has been appreciated. Alot of Terrans owe their lives to the Alliance and their peoples like the Chippeqouti. What happened on the planet could have been far more disastrous."

"Mm...Et could have been much worse. Meh Kalizda was bold woman and she asked dah Chippequoti tah save a people dat many of us hated for many years. Dey were shelter to dah Federation and dey commit many unforgivable crimes. I tink she help Chippequoti see dat nut all Terrans know what was done en secret. Many of dem still desire tah live witout murder. I learn tah accept dis because meh Kalizda help meh know and I teach meh people what I learn from her too and she shares dah blood of the Terran. Because Terrans are important to meh Kalizda dey become important to meh and derefore dah Chippequoti see dah value of Terrans. Maybe we still learn nut tah be racist bastards, but et takes time eh?"

Tiberius listened to Illya and for once, he sounded like he might have understood. Tiberius hadnt chosen Terra or to be Terran any more than his wife had and clearly there had been wrongs done on both sides. His wife, for the mistakes she made...perhaps had tried to do the right thing. Illya seemed thoroughly convinced that it was because of his little woman that any aid had come to them at all. They hadnt come to cover up her mistake, but had done so because she had owned up to it and asked them too. This time he looked to the tiny council woman and she was gazing up to her man with such a look of gentle pride as he had never seen before. She hadnt said a word about any of it. Not against Terrans, not against Chippeqouti or even in her own defense at this point. But he knew there was a silent strength in the look she was giving her husband that couldnt be denied and for the first time, his judgement of her dropped. Now, he felt ashamed for some of things he had said in the past and he cleared his throat quietly as they walked up the ramp. "Well, I think that we all have some things to work on but we'll get there. Terrans can be judgemental asses when they want to be, just as much as others can be racist bastards. It will take some time, huh?" He flashed a smile and a nod to Illya and Calysta as the hatch opened revealing two bouncing twin boys in their play pen. "Mam!" Edgar cried in joy. "Mamama!" Calysta left Illya's side to sweep up her boys in her arms and then nodded to Tiberius, never having once said anything off hand about the conversation. "Welcome aboard. There's the living room there and the galley is down the way if you're hungry. We'll be getting under way soon." With that, she kissed the twins heads and plopped them outside the playpen to let the roam before take off time. Tiberius chuckled as the toddlers waddled right over to their father and rubbed the back of his head. "Thanks, for you know, inviting me out."

It sounded as if Tiberius had accepted the best apology that Illya could give. He knew he'd done some wrong in the class and he was aware that many of the Terrans that were here happened to be better than those on Terra. Stepping onto the ship Illya saw the twins and his smile grew a little bit broader. "Well, now dere are meh favorite twins." When the boys toddled over Illya gave a playful growl and picked them up with one boy under each arm. Turning toward Tiberius with a slightly strained smile he nodded. "Eh, well..." His back was hurting, but his boys wanted to be held so badly and he had hard time refusing them. "Jes remember dat I dun want tah date yah, I have meh Kalizda. Jes figured yah needed little time away from Skycorp. I tink dat school would make anyone lose dere mind ef dey had no where tah go. I dun like school, but I like dah job I can have when I'm done wit et."

Tiberius snorted at Illya's reply and shook his head. "Don't worry. You're not my type." They both knew they were joking and the tension eased all the more. "And that's the hope. I never did like school. Its why I went army and bomb squad. If i was going to learn I wanted it to be for the practical good." At the sight of the two twins getting hauled up he chuckled and ruffled their hair before setting his bag next to couch. How that tiny woman had carried twins was a flat out mystery to him, but it was clear they belonged to her. They look more like their mom," he joked, "We'll get through the course and get you that commission here, huh?" It was as much a peace offering as he could give. The man was doing this for his family and Tiberius could respect thay without doubt.

"I have commission so dat I have official reason to be at meh Kalizda's side. When I was in dah military I could be at her side because et was expected and necessary. Witout reason, I'm jes a citizen." Illya knew Kalizda was off getting the ship engines going and he didn't usually say much on this subject and especially not when she was around. "When I return and dey make mandatory tests and den report on healt dey say dat I'm nut fit tah fight anymore. Yah dun know dis, but Chippequoti begin training when dey turn 13 for what dey will do for dah rest of dere life. I have 2 years tah study and memorize all Chippequoti military history. I train for many more years and only study war and dah art of war and oter tings, but all of et meant tah make meh Elite. Meh people know dat I'm Elite Warrior, but somehow Kaereleans tink dat one report from dah doctor say dat I'm nut fit has stripped meh title. Very difficult tah understand how dey take more den 100 years of training and say dat et es invalid. Yah find same problem after yah leave bomb squad?"

Tiberius' brow quirked at the idea of training from the age of 13 and only having two years of school....and then again when he mentioned how many years he had been training for. That would make him at least 113 if not older. He knew Chippeqouti lived longer, but hearing it was as if it were normal was another thing altogether. "I didnt exactly leave of my own accord," Tiberius said. Lifting up an arm, he used his other hand to give a loud thump to his ribs. "Lost a bit here and there when a secondary trip wire was activated that was separate from the original device. They reconstructed pretty well, but I was banned from the field because of the injury. Couldnt wear my flak jacket without being slowed down anymore." He took in a breath and lowered his arm. "So, I get it. They can take us out of the fight but they cant take the fight out of us."

This time Illya's brow rose in surprise. He couldn't seem to help it. The Terrans were always so delicate and he often forgot it until they reminded him of injuries that should have healed enough for them to do more, only the injury didn't heal well. "Ooh, I forget dat Terran bodies dun heal so well. I heal from bomb, but et was bad." Getting quiet for a long moment he finally sighed, "When we get tah Pytra I will make sure yah have good food. Yah try snake stew eh?"

It seemed they had a little bit more in common than either of them originally thought and a silence swept over them for a long moment. The ship's engines whirred and the council woman's voice came over the intercom announcing that they would be taking off soon. Tiberius settled into a plush arm chair, still slightly amazed that this luxury cruiser was theirs, and smoothed down his goatee before hearing Illya's mention of food. "I've never had it before, but anything has to be better than nyte beast roast with more of that grass stuff." He rubbed his stomach slightly, knowing that it never quite settled right. "I will need to make one stop while I'm there."

Kalizda's voice broke through the strange silence and for a moment Illya let things stay that way. However, he noticed that Tiberius seemed to shift almost uncomfortably in his seat and it wasn't because the seat was uncomfortable. There were a few reasons that Illya could think a man might shift about like that. The paranoid reason was that Tiberius planned to make an assassination attempt and the more logical reason was that perhaps some injuries were bothering him. "Yah need medicines for yah pains?" Stating it blandly Illya met the man's gaze.

Tiberius looked at Illya, confused as to how he arrived at that conclusion. "Nah, I've got that with me. I only take it on occasion. Don't like the way it makes me feel after. Actually, I might need to go town and purchase some civilian clothes. I've been wearing our fatigues on the weekend and none of mine fit now thanks to PT. I wouldn't meet a woman looking like a slob." His mother had at least taught him that much.

For a brief moment Illya felt highly tempted to ask Tiberius how strong his medicines were. One of those sounded so good and he wasn't as bad as he had been last week, but the urge was still there. Just knowing someone had medicine made him feel like he couldn't forget it existed. "Oh, I tink I understand. Yah want tah impress her. Dats a good ting. Chip women like tah be impressed."

A weird look passed over Illya's face and then he finally seemed to catch up with the conversation again. It sounded like he had his work cut out for him but maybe it would work out. What did he have to lose? "Tall even for a Chip woman and blue eyes..." he nodded to himself in approval, "I'll trust your judgement on her." About that time the councilwoman walked in and leaned down kissing her husband's cheek, "Tea?"

The return of Kalizda was good and she had the perfect question. Nodding wordlessly Illya looked up at her and smiled a little. "Eh, some honey in et too eh?" He desperately wanted something to quell the pain in his back and maybe help take his mind off the fact that Tiberius had medicine. "Yah like tea?" Glancing to Tiberius Illya figured he could offer. It wasn't as though the tea actually had any dangerous properties in it.

Calysta's fingers smoothed down the hair at the nape of her husbands neck and smiled at him, though she looked tired. "Uh that would be good. I'm more of a coffee fan, but its hard to come by these days. Tea would be appreciated." As soon as Calysta headed toward the galley the tubbier of the twins pursued her as fast as his chunky legs could carry him. "Maaam! Snak!" A light chuckle came from down the hall and it sounded as if the boy would get his snack.

They did have some coffee and Illya grinned a little. "Well, I guess we all go to dah kitchen and we get some coffee for yah." Illya figured he'd just make the coffee for Tiberius. The trip home wouldn't be long and he didn't want to nap. Even if Tiberius was someone he should be able to trust, Illya doubted that he would find it possible to completely trust any outsider with his wife and family.


Anonymous Me
It was about mid morning and Illya finally got up. He liked sleeping in on one morning of his weekend. That much he'd negotiated with Kalizda and it usually helped ease some of the back pain. Now that he was further along with the healing from the back surgery Illya was cleared for the pleasure house and he was going to make sure Tiberius got to enjoy it too. Kalizda had already showered and so Illya figured Tiberius might as well go to the bath house with him. Sending a quick message on the pad Illya grabbed a few things for himself, including his wash bucket and oils before heading out the door to meet Tiberius by the fountain. It was only a short distance from the guest house and about half way to the bath house and pleasure house.

It was mid morning when he got the message to meet Blackwolf somewhere in the area dubbed by the locals as 'Chip Village' and now he stood in jeans and a button up shirt he'd bought at the store there, looking very short amid the passing groups. He didn't get any funny looks besides a few kids sticking their tongues out at him and scuttling off to play. He was supposed to be going to this Chip bath house and he was fully looking forward to a little time to chill out in a steam room. Finally, he saw the big man walking through the street carrying a bucket of some kind. "Morning," he said, "Uh, why do you have a bucket?" Last he checked that wasn't something necessary for a bath house.

With a little hitch to his step and coming around the corner, Illya swayed slightly on his feet, but he made it to the fountain without event. When he spotted the short, white form of Tiberius he grinned. "Of course I have bucket. Dun worry dere will be one for yah as guest." Without waiting for anymore questions Illya strode right past Tiberius and figured the man would catch up.

"Riiiight..." Tiberius muttered as he followed in Illya's hobbling wake. What he would need a guest bucket for he had no idea, but he was beginning to wonder if this was some elaborate joke. They approached a long building and there were other Chips, both male and female, coming in and out of the door. The ones coming out were chatting and had wet heads. He got a good glimpse of a tall Chip woman and quickly looked away, as her chest hit about his eye level. Apparently, this bath house had a women's side too. They went into a parlor area and he saw a few spare buckets with bottles and rags. He took a bet and grabbed one before following the fast moving Chip to a dressing area. "Where's the men's side?" He asked curiously.

In a way it was disappointing to miss the shower with Kalizda, but the bath house was a welcome sight too. It had been a while and Illya was looking forward to annoying Ehvan, if Ehvan was here this late today. When he stepped through the door Tiberius asked him which side was the men's and Illya laughed. "Dis side. Jes dun look behind yah." With that he stripped down and set his clothes in a cubicle and then started straight toward the spigot on the men's side of the bath house. The water was cool, but it always was and that was familiar. It was another reason that the bathing pace was leisurely. Nobody wanted to freeze themselves in a mad splash of water.

The answer came in short order and now he wanted to know what was behind him. He glanced at the bucket in his hand and wondered again if this was a joke. What could possibly be behind him? Then he heard the all too telling sound of women giggling. A quick realization dawned on him and he chose a cubicle before stripping down. Women. There were women behind him. Probably naked women at that. Blood left his cheeks and he made a beeline for the spigot, bucket kept strictly in front of him. He passed a few other chip men on the way and suddenly the bath house was anything but relaxing. "Uh..are the women there..the whole time?" He asked Illya quickly as he filled up the bucket like everyone else.

Illya almost had his bucket full and then he heard the familiar sound of wet feet slapping against the stone floor. Tiberius was standing at the spigot to fill his bucket and the question left his lips in a sort of wary, hesitation. "Yes, dey're over dere dah whole time. We're on dis side dah whole time. Jes dun look and et will be like et should." Walking over to a spot facing the wall Illya poured a few oils in his bucket and then dunked his rag in the bucket a few times before flopping it over one shoulder and allowing the water to run down his back while he washed his face and hair. "Et's very nice and relaxing eh?" One of the other Chip men glanced at Tiberius and then smirked. Outsiders seemed to find the custom strange, but it was quite comfortable.

All would be as it should? But they were over there! He could hear them chattering happily. What sort of bath house was this?! He filled his bucket up and then shuffled over close to where Illya was. He wasnt sure what oil went where so he dumped a little of everything in and then glanced to Illya. That man must have had a will of iron. He was utterly devoted to his wife and a gaggle of tantalizing women...naked...behind them wasnt making him have any embarrassing salutes as his was tempted to do. He actively focused on the water and found out it was cold. Perfect. The first thing he did was dunk his rag and slap it over his crotch. It was freezing! And it automatically deflated anything happening there. Illya mentioned something about being relaxing and Tiberius mustered a teeth clenched look. "Relaxing....its an experience. Not sure relaxing is the word."

The Chippequoti men within distance to hear Tiberius chuckled and one of them leaned closer to Illya. "I like how foreigners make entertainment here." All of it was said in Quoti and Illya nodded before he grabbed his rag and flopped it back in the bucket again. "It is relaxing when yah come tah bat house from young age. I start tah go wit meh fater when I was 7. Jes old enough tah learn dat ef I looked at dah oter side I would get slapped." Chuckling a little he smirked. "Still dun stop a look every now and den when Kalizda es across dah room." At that small confession a gasp sounded from the other side of the room before the ladies started to laugh. Illya shrugged. "Jes as long as nobody catch yah looking et dun matter. I only look when Kalizda es dere. She es meh woman and I like dah way she looks."

Tiberius listened to Illya explain and he couldnt imagine being a teenage boy in a bath house like this. The confession and women gasping made him smirk a little. It did surprise him the council.woman came here from time to time too. "If the woman is your own wife, I could see the temptation," he said, swallowing hard. He knew they were chatting about him in Qouti too and he wasnt about to be caught looking. "I think I can resist a bit," he managed to say, "Bath houses arent like this on Terra. All men or all women but never mixed." Tiberius began washing down, trying to pace himself, but also trying to hurry. It was very possible this Sherri was over there and he didnt want scars over his back and ribs to be on display for too long. Half done, he glanced to the other men and then swept his eyes over the floor. The more giggling he heard, the more he wanted to look. "You werent kidding when you said you were short," Tiberius jabbed at Illya, hoping to distract himself.

A bath house for only men sounded nice, but wasteful and Illya nodded along. Slapping the rag over his left arm he washed it off quickly and worked his way over the next arm. He still planned to wash his prosthetic leg because it might as well get washed. Naturally there was a little ribbing from Tiberius and Illya grinned. "Eh, dah winds make meh short, but dey make sure I have size where et matters."

Illya launched right into a measuring contest and Tiberius grinned. "Doesnt help if you dont know how to use it," he smarted back.

"I know how tah use et." With a slight indignant tone to his voice he frowned and stared at Tiberius. "How do yah tink I have four children by meh Kalizda. Dat's all practice and a bit more den yah might have had. When yah give woman more den one child at a time den yah talk to meh about practice eh?" At the end of all that he laughed. Illya loved to feign irritation for a reaction and he was sure he would get one from Tiberius.

The man looked offended, but Tiberius just stared at him. Chips were what they found offensive and what they didnt it seemed. Then the man started to laugh. Chips really were.bizarre . "Babies are one thing and a woman's enjoyment another. I am to please both," he replied, a big grin spreading over his mouth. He washed his back as he chuckled but winced when his spine gave a cramp against the cold water.

For Kalizda's sake Illya didn't go into detail. He just rolled his eyes. "I imagine yah work harder den meh for bot of dose tings." There was always a chance that Tiberius wouldn't know what to say after that. Perhaps Tiberius would have something more to say, but Illya couldn't think of anything further that a man might have to say in his defense. Noticing the wince Illya looked over Tiberius back and grunted, "Yah do well at pleasure house. Dey will make sure tah work yah back well and get et loose feeling."

For once Illya relented, but Tiberius suspected the man didnt get quite what he was saying. Instead the topic turned to...a pleasure house. Tiberius blinked at Illya. "You go to the pleasure house?"

"Mmmhmmm I go right after dis and I like tah have a man do et." By now Illya had figured out what foreigners thought and he was going to make the most of it. "I like et when dey rub on meh back and sometimes press in hard. Very pleasurable after yah get past dah pain."

Tiberius paused and looked at Illya. So, there was the catch. He had heard rumor that Illya was into men once from a.skinny little Aeriktan in the upper class, but he'd seen then man with his wife. The rumor was laughable at that point, but now it seemed there was some truth to it perhaps. Unless the man was joking on him again. His brow raised and he looked at Illya skeptically "You like a man on your back giving you pleasure, huh?" He asked openly.

"Not on meh back yah dumb head. I tink I would kill a man dat jumped on meh back." Illya was definitely not considering anyone actually getting too close to the surgical site on his back simply because it was still hurting. However, he figured a massage around other areas on his back would be nice. "I jes like a man tah work meh over a bit. Sometimes ladies are nut strong enough tah do a good job." Despite his attempt to keep a straight face Illya ended up smiling a little. He loved the way foreigners reacted to his descriptions.

Tiberius looked at the Chip skeptically until the man had a trace of amusement and then he knew they had to be yanking his chain. Prank the outsider was the fun of the day. He still had no idea what a pleasure house was, really, but he knew enough now that it couldnt be what it sounded. Chuckling he slapped his rag over his other shoulder and looked to Illya. "A man to work you over, huh? I dunno a woman's hands are warmer at least. Wouldnt want to go in all cold."

"Huh," with a huff Illya finished scrubbing himself off and then started walking back toward the men's changing section. "Woman's hands are nut warmer. Dey're warm like man's and dey're smaller. Dat's all. Yah do what suit yah." Illya slipped into his boxers and pants and left his shirt off for the walk across the street. Nobody was usually around this part except Dark Chippequoti and he wasn't too worried about anyone seeing his back that hadn't already. Once they were inside Illya stripped in the men's section again and then wrapped a warm, large towel around his waist. He waited for Tiberius and then walked over into the waiting area and sat down next to a towel wrapped woman. "Oh hey." Glancing at the woman just a few people over Illya grinned, "Dis es eh...Tiberius dah little white man I tell yah about." Sherri leaned forward and frowned at Illya before she motioned for him to sit back some. "Move, I want to see him." A broad grin came to her face and her violet colored eyes pushed into half moons. "Hi!" Waving gently with her large tan hand she beckoned Tiberius closer.

Tiberius couldnt tell if Illya was being purposely dense or if he was just mad that someone had caught on to the game. By the way the man was finished and practically hobbling it top speed out of the door. Tiberius finished up and quickly dressed, his skin shining from the oils. He ran a hand through his hair, smoothing the brown, wet locks down and to the side in his usual way before running a finger over his goatee too. They made it to another building where it seemed they got undressed again. This must have been the pleasure house he was talking about. It certainly didn't look like any Terran whore house from the outside and it smelled clean and calm on the inside. Again, he was flanked by both women and men all taller than himself and wearing towels or robes. Maybe this was more of the bathhouse than the actual bathhouse. He started to undress and smartly wrapped his oversized towel around his waist before dropping his pants. The.towel threatened to slide off his hips, but he held the wrap with one hand. Overall, he had a fair bit of muscle and he kept his hair in check at least. All of the Chips had a concerning lack of hair over their bodies and mostly he was glad he was well groomed. A habit he had picked up for his first woman and it had stuck. He sat down next to Illya as he was talking to someone, a woman, which was apparently safe to do here. He didnt expect to be part of the conversation until Illya leaned back and a friendly Traders tongue hello came at him. His eyes slid up to find a pretty tan woman with violet eyes grinning at him without Reserve. She called him a little closer and with his wariness of half naked chip.women banished by a charming smile, he oblidged her. "Hi," he smiled back. It didn't dawn on him that Illya had said her name until after he started to speak. He gazed at her for a moment, words catching in his throat before he nodded. "I'm Tiberius Luc," he said offering his hand to her, "Your name is Sherri?"

With Tiberius occupied Illya leaned back into the wall and patiently waited for his turn. Sherri in the meantime was carefully eyeing this stranger. He at least smelled clean and she grinned. "Smells like yah used extra cypress." It was quite clear he had simply dumped without knowing much, but at least he had good smelling oil. "How do yah like Chip village?"

She didn't offer her own hand, so he retracted his and tried to stay casual about it. When she mentioned the smell good oil, he realized he probably smelled entirely over powering but there wasn't much he could do about it now. "Eh, maybe a little extra. I like to make sure I'm clean." Women liked a clean man after all, right? When she asked how he liked the Chip village, his smile returned and he met her gaze. "It's different from home, somethings are not what I'm used to, but I can think of a few things here I'm already liking a bit more than Terra," he smiled, "I wouldn't mind exploring a bit more. What about you?"

Sherri laughed a little at Tiberius' response. "Yes, we are different." Carefully she looked past Tiberius to see if Illya had anything to say about the Terran exploring the Chip village. It didn't seem that he did and so she nodded. "I will show yah around." There were some places that were always off limit and she knew that, but for this visitor it seemed the usual would be fine.

Sherri was an attractive woman with the same beautiful burnished skin all the other dark Chips had and a nice smile. A good smile on a woman was something he always found attractive...among other assets he wasnt even daring to attempt to look at given the present situation. She seemed cheerful and easy going which was nice too. "I'd like that. If you don't have plans after..."-he still really had no true idea of what happened in this building- "...Leaving here, I could go or I can always meet up later."

"I do have plans." Sherri was about to finish her sentence when Illya put in his two cents worth. "And et's gonna take all day...." Throwing the General a sharp eyed glance Sherri felt her cheeks turn pink. "I have plans to show yah Chip village and it will take most of the day if you have the time." Turning her gaze toward Tiberius she gave him a somewhat hopeful grin. "So long as you tell Illya to go away. I don't need him pestering us all day."

"What?" Feigning surprise Illya raised his eyebrows and then laughed. "I'd never do dat. I jes love tah give tours too." He hadn't really planned on spending his day trailing the two of them, but he liked to stir the pot every now and then.

There were plans? It seemed Illya and Sherri had been cooking up something and their meeting here was probably no coincidence. His eyes bounced between the two of them and he grinned at Sherri's request. "Well, I think what the lady wants, she gets," Tiberius grinned, "Especially if I get the pleasure of her company all day." He glanced to Illya with a knowing look. "Eh I think I can handle things from here. I don't think the council woman will mind if you spend the day with her instead of walking around with me all day, huh?" He knew the man could hardly argue with the chance to go spend time with that tiny wife of his.

It was only a few minutes and Illya got up to go over to his regular masseuse. Once he was on the table he felt a stripe of oil run along his spine and then the man started to rub it in gently. Even if it was gentle Illya winced a few times. However, the feeling began to deaden a little as the oils sank into his skin. There was probably a little bit of the medicated numbing agent in the mix. When he was very sore, or it had been a long time since the last visit that was normal. Even with the oils rubbed in and a little numbing he was still tender in the lower back. Having his muscles stretched and kneaded into shape was painful after they'd cramped up and stayed in a bad position for so long. "Remember to breathe." The masseuse commanded. Illya let out a groan with the air as the pressure moved up his spine. By the end of the massage Illya's whole back felt like jelly with a million irritated nerves in it. However, it would likely feel better in a day, or two. If he came back tomorrow it would have to be for a very short and gentle massage to keep his muscles from bunching up again.

Sherri sat near Tiberius till it was her turn. She wasn't as particular as Illya was about who did the massage, but then again, she didn't have the injuries he did. The next masseuse was a man and Sherri helped herself up on the table in time to see that a lady was going to be helping Tiberius. While she was enjoying her massage she thought about the most efficient and pleasant walk around Chip village. Illya had told her the man was short, but she didn't think he would be that short. It was somewhat charming to see such a little man. He was kind, as Illya said and she was left to find out the rest for herself.

As soon as her massage was over the woman got up and quickly put a hand in place to hold her towel on. Scuttling over to the women's changing area she changed into her clothing again. Sherri favored wearing dresses. Many of the Chip women did, but Sherri especially liked them and she loved to wear a raspberry and orange dress with gold thread sewn into it. Slipping into her favorite dress she pulled her long, wavy black hair into a soft bun and then slid a little gloss over her lips. She wasn't going to present herself like a wild woman, but she was certainly going to try and look nice by wearing her favorite clothing and a spot of lip color. Even if she didn't think she took that long Sherri stepped out of the pleasure house to see that Tiberius and Illya were both waiting for her. With a coy smile she walked over and stood near the men. "I'm ready to take Tiberius on a tour. You," waving her hand at Illya she gave a playful grin, "Get out of here."

"Now that it's just the two of us, I'll take you to the finest Chippequoti Tea House. It's been over 100 years since we've been able to have a good tea house. One of the women is building a fine place to eat too. We're practically living in luxury. You know, we can even travel. I'm planning a trip to Kinte soon. I've been told they're friendly to Dark Chippequoti there." She was too excited to think about the fact that most didn't know the Dark Chippequoti history, or that many of the things she reveled in were common place for others.

Sherri hadn't noticed that she was walking far too fast until she noticed that Tiberius was looking far too concentrated for being a man on a casual stroll with a woman. At first she worried that she had offended him, or he was not pleased, but then she glanced down to see that his legs were moving at a far faster pace than her own. Without saying anything she slowed herself to a Chip child's pace. It should be more comfortable for her guest if he didn't have to walk so fast. "So, tell me where you're from."


Illya found himself alone for the first time this week and he could walk himself anywhere and say that he was giving Tiberius a tour. If he stopped in the Chippequoti Drink House he could have something truly satisfying and he could tell the owner not to say anything. It wasn't as though anyone would say anything anyway. They all knew he liked his drinks and he hadn't had any in a while. Turning down the street to go deeper into the Chip village rather than head home he glanced behind himself almost as if to check and be sure Kalizda wasn't there.

The closer he got to the Drink House the more anxious Illya got. What if Kalizda did find out? By the time he stepped through the door of the Drink House he had checked behind himself at least a dozen times. Illya could smell the good sweet drink that he loved so much. There was still a nagging feeling that he shouldn't be here. She trusted him and he was here, sneaking around and going after a drink.

Shifting on his feet and pacing a little Illya sighed. He was here, he could finally have that drink, but if he did it, he knew what would happen. It had happened time and again with Isla and she hated it, but he didn't know what else to do for the pain. Isla stopped trying to get him to quit after he agreed not to be so violently tempered at home. It took practice and time, but it didn't make the habit good. What if this really did make Kalizda leave him? What if he had to choose between the addictions, or her? More importantly, what if he got drunk and violent and he hurt her, or killed her? She was so much smaller than he was and she couldn't even take a solid hit if he did something stupid.

Steeling his nerves Illya turned from the counter and stepped outside the building. He made it this far and he was going to do this for Kalizda. This was going to be done and then he wouldn't have to worry about what he might do if he was drunk. There was still a horrible temptation though. Grabbing his pad he dialed Kalizda's and waited for her to answer. He knew she could probably see the Drink House in the background, but he didn't care at this point. "Kalizda, I'm coming home. Yah jes talk wit meh for little bit eh? I dun drink anyting. I tink about et and I want tah be clean for yah. Yah talk wit meh on dah pad till I get home please?" He didn't usually ask that way, but he figured she would know he was sincere.

By the time Illya got home he saw Sien was nearing the door of the house with a little bag. The boy announced that his father told him he could have a night over. It might have been good to know in advance, but Illya nodded. "Alright, yah eat anyting yet tahday?" Sometimes when Ehud sent the boy over it was a bad day, or for good reason. Sien shook his head and Illya stepped into the house and pointed him to the kitchen. "Yah go get someting." Ehud didn't let Sien sleep in most of the time, but it looked like the boy might have with his messy hair, and unkempt clothing. It was unusual for sure. Without further exchange the boy trotted off to the kitchen and helped himself to the bountiful late breakfast that Cypher and the other kids were preparing to eat.


Ehud hadn't meant to sleep in as late as he had, but he felt horrible. His insides were aching. Forcing himself out of bed he walked hunched over to Sien's room. Pushing the door open he saw that his son was still sleeping and he walked over to Sien's bed. "Hey, you been asking when you can have a night over at Cypher's. How about you pack a little bag and go today. I'll come get you in the morning." It was far easier to arrange a little night over than it was for him to let his son see him sick all day.

Of course it didn't take much more than that and Sien was scrambling out of his bed. "Don't forget to get dressed," Ehud mumbled as he made his way to the bathroom. He would need to call Kalizda and let her know Sien was coming. Before he even had a chance to send a message Sien was beating on the bathroom door. "I'm packed and dressed, can I go?" As much as Ehud wanted to make sure his son looked presentable and packed decent clothing, Ehud didn't have the energy. "Yes." The sound of Sien scrambling out of the hall and front door told Ehud he was fine to groan now. He was alone and at least his son didn't have to know his guts were hurting.

When Ehud finally emerged from the bathroom he couldn't say that he felt any better, but he felt tired enough to go back to bed. Glancing at the front door he saw it was closed and decided to leave it unlocked in case Sien needed to come back to the house for anything. He would be here all day and it wasn't likely anyone would try to break in with him home. Shuffling into the kitchen Ehud started making a little rice mush for himself. It would be gentle on his guts and still give him something to eat. As soon as the mush was done he turned the stove off and plopped the hot steaming cream of rice into a bowl and then set it on the coffee table. The living room couch was good enough today. He wasn't too far from anything if he needed it.

After half a bowl of the mush Ehud got up and poured a few tablespoons worth of his medicine from the bottle into the measuring glass and sucked it down. The stuff tasted awful, but at least it would calm his guts and stop some of the swelling. Whatever he'd been shot with years ago, caused all kinds of swelling inside, pain and sometimes bruising across his stomach. None of it seemed to make sense. The bruising was usually the result of too much wrestling, or getting hit in the stomach, but it took far less to bruise there than it did in the past. Pulling his shirt up Ehud looked at his stomach to see that the bit of wrestling and training from the day before had indeed left him bruised and he could see some of the swelling. Finishing the cream of rice, Ehud pulled his blanket out from the coffee table drawer and settled in to get some sleep. In about 4-6 hours he'd take a little more medicine and he'd probably feel better by morning. All he needed to do was sleep through the worst of it.

There was a little ding on Ehud's pad indicating that he had a message and he opened the pad just long enough to see that it had been Priscilla. He didn't want to have an extended conversation with her and he didn't look decent enough for her to see him anyway. Ignoring the message for now he set the pad back on coffee table and dozed off again. It wasn't very long after he'd dozed and the front door of the cabin came open. Without opening his eyes he grumbled, "Close the door Sien." Why his son left the door open this time he didn't know.


Curious Adventurer
It was a cold bed that woke Calysta from the light sleep she had managed the night before. At first, she curled into the blankets and then out of instinct her hand fumbled over the sheets in search of her Chip who was always warm. Instead she felt an empty space where he should be. Frowning, Calysta opened her bleary eyes to find she was alone in the bed. Illya hadn't been getting up earlier than she had even when they both slept and the fact that he was gone concerned her. Yawning, she forced herself up and into her silk robe before padding barefoot down the corridor to poke her head into the twins room, hoping to find Illya there. He wasn't there, but the twins were sleeping soundly. Carefully, she closed the door and tiptoed away down the corridor in the opposite direction toward the living room to see if he might be there. Enroute to the living room she heard a metallic thump to the left coming from the galley and she stopped in her tracks. "Illya?" Her tiny hand slid the door side further and what she saw made her heart sink to her toes. All the cabinets were hanging open and had obviously been rifled through. Not a single stone had gone unturned and in the center of their kitchen sat Illya with such a look of anger she wasn't sure what to say. His eyes flicked up to her as sweat trickled over his brow. Obviously, he had been looking for the wine and liquor that had long been dumped down the drain and despite how dismal he seemed at not finding what he wanted, she was never more grateful to have emptied the house.

Silently, she held her robe together with one hand and reached up to close the nearest cabinet with the other. The door hit it's frame with a resounding brump and the sound echoed between them, saying everything that needed to be said. He didn't try to explain, but he gruffly announced with a clenched jaw that she was awake and they should shower together. Swallowing hard, Calysta looked him over. This was the first time he had tried to find anything, that she knew of at least, and he was clearly angry over not having found the booze. Not even ashamed or apologetic over having been caught. She didn't know what to say to this, and while it shouldn't have hurt, it did anyways.

"Sure," she said, "I suppose we need to do that before you go to Skycorp." Then she turned around and went to go start the shower.

For the rest of the week, she could tell Illya was becoming more and more desperate. The coffee was helping him sleep at night and therefore, helping her rest better too, but she had to make sure to be up before he was. At this point, she was sure he might try to sneak off in the morning, or some how finagle his way into getting away from her. His desire to be away from her was fairly obvious too. His frown was near permanent and there were no words between them that weren't utilitarian. She got up before he did, made his breakfast, took him to Skycorp, watched the children and did her own work before returning early to pick him up. They had dinner and that was the real end to their day.

On the fourth day of the week, she received a message from the instructor at Skycorp stating the Illya had requested to leave early because he wasn't feeling well. That was probably true and she knew the withdrawals could make him violently ill. She put down what she was doing and made her way to the compound to meet him without delay. If he was throwing up or seizing he might need help and she wanted to be there. Instead, he met her out of the gate and for a flicker of a moment she could see the look of displeasure on his face before he replaced it with a forced smile. A gallant effort, and she knew the smile wasn't for anyone but himself. That wasn't her husband's true smile of surprise at all. He took her hand and she let him hold it all the way home.

That night in the shower she tried to think over what to do. What else could she do? She had promised to be there for him and she knew there would be days he wanted nothing to do with her in favor of his addictions. As much as she had tried to prepare herself for that inevitability, it still stung to think about...and hurt worse to see it on his face. He thought he was so hard to read too. Not when he was desperate. When she finished in the shower, she emerged and crawled into bed with her Chip who had already fall asleep. She kissed him and the burrowed under the covers with a sigh. She had to do something because if she didn't he was going to fail.

* * * * * * * * * *

They made sure Tiberius was well taken care of in the guest villa that afternoon and in the morning, she woke up before Illya then showered. It had been his request to sleep in and she was going to let him on the weekends. It gave her the chance to get a little more rest before having to get up with the children and to make sure he wasn't being sneaky again. When he finally did wake up, he stated he was going to take Tiberius to the bath and pleasure houses before taking him on a tour. "Alright," she nodded, "If you two get hungry, we're having peanut butter and jelly sandwiches with salad for lunch, yeah?" The offer was met with a nod in return as he picked up his bathing bucket and limped out of the door.

The early morning was filled with Cypher and Lohgan clinging as closely as possible to her as they worked in the garden. To her surprise, Cypher had done a wonderful job keeping it up and they had plenty of vegetables for the salad that night. "I'm proud of you,"she beamed at her boy, ruffling his wild curls, "You've done a great job in the garden while Dah and I have been gone. What do you say we wave some of these berries in some whipped cream for breakfast?" That idea was met with a hoot of excitement and Cypher went dashing for the kitchen door to claim his berry prize.

About the time she was finishing Cypher's bowl of berries, a ring echoed over her pad. Wiping her hand on a towel, she reached for it to find Illya's name flashing. Was something wrong? A quick swipe of her fingers answered the video call where Illya's face was angled upward in an awkward view of his chin, up his nose, and half of his surroundings which included a familiar building. The Drink House was clear as day against the blue skies behind him and it hit her a bit like a slap to the face. Illya looked nearly frantic as she felt when he started to explain. "Kalizda, I'm coming home. Yah jes talk wit meh for little bit eh? I dun drink anyting. I tink about et and I want tah be clean for yah. Yah talk wit meh on dah pad till I get home please?"

He hadn't gone in? Hadn't taken a drink? Illya was looking at her, asking her for her help and it was earnest this time. She could hear it in his voice and see it in the way he was looking at the pad. "Hey," she smiled gently, "We'll talk as long as you want, yeah? Did you know your son has kept up your garden beautifully? Not a single weed and we have plenty of vegetables. He's even take care of the chickens all on his own while we were gone. Isn't that right Cypher?" There was a heavy thumping sound and half of Cypher's head appeared into the screen. "Hi Dah! I got a big fat hen tah show yah when yah get home. I tink she might one yah call good layer." Calysta winked at her Chip and then grabbed a napkin for her son. "Berries." Cypher grabbed up the napkin and wiped at the blue stain on his lips. "Go finish and then you can help me get breakfast ready for your brothers and sisters." He thundered off again and Calysta shifted to the living room where Lohgan was running around with crayons in her hand. "Mam! Mam! I can't find dah purple!" The girl paused when she realized her Mam was talking to someone on the pad and she stopped in her tracks with a curious look. "Who are yah talking to?" Calysta chuckled and flipped the pad around to reveal Illya's face which caused a look of joy to wash over her daughter. "Dah!" Their redheaded girl scuttled over without hesitation and mashed her lips against the screen in a sweet, slobbery kiss. "Dere ya go Dah." Then she was diving off into the couch to look for her missing purple crayon. Edgar was yelling somewhere in the background, asking for breakfast at the top of his lungs, and Calysta scooped him up in one hand. "Look...look...say hi to Dah." The most she got out of him was a muttering about Dah and a snack, which was pretty standard for her chunkiest child, and she chuckled as she released him to go into the kitchen. Cypher would feed him berries before breakfast without a doubt. Tomas toddled over and Calysta held the pad up to her sweet boy for him to see his father. The boy grinned a snaggle toothed grin and waved joyfully before offering her a messy, and forceful kiss to the cheek. "Oooh thank you my Tomas," she smiled, "Now, go on into the kitchen, yeah?" He waddled on to join his brother and Calysta looked to Illya hoping he was almost home. It hadn't exactly been a talk with so many children in the house, but maybe it would be enough. "It's a busy morning here," she admitted, "But we love you. I love you and I can't wait to see you when you make it home. We're getting breakfast started and I think you'll like it. Priscilla is helping to make french toast when she gets out of the shower, I think."

When she saw he was getting close on the pad, Calysta grinned and shimmed her way to stand on the arm of the couch. By the time he opened the door, she had tossed aside her pad to the couch cushion and was standing at eye level for him. He wouldn't have to bend down for this at all. She wiggled her finger, drawing him closer and as soon as he was within reach her hands swooped out to capture him up. Her hands slid gently over his shoulders as she kissed him without reserve. Anyone walking into the living room would probably find it wild that she was standing on top of the couch like a billy goat making out with her husband, but she didn't care. His breath was perfectly clean of alcohol and he had come home to her instead of drinking. Her fingers tangled into the curls at the nape of his neck as she pressed against him, telling him exactly what she thought without a single word needed.

"Welcome home," she smiled at him with a gleam of happiness in her eyes, "I'm so glad you came home." Then she kissed him all over again. It wasn't until Calysta heard giggling that she released her husband for a mere moment to see Sien gawking at them with a grin. She hadn't even seen the boy come in. About that time, Priscilla emerged from the hallway in full make- up along with her hair primly arranged in a braided bun. She took Sien's shoulders and steered him out of the room into the kitchen, simultaneously asking where Ehud was and giving the owners of the house their privacy to make out in any way they liked.

As soon as they were gone, Calysta went right back to kissing on her husband. "Maybe, I will have a surprise for us next weekend, yeah?"

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

Sien's explanation was a simple one. His father had gotten him up and told him he could spend the night with Cypher. While Priscilla was sure that Sien was telling the truth, it was worrisome that Ehud had just sent his son here with no other explanation or message to her. She had no problem looking after him, but she wondered if something were wrong. Maybe he had work or something more clandestine had come up. That thought made that gnawing worry grow larger in the pit of her stomach. By mid afternoon, she had sent several unanswered messages and her anxiety was starting to get the best of her. What if something had happened? Finally, she couldn't stand it anymore and against the advise of her counselor, she put on her shoes. "I'm going to see your father," she said to Sien, "Stay here and keep Cypher company for me, okay?" Sien seemed to have no problems with this as he played Cowboys and Spacemen in the backyard with his friend and the pack of dogs, including Yuji who loved the little boys as much as he loved her.

Priscilla kept her pace brisk, but she did manage polite hellos and head nods to the passing Chips and Kaereleans as she made her way to Ehud's cabin. On the way up the steps, she noticed a distinct lack of greenery or flowers. That would be her next project perhaps. She rapped her knuckles lightly on the door, but there was no answer. With a small sigh, she gathered her courage and opened the front door without permission. "I'd better not find another woman," she muttered to herself, half jokingly. She didn't the Ehud would actually do that, but it seemed appropriate for the moment.

An order to close the door grumbled out from somewhere on the couch and she shut the door behind her carefully. He seemed to think it was Sien. Well, he would be in for a surprise. She smoothed her skirt and walked wordlessly around the side of the couch to find Ehud curled up under a blanket, his head barely poking out and his eyes somewhat shut. His skin looked a little clammy too. Bending down, she inspected him and determined he must be some kind of sick. "It's not Sien," she said finally as she slid a warm hand to his forehead.

Ehud heard the door close and he pulled his arms in closer to his body for warmth. He just wanted to feel warm and comfortable for now. If he could get comfortable he could sleep, but his guts were still aching enough that he didn't dare move, or they would start feeling like someone was stabbing him all over again. "What do you need?" It sounded like his son was trying to be quiet, but if Sien needed something in the bedrooms it would be noisy. Instead of getting an answer from his son heard Priscilla speak. "Ooh!" Throwing the covers off Ehud sat up in his t-shirt and flannel pajama pants. He was still half tangled in the blanket and he started to curl almost as quickly as he'd sat up. "Priscilla, what are you doing here?"

He jolted as soon as her hand touched him, flying off the couch in a tangle of blankets and questions. What was she doing here? "Well, I thought that might have been obvious. You sent Sien to the house and I didnt hear from you, so I got concerned and came to check on you." Her blue eyes checked him over. He was doubled over in obvious pain and looked miserable over all. "Now, I'm glad I did." She reached out to his shoulders, attempting to guide him back to the couch so they could untangle him from the blanket.

Without much objection Ehud laid himself back down on the couch and laid with his knees pulled up toward his chest. After a few seconds of just having some quiet he tried to move his legs and ended up pulling them right back up. "I just need some sleep. Got a few more hours till I can have more syrup." The medicine wasn't working all that well with the first dose and that told him that he would be sore tomorrow, but he'd be functioning. "Don't know what you can do, but now you've seen me looking like a wet beetle."

He laid back down and she pulled the blanket over his shoulders, letting him curl up as he liked. He made a comment about not knowing what she could do and Priscilla sat down on the edge of the couch by his side. "To tell if I can help, I'd have to know how you feel bad. As for seeing you look like a wet beetle," she said, "I think that in a few short months I'll be your wife and that kind of comes with the territory." Her fingers smoothed down the blanket here and there until she met his eyes. "What's wrong Ehud?"

It felt nice when Priscilla smoothed out the blanket. Priscilla's hands felt like soft rolling heat pads over his left shoulder and he closed his eyes momentarily. When he opened his eyes again she was staring right at him and she asked what was wrong. "Oh, just some old injuries acting up. My stomach hurts a little."

"It looks like more than a little pain," she noted, "You were hurt?" He seemed to like his back being rubbed, so she slipped her hand over and kept up her ministrations. It hadn't been too long ago that she had been doing this for Harry and she shoved that thought to the back of her mind. "You know I would do what I could."

Turning his head to the side Ehud stared at Priscilla for a long moment. "I was hurt. It was a serious injury and sometimes it makes problems for me. Even the Ehaui don't know what to do, or how to fix it. I just drink some syrup they made to help with the pain and inflammation caused by it." Gradually the pain subsided enough that he could uncurl a little bit. "You don't have to stay. I doubt I'll be that lively today."

That was hardly the most descriptive information and his hesitancy in telling her wasnt exactly encouraging. "You dont have to be lively," Priscilla replied quietly, "I'm staying. Sien is having a good sleep over with Cypher and wont even miss me. You shouldnt have to be by yourself." Rising from the couch, she wandered into the kitchen to find a pot and bowl which looked to have been used for something that morning. Rice or oatmeal perhaps. There were few foods that were good for a sore stomach but she could make rice and a nice easy to digest broth with soothing herbs, some of which she had learned from Calysta.

Since it sounded like Priscilla planned on staying Ehud stayed still with the exception of nodding his head. "Ok. I'll enjoy the company then." He wasn't sure how much he would enjoy her company since he was still feeling like he could fall asleep. It wasn't even noon yet, and he was ready to sleep more. It only took a few minutes of listening to the sound of pans being moved from the stove and others put on before he fell asleep. There was the familiar sound of dishes being washed and water running. They were all nice, calm things.

Ehud fell asleep in short order and she let him. Every now and then he would snore or shift in obvious pain. She understood he hadnt wanted to talk to her or tell her what eas wrong but he had worried her more than she had told him. The day was spent crafting a fresh, plain chicken broth using one of the butchered chickens she had stowed in the freezer. Herbs were juliened nicely and the broth was set to simmer while she mixed up simple fresh bread and rice. It was mid afternoon before the bread was done rising and she could braid it into a loaf. The scents in the cabin were simple, yet enticing and she cleaned up some while Ehud slept on. She went to her counselor session over her pad on the front porch and when that was done, she stepped back in to see if Ehud was awake. If he was awake, he might be hungry.

There was a warm smell of chicken soup and bread. If there was one tradition that Terrans had and he loved it was the chicken soup and bread for a sore stomach. Glancing around the room he saw that Priscilla was there and she was looking at him. He had thought of reaching for the syrup, but he didn't really like taking medicine when others could see him. On second thought she was going to be here it seemed all night long and he really needed the second dose. After a few seconds he pointed to the bottle and measuring cup. "Would you pour about 1/4 cup of that for me? Been about 5 hours since the last dose and I'll need that to get myself in shape to take care of Sien tomorrow."

Priscilla had just began to check on Ehud when she found him awake and asking for medicine. Without hesitation, she plucked up the bottle and took the measuring cup in hand. Whatever viscous liquid poured out smelled distinctly of medicine and she winced. The stuff probably tasted as bad as it smelled. Still, she poured it up and offered it to him. "Sien will be just fine," Priscilla told him, "Calysta and Illya treat him like their own and I'm perfectly capable of taking care of him too." She didnt know.if that was the exact truth, but she was sure she could figure it out. "Just focus on resting, hm?"

Even if he felt lazy it was nice to have someone else grab the medicine so he didn't have to shift all around and irritate his stomach to do it. "Thank you." Taking the cup from her he quickly gulped it down and then shuddered. "That's some nasty stuff." It sometimes his stomach got unsettled if he didn't eat a little something with it. "If the food isn't ready can I have a few crackers or something? This stuff is supposed to help, but it sometimes gets my stomach unsettled if I don't eat something with it."

If its one thing that was universal about men was that they just became big softies when they were sick. Big and burly and raucous all day long until a cold or worse reared its head. She didn't say anything but she nodded and crossed the room to the kitchen where two fresh loaves of bread waited. It took only a moment to cut through the crisp crust and slice into the soft center. A few pieces with a side of fresh cream butter were placed on the plate and she brought the snack over to Ehud. "Its fresh and shouldn't bother your stomach. You look like you feel a little better."

When Priscilla returned she came with freshly baked bread and a fresh cream butter. Smearing a modest amount of butter on the fresh bread Ehud let it soak in and melt before he took a bite. While he was savoring the food Priscilla decided to suggest that he did look like he felt some better and he swallowed the bite promptly. "Yes, I feel some better." He wondered if the bruising had spread, or if it stopped and the swelling had decreased. Instead of looking at his torso he decided to feel it. Gingerly running his hand over his stomach he frowned a little. He was certainly tender, but it didn't feel quite as badly swollen. "Yeah, I'll be much better by tomorrow."

He started feeling along his stomach after snapping up a few bites of the bread in short order. "So, do I get to know how you were hurt?" Priscilla asked openly as she took up the empty plate. "You know, you kind of scared me today."

Ehud looked up at Priscilla again when she asked about the injury. "Oh, I thought you knew." He hadn't ever thought about telling her and now that he thought about it more carefully, she probably didn't know. "I got shot up with some armor piercing rounds. They must have missed some fragments, or something. I still get internal bleeding pretty easy after some kinds of training and usually get some swelling and pain too. It's just acting up. Nice to think someone worries about me, but it's not that concerning anymore. It just happens."

She resisted rolling her eyes in favor of putting the plate on the counter top. Reaching into the cabinet she pulled out a bowl, then started the process of filling it up with broth from the stove. She served up thr bowl on a plate with more bread while she was thinking about what he said. When she returned with the plate, she sat it on the table for him and then settled into the to the couch. "No, you dont talk about things sometimes so there's no way I would know," she said, "but I've seen the rounds you're talking about used before on Federation men. Its...not something you walk away from easily. And it does concern me, Ehud, even if that concern seems strange."

"I know what the Federation used. It is still concerning for the Chippequoti. These were the first bullets to wound us badly in a long time." He wasn't sure if her concern was for the future, or that he was hurting now and so he decided to play it safe and let her be concerned about both. "Are you wanting to see?" There was a chance she did want to see, or maybe she wouldn't.

Priscilla knew that. She wasn't entirely oblivious to some things and the Terran government had once spent time researching ways to hurt Chips. They researched ways to hurt everyone. When he asked if she wanted to see, she waited for a moment but then nodded. If this happened frequently, then she might as well see this now rather than later on. "Yes, I think I should. If you will."

It took a few moments for Priscilla to respond. Ehud pushed the blanket down to his waist when she nodded yes and he picked at the edge of his shirt before peeling it up. There were a indentations near his pancreas and on the lower right quadrant of his abdomen. His entire abdomen was slightly swollen and then there were botches of bruises ranging from a deep purple to yellow. "There it is." He didn't like people knowing he'd been hurt, but if she was going to be his wife then she would eventually know anyway. It also wasn't fair to wait as long as Illya had to tell Kalizda about all the problems. This was something that he had planned to tell Priscilla before they got married, but he had the night before more in mind.

Priscilla waited for Ehud to shift and pull up his shirt. It rolled up like a curtain, unveiling more and more terrible views as it rose. Swollen, and bruised flesh of his normally trim belly looked as if someone had beaten him to within an inch of his life. A gasp caught in her throat as she looked at his disfiguration. It had to hurt horribly and it was very possible her people had assisted on creating the weapon that caused the damage. " Oh God." Immediately, images of Harry's bent and broken form came to her mind and stole her breath. It was starting to make panic rise up in her, and her fingers began to tingle with the adrenaline as she fought down the images surfaces. "Th-there it is," she managed to say, "I'm so sorry, Ehud."

Blinking in confusion Ehud watched as Priscilla's face paled and she seemed to be stricken with some sort of shock and horror. Her response was comically bad and he frowned. "Yeah, there it is. I'm not sure why you're sorry. Not like you did it." Pulling the shirt back down he winced some and let out a long breath. It was hurting after moving around so much again and he pulled the blanket up. "You're looking kinda sick. You might want to sit down for a few."

She heard part of his words but didn't really process them through the buzzing sound in her brain. She closed her eyes and shuffled off to the bathroom with shaking legs. "Excuse me." This is not something she wanted to have happen here. After 30 minutes she returned with red eyes and a slightly ruffled shirt. Ehud was still there though she couldn't tell if he had touched his broth or not. "I can get you more broth if you want it," she said, "Or warm it up if you haven't eaten."

Suddenly Priscilla was brushing past him and Ehud turned just enough to see that she disappeared into the bathroom. It was fortunate that so far he wasn't going to be needing the bathroom. Sometimes with this issue came a few other inconveniences. Ehud waited a few minutes and when she didn't come back he sipped at the broth, but it didn't take much before he started to feel a bit sick. Even if it tasted good, he knew he had to stop. Rolling to his side again he nestled into the blankets and tried to go back to sleep, but the pain was worse now that he'd eaten and instead he laid and stared at the half empty bowl. Eventually Priscilla came out and she offered to get more, or heat it up. "Uh, I think I don't want anymore for now. Maybe later I'll eat again."

"Alright." She picked up the plate housing the half full bowl and started toward the kitchen with the two.clanking together in her shaking hands. When that was done, she sat down on the couch edge and kissed Ehud's temple. "Do you want me to stay?"

Ehud watched Priscilla carry the dishes to the kitchen and he felt a bit helpless. She did all that work and he just laid here all day and it was nice to not have to get up and do stuff when he felt like this. Priscilla returned and she gave him a little kiss on the temple before asking if he wanted her to stay. "I can sleep by myself." With a grin he met her gaze and then pushed the blanket down far enough to get his arm out so he could give her hand a squeeze. "I wouldn't mind a little company and you still look worried."

She almost felt like she was being dismissed at his first answer and he was going to have another thing coming until she saw his grin. He wiggled a hand out of the covers and clasped hers gently. She managed a watery smile and leaned forward to kiss him again. "I'll stay then and we can talk for.awhile or you can sleep." This time her smile strengthened and she held his hand in return. "I still have my mystery novel."

There was no contradiction from Priscilla regarding her worry. Shifting some more Ehud winced and he grunted. "Oooh...I mmm." Holding his stomach he shifted again and then decided he was comfortable for the time. "Well, if you read I'll for sure fall asleep. You won't keep me talking and you'll miss any conversation, but if you'd rather read me to sleep with a mystery and leave me wondering what happened come morning, that'll work too."

Priscilla smiled in relief and nodded as her fingers stroked over his hand methodically. She knew anxiety was stemming from things that were not Ehud's fault. The fear over what happened to Harry was sometimes bleeding over into the present times, sometimes waking her up at night or making her worry more than she should. They chatted for awhile and she told him about growing up on Terra a little before reading out of the mystery book for him until he fell asleep. When he was slack jawed and snoring slightly, Priscilla made sure his blanket was high enough over him and then retreated to his room. Since she had organized his bedroom, things like pajamas were much easier to find. She pulled out a pair of his pajama bottoms and one of his t-shirts from the drawers to sleep in the chair beside him. With a quick change, she let her hair down and curled up in the chair next to Ehud, occasionally checking on him before drifting off to sleep herself.

The next morning came and went with Ehud still sleeping and Priscilla had the presence of mind to make sure he was breathing more than once by sticking her make up mirror in front of his nose. His exhale fogged up the glass, much to her relief, and she would go about cleaning up and making plans to fix his front yard. A man needed a presentable front yard. In addition to her list of gardening supplies, she would be making an extra trip to the General Store on the Kaerelean side of town for another kind of supplies. What she hadn't planned on was Sien coming home to see if he could spend another night with Cypher, since his father wasn't answer his pad. The boy was looking at her as if she had some sort of authority to give that permission and she smiled. "How about we go into town huh? Then we can ask your dad when he can answer." That seemed to be good enough, and she took him shopping with her in town. He was absolutely fascinated by the fact that she was picking up oil paints, an easel and canvas at the general store. "Can I try too?" he asked hopefully. There was no way Priscilla could resist the Sien had on his pale cheeks when he asked of he could have a canvas too, so she had him pick out a small one along with some paints in colors that he liked, then they toted home their goodies.

It wouldn't be prudent to paint in the house, so Priscilla made Sien change into the set of play clothes she'd bought him before she set out a tarp along with the easel. She had stopped by the house and picked up a pair of her own soft linen pants and a gardening shirt along with her sun hat. "What do I paint?" he asked her curiously. "Anything you want," she chuckled. They spent the afternoon painting, though her method was much more methodical than Sien's. He had started out painting what she thought was Mickey Martian's ship but after while it devolved into a sort of blob. Sien didn't seem to mind though. He had blotches of paint on his nose and his shirt as he made great swaths of color across the saturated canvas. Her own art was coming along nicely, a depiction of the Paris, France on Earth with soft glowing lights was always nice. The feeling of the paint gliding along on the canvas was a calming anchor, which surprised her even if it had been the counselors suggestion to begin painting again.

Sien held up his finished picture proudly. "What do you think?" The boy had as much paint on himself as the canvas did and she giggled at the painting of Mickey Martian's space ship blasting off. "I think it needs a signature," she said, "All artists sign their work and you've finished your very first one." He grinned and plopped the canvas back to the tarp to sign his master piece, spilling some of his paint over his bare feet in the process. "Oooh..." he winced, "I'm sorry." Priscilla watched the blue paint spread over the tarp and had the thought to bring out another blank canvas. "That's okay. Watch this." With a big heave, she scooped him up by the arm pits and managed to plant his feet into the middle of the fresh canvas, permanently marking it with his footprints while they both laughed. "See, waste not, want not."

About that time, the door to the cabin opened and they both glanced up to see Ehud emerging on to the porch. She smiled up at him from under the brim of her sun hat, happy to see he was awake. "Just a little fun painting," she told him cheerily as she wiped her paint stained hands on a towel. "Would you feel like a bite to eat?"

* * * * * * * * * * *


Curious Adventurer
Tiberius followed the tall Chip woman at a slight jogging pace. She was tall and had a set of legs on her that on Earth could have passed for stilts. However, he knew women were sometimes touchy about their bodies and he wasn't inclined to say anything about their height difference until he knew more. Finally, she seemed to notice she was ahead and dropped back wordlessly until they were deep into Chip Village. "A tea house?" That was the only question he could muster over the several that came to mind. If she was remembering things from 100 years ago she was much older than himself. Though her exuberant smiles and quick pace would never show that. Even if she was, she would be young for a Chip. He didn't much care for tea and was more of a coffee person, but she didn't quite need to know that. "I could give it a try," he smiled, "And if you feel like traveling sometime, I could show you a few places I've found on Kinte you might like too." They arrived outside what he assumed was the tea house and quickly he realized he truly was the shortest man there. He stretched his spine a bit, hoping to gain what centimeters he could and followed behind her in his jeans and crisp white button up.

It almost sounded like Tiberius was surprised about the tea and Sherri giggled. "Yes, I do mean a tea house. We have a drink house too, but I'll take you there later." As they reached the door of the tea house she pushed it open. Inside there were already several Chips and some stared at Tiberius briefly before returning to their conversations in Quoti. "We'll have two cups of dah Dragon's Fire tea." Smiling broadly Sherri waited until the two, large, Chip sized cups were set on the counter in front of her. Handing on to Tiberius she took the other. Breathing in the scent she hummed lightly. It smelled so good and she loved the spice. "Dis one is best."

He let her do the ordering and would invariably drink whatever she offered. Whatever it was she got was ordered in her own language and came out in what would be considered an extra large cup which smelled of something spicy. The scent vaguely reminded him of Christmas air fresheners and he fought the urge to sneeze as he dared to take a sip. It didn't taste as if it had been sweetened at all but was potent and he managed to swallow it with little trouble. It wasn't the worst tea he had ever had by any stretch. The hum of delight she made was more than worth having come here and he grinned a little over his cup. "It tastes familiar, but not in a bad way," he said, taking another sip. He spied a table and offered a hand out to invite her to sit and then promptly pulled out the chair for her.

The man seemed a bit anxious. Even if Tiberius was trying to enjoy his tea he seemed to be looking for something, until he spotted a table. Sherri let him pull out the chair and she sat down in it before she let him go to his side to pull out the chair. He wouldn't likely be comfortable at the table. It was Chip sized, as were the tables. Once he was seated he looked like a child and Sherri worked hard at not smiling when she made her offer, "Would yah like a little booster?"

Immediately, he regretted choosing to sit at the table. If he wasn't a dwarf before, he was practically infantile sitting in the seats built for people at least two feet taller than himself. He sat his tea on the table as his feet hovered over the floor. A moment passed where it was obvious the difference in size was the elephant in the room and he wondered how in the hell the council woman managed to look like she fit right in socially with her husband. He was taking another very small sip of his tea when Sherri looked over and sank an arrow in the elephant bullseye, asking if he wanted a booster. He wasn't sure if it was a serious question or a prod at fun, so he decided to smile and chuckle a little. "Ah, no. I think I can manage, but I might be investing in a set of stilts sometime." He joked and chuckle again before looking up the woman across from him. The dress she had on was attractive and she was more than pretty sitting there with a large tea cup in her hands. "It sounded like you liked the idea of traveling earlier, what do you do when you don't travel?"

This time it was impossible not to smile a little and Sherri nodded quietly. Investing in stilts wouldn't have helped him now unless he fixed a set to his rear end, but she wasn't about. Thankfully the next statement from Tiberius was one that could warrant her continued smiling, to a degree. "Well, I don't quite know what I'd like to do when I travel. I remember traveling some as a little girl and that was about 200 years ago. Chippequoti were not well liked at that time. Some people liked us and some didn't. There was a man that tried to spit on me, but my father stepped in front of me and let the man spit on him instead. I think if people are not like that now, I would choose to go shopping." Sherri liked the idea of shopping for a few different reasons. "Shopping would let me know a little more about other people that live near us and I would get to see some of their strange little house inventions."

The statement was interesting, and not entirely what he meant when he'd asked what she did when she wasn't traveling. That was alright though. It revealed a bit more than her occupation. Sherri was apparently 200 years old or so. Almost twice his expected life span and he blinked at her for a moment, letting that fact settle in. Was that going to be a problem? He looked at the pretty woman in front of him with her bright eyes and dark skin along with that nice smile which seemed to come naturally. Nope. He could live with that. "I think that depends on where you go," he said honestly, "Kinte is nice and quite a few of the Kaerelean continents are too. For the most part they are open and friendly to Chippeqouti. Some don't like Terrans though, and that's somewhat understandable. Otherwise I think you'd fine that the Alliance is safe to live and shop in. It's why I came here from Terra, that and to find work. I'm a cadet in Skycorp right now, but I'm thinking Illya might have already told you that. What do you do for work?" A woman's profession often said alot about her and he was curious.

Sherri got quiet when the man started to talk. She wanted to hear what he said in full and it sounded like he thought she would be safe to travel a little more. There was one troubling fact. It sounded like he was mentioning the Terrans a bit more frequently than one would in conversation and in such soft terms as to suggest that he was perhaps Terran. As he drew near his little spout of conversation it became abundantly clear that he was Terran, a good looking one, but certainly Terran. It took a moment for Sherri to register that he'd asked her a question and she took a deep breath. "I am an herbalist. I trained under a woman called Belen for several years. Many times the Chippequoti would go to her because she was old and needed support. I had an agreed and he helped support us until he and Belen were both killed. I'm the only remaining herbalist now and I'm looking for a boy, or girl to train to take my place among the Chippequoti when I pass on." Sherri needed a few minutes to leave the Terran part of things out of this. She was still reconciling with herself that Tiberius was Terran and trying to remember that he was not personally responsible for these things.

He could tell she wasn't quite as open as before, but whether that was because he was Terran and he had said so, or if that was because she was thinking of an agreed she had lost was hard to decipher. He hadn't quite meant to bring up something like losing a husband, but he'd stumbled right into it. He let her explain and nodded a little as she spoke, showing that he understood in part. "That sounds incredible," he said eventually, "I haven't seen someone in a master craft like that in a long time. You should definitely find an apprentice to teach those kinds of skills to because they are rare and hard earned." It was an odd sentence, but he had no idea what to say and at least the compliment was an honest one. "Much like the beautiful smile you have. For the record, I am sorry for the loss. I know that couldn't have been easy either."

"No, it was not." Sherri gave a short quip for her part and thought in silence for nearly a minute while she sipped on her tea. "I never did care for the easy and I appreciated the difficult intricacies of my work. I guess that means I appreciate the difficulty of your admittance in a tea house full of Chips that you're Terran." Smiling a little she chuckled, "And short too." Sherri was taking care to speak slowly and she could lose the heaviest parts of her accent and speak a good clear Trader's tongue, but it took effort. "I was told that you were not common. Your courage certainly is uncommon and I imagine you must have said a few things to show uncommon traits for your kind. I'm intrigued." For now that was the best she could say. Sherri was intrigued by him and she still felt cautious, but it was worth a try.

And there it was plain as day. She clearly didn't like the fact that he was Terran and it was pretty close to killing the mood altogether as she stayed quiet for along moment then chuckled. Out with the chuckle came the kind of racist remark he had been exposed to by Illya and while it wasn't surprising, it didn't mean that it wouldn't go unchallenged, in part. "Hard work is admirable and always pays off in some way," he agreed, "But as far as my bravery, I would posit that man from anywhere has the ability to choose to do the right thing. Terran or not. Unfortunately, the debut of Terrans into the galaxy was not the best view and I imagine the Chippeqouti of all people could imagine what it's like for a few good people to be vilified for something that's not necessarily universally true." He was being a little less blunt than he would have been with Illya, but he couldn't very well tell her to go to hell like he would the ex-general."That being said, I did come from Kinte and I am enjoying the company, if you're still willing to give it a shot."

The smile on Sherri's face grew and she chuckled a little more. "Very true. Your kind didn't put their best foot forward, but neither did the Dark Chippequoti. We have a sordid past of our own and some shame that belongs only to us. Just we have the benefit of being a mystery to everyone here. Remaining a mystery has been of great benefit. At least of benefit to keeping our embarrassments more private." Meeting Tiberius' gaze she lifted her cup of tea and sipped at it again before answering his question. "Of course I'd give it a shot. Why not rattle a few cages? I'd like to see what an uncommon Terran is like." Tiberius almost seemed offended by the title and Sherri took a short breath before explaining. "To us, when we say that a Terran is uncommon it means that they defy our expectations of them and they could become a friend. In my case, perhaps more."

At least she was willing to admit the Chippeqouti didn't have the best reputation and not get grumpy about it like some might. He caught her gaze and couldn't help but look back at the bright violet eyes framed by dark lashes. The look entirely distracted him for a long moment before he realized that she was saying yes to him about giving it a try. He grinned and took another small drink of his large tea before offering his hand out to her. "Then, lets go defy some more expectations and rattle a few more cages, huh?"

Taking a last gulp of her tea Sherri nodded to Tiberius' suggestion and hurried with him toward the door. "Now, how do you suggest we rattle a few cages?" It had been clear that Tiberius wasn't as enthralled with the tea as she was, but he certainly had thoughts on what he was curious about. Perhaps there was a place in Chip village, or a sort of thing that would be of interest. Illya had mentioned that Tiberius was once a fighting man, but hadn't fought for the Federation. "Do you like swords?"

She seemed more than interested in going out into the continent and this time it was both of them hurrying toward the door. When she asked if he liked swords, he grinned and nodded. "I haven't had one in awhile, but I used to have a blade or two," he admitted, "I've heard the Chippeqouti steel and iron is great for crafting and blacksmithing from a trader on Kinte. He swears by it." They set out into the sunshine through the door and while she hadn't taken his hand when he offered, that was fine. He wouldn't force things and they would go at her pace no matter what that was. A few of the passing Chippeqouti gave them strange looks as they passed by and he grinned a little as they made their way through the village. A crowd of children were also running rampant through the streets kicking a ball along with a few Kaereleans and soldiers milling around. The women and men alike appeared to enjoy bright colors, unlike the Kaereleans which was entertaining. It all seemed fairly normal. Peaceful even. It was something he hadn't seen for awhile on Terra and it was kind of relaxing. He stole a glance to Sherri as the walked and he smiled much more easily now. "Are things usually this busy in Chip Village?"

It sounded as if the Chippequoti reputation for goods had spread as it had in ages past. Sherri enjoyed the walk outside and it seemed Tiberius did as well. The man was looking all around him and judging by the smile on his face he enjoyed what he saw. "Yes, it is always this busy. The children love to play and they sometimes make trouble, but that is to be expected. It is good to see them play and be carefree. Children know that they are protected by every Chip. They are safe." When they reached the sword shop Sherri walked in first. There was no door on this building as the owner was more traditional. The man in the back of the smithy came out and he stared at the two of them before he wandered into the back again without a word. Sherri glanced at Tiberius and then smiled, "He is not worried about theft. He lives here and works here. It's not wise to steal from a blacksmith. You may touch the blades and lift them as you please, but if you would like to purchase anything you'll need to let me translate. He refuses to speak trader's tongue."

When they entered the doorless building they were were greeted in silence by a large Chip man who gave them the once over then went right back to work out of the shop. He wasn't sure if that was a refusal to sell him something or if the guy just had better things to do until Sherri explained. "Alright," he nodded, "On Terra someone might have tried to talk us to death in order to make a sale. This is...admittedly much better." He took a look at the blades for sale on the wall. Most were meant for Chip sized bodies and not at all practical for someone like himself. However, the knives seemed much better and he looked them over with no small amount curiosity. Plucking up a nice, sturdy drop point knife, he gave it a good feel in his hands and nodded. It was well made and sharpened with the right edge for an all use knife. "A utility knife is always something good to have," he said, "I would make an offer on this one if you're willing to translate?"

Tiberius of course gravitated toward the blades that were more reasonable for someone his size and Sherri watched him as he handled the blade. It was clear he had some kind of training. It was not likely he could fight the same as a Chip, but she didn't mind. Warriors were good and she appreciated their duty to the people they served, but she wanted a man that would perhaps live longer with a trade of sorts instead. From her understanding there were elements of Skycorp that were like a trade. "I would translate if you wish. It would cast less suspicion if you chose to purchase the blade today and offered to pick it up tomorrow before you return to Skycorp. Some might be wary if you carry a blade about Chip village. Until you're better known there will be precautions that would be wise to take."

With that bit of advise, he nodded in agreement. He had come here to relax, not frighten the people who had been hospitable to him. "Fair," he agreed, "I'll purchase it today and then come pick it up before I leave tomorrow....but only after I treat you to breakfast in town if you'd like that." He would want to go out with her again if she wanted to go and breakfast was the best thing he could think of before he had to leave that day. When she called for the shop keeper in her own language the mane came back around and he held out the blade in both hands like an offering of sorts so it didn't appear as if he were attempting to use it some how. "I would like to make an offer," he said. He knew knives like this were reasonably priced at 100 credits or so. "100 credits or 140 if the sheath is included," he said evenly.

The smith looked at the blade and then the man. He understood some trader's tongue, but not enough to understand the offer. Looking to Sherri he waited for her to say what it was that the man wanted to pay for the blade. "No, he will pay 120 credits for it. My work is better than even his best workmen. I will include the sheath for 50 credits more." Sherri turned toward Tiberius and translated. "It is not unfair what he asks. His blades are expensive and he charges the same for Chippequoti. We would not have good business if we changed prices based on the purchaser."

When the return came back, it wasn't over all thrilling but he had hocked the ring he had bought a few weeks ago so the amount was an overly big h it to his account. The added suggestion from Sherri made him pause to think for a moment. The man hadn't been out to sell them something from the start, and he knew the blade was of good quality. The sheath was more expensive than he liked, but he had little go on other than Sherri's word that he wasn't being gouged out of a price because he was Terran. "Alright, 170 total, but on the condition you keep it here for me and I can pick it up tomorrow."

Sherri turned again to the smith and the man nodded in agreement. "Then it is set. When you give him the funds he will set the blade as sold and he will give it to you tomorrow. Simply walk into the shop and he will know that you've come for it." Sherri waited for Tiberius to give the money to the man and then she smiled. "Are you pleased with the purchase? Would you like to see a Chip drink house after I make a good lunch for you?"

Tiberius nodded and pulled out his wallet from his back pocket. It was well worn and battered leather, clearly years old and held a few business cards, his id, a few Terran bills, and a photo or two of a dark haired young woman with curly hair. Offering over the credits, he thanked the man with a universal nod and then turned to Sherri who asked if he was happy with what be bought...and more importantly ..something about making lunch. "I think it was a good one given the quality. I have to leave most of my things on Terra when I came here and my good knife was confiscated when I left the military. It will be nice to have one again." At the thought of her cooking lunch, his eyes widened some and he tried to mute how good that sounded. "Cooking? I haven't had a real cooked meal in ages," he admitted, "I wouldn't want you to have to do that though. I could take us out if you wanted."

"Yes, I imagine it was difficult leaving in such a hurry. The attack I'm sure was devastating." Sherri was trying hard to show genuine sympathy without being over the top. She understood the feelings well enough. As for the meal it was obvious that Tiberius was pleased with the offer. "If you recall there is not a good place to eat in Chip village yet. I promised to show you Chip village today and that will include a Chip meal."

"That is an excellent point," he replied, "I remember now." He gave her a smile as they walked down the street. Thankfully she had kept to the slower pace, and he imagined that was much for his mercy than the actual want to prolong the walk. "I would greatly appreciate anything you'd offer to cook. I admit I'm not much of a cook myself and it's a bit of a lost art on me. I'd would help though if you'd like the company. if you don't mind me asking though, what exactly is it that Chippeqouti like to eat?" That information could come in handy later on if she decided to see him again.

Sherri was enjoying the slow walk and she couldn't help smiling at the clear pleasure that Tiberius was getting just out of the idea of eating a home cooked meal. Many men relished a home cooked meal and he was no different. "Of course I'd like the company. It has been quiet in the house by myself." Tiberius for the time he spent around Illya hadn't seemed to catch what foods were regular diet for them. Surely Kalizda fed Illya regular diet of Chip food. "Well, the Dark Chippequoti enjoy a good snake dinner, scorpion legs fried in sweet grass and lizard steaks on special occasions."

He was excited that she seemed to be enjoying herself and didn't mind cooking when they made t to her home. If he had to have one more Skycorp meal he was going to nuts. Of course, when he asked about what was on the menu typically, a list of what would be found on a list of witches brew came out. He was about to go home with this woman and probably eat scorpion legs and snake. He tilted his head and looked at Sherri again. He'd try just about anything if she could make it taste good. Besides, he'd eaten some strange things on his tour on Terra too. "I can honestly say I haven't had fried scorpion legs before," he admitted, "But I'll give anything a try. I'm in your capable hands for that one." As they walked, he gave her another look. "I know I didn't mention it earlier, mostly because I was focused on your smile, but that dress is beautiful on you. You have good taste and it's enjoyable to see some color again." He knew women often liked to be told they had good taste and he wanted to make sure she knew her effort hadn't gone unnoticed.

"Of course I can make it taste good. I fed all my sons a steady diet of Chip food and they grew up strong." Sherri stepped into a narrow street lined with little houses and walked through the seventh door to the left. "This is where I live." Inside she had shelves lined with herbs and jars and oils. The kitchen was a little messy because she had finished a tincture just the night before. "I'm not quite perfect at house keeping, but this is what it is." Grabbing a jar full of scorpions she dumped several of them out on a cutting board and used the butt of her knife to crush their heads one after another before she tore their legs off. "If you want to get the herbs over there on the far end. Second shelf from the bottom and it's in the silver jar. We'll get these cooking in some oil and then gather some sweet grass and fresh herbs."

Sons. Why hadn't it occurred to him that she would have children and he swallowed a little at the thought as they stepped into her little house that smelled strongly of herbs. It wasn't a bad smell but he certainly wouldn't be walking away from there without the scent following him. She hadn't necessarily looked happy about the compliment either so, he shut up a bit and went to work grabbing the herbs that she needed. He went to the cabinet got the herbs in the silver jar before returning to find all of the once live scorpions were dead. The legs were a sitting to the side, oozing a bit of bug goo but he mustered a smile, hoping that they looked better fried, then offered the jar to her. "How many sons do you have?"

Sherri was busy getting the scorpion legs gathered up when Tiberius came over to where she was. He had the herbs she needed and Sherri smiled at him. "Oh I had three sons. The first two were 50 years apart and the third one was only 20 years after the second. I would have liked more, but it was difficult and then the current war started and my agreed was gone quite often and we didn't have anymore children." Flopping the legs into the pan Sherri listened to them sizzle and narrowed her eyes slightly. "Sweet grass is almost ready to go in after you put a pinch of herbs on the legs." Watching him put what he called a pinch on the legs made her smile, "Well, a bigger pinch." After she was satisfied that the seasoning was right she walked over to he window where she had a whole miniature yard of sweet grass growing. "We'll harvest this. It helps more grow again when it is pruned regularly." Once she had the sweet grass gathered Sherri dumped in a liberal amount of the soft seeds too and the aromatic herbs mixed with the grass and seeds filled the house within a matter of minutes. Setting a lid over the little pot she let it cook for a bit while she poured a nice cup of tea for herself and a little bit of the Chip dink for Tiberius. "We'll eat soon."

She started talking about her family and he could tell that she loved her sons but he could tell that the last few years had been difficult for her. He dutifully sprinkled some of the herbs from the silver tin into the pan when she asked. He wasnt too liberal with it because he could easily over season it and the meal, such as it was. She seemed to really know her way around the kitchen and he liked her confidence. If he was honest, it did actually smell good and he smiled. "Sounds good and smells great," he said. He didn't want to keep up the topic of family, but he was curious. "Three sons is a big family. At least by Terran standards. The war has...torn quite a few families apart but I've been fortunate."

"Three sons is quite fortunate. Many Chippequoti are not so lucky. Most mothers feel lucky to bear 3 or 4. There are some that only have 1 or 2." Sherri paused and glanced at the kettle. The food was almost ready. It would be a nice thick stew of sorts when it was done. "You are fortunate because you still have your family? They do not have opposing views?"

Three to four children was alot of children and he was surprised to hear that they considered it lucky. "I like kids," he said earnestly, "but I don't have any yet. What members of my family made it to the colonies are good people. Not all of them made it but I am lucky that those who did make it are in good health." He sipped on the offered tea even if he wasn't a fan. "If you ever wanted to travel further, you'd be welcome in my parents home, Sherri."

"Perhaps I would travel further, but as a woman I am at a greater risk when I go to a place that people do not care for my kind." Walking back over to the stove she pulled the kettle off the burner with a mitt. "There we are." Setting the kettle on the center of her stone table she pulled a few bowls out of the cupboard and served a healthy amount into Tiberius' bowl and then hers. "Don't you have a home? Isn't it common for Terran men to build homes for their women? I don't know much about Terrans, so you must forgive my questions if they seem strange."

She didnt seem to get the invitation to the colonies or maybe she did and that was her way of declining. Either way, he let it drop and was promoted with another question that was strange. He raised a brow at her and chuckled some as she served up a bowl of what he assumed was a bowl of the aforementioned snake stew. "Ah well, that would require a woman to build for," he said casually, "Terrans sometimes do, and sometimes they don't. For awhile I thought I would settle.on the colonies but given that I have no reason to stay there, not much point in building until I have a woman willing to make a real home with me."

"Oh..." Sherri blinked a few times. "How strange." She didn't really understand the Terrans. It seemed they had no custom associated with preparing for a woman and she was not sure how she felt about that. "Chippequoti men build a home for a woman before their 17th year. On the 17th year they stand in a line and the women 17 and older that are single come out to pick one of the men 17 and older. Any single man may stand that day if he is desiring a woman and she may expect that he has a home for her. Even Illya built a home despite his pitiful craftsman skills. It was a hideous stone house that he made, but he improved on it in years to come."

"Seventeen is a pretty young age to get married, at least by Terran tradition," he said, "But as a personal standard, I expect to take of my wife and treat her with respect as anyone should and that includes providing for her." He looked down at the stew and picked up the spoon which been laid out for him. He waited for her to sit down and then took a hearty bite to show he was hungry, which he was. It wasn't bad and he nodded in approval as he smiled to her. "I don't know about my craftsmanship but a home is important and this food is more than delicious. Thank you very much for this."

Sherri couldn't help laughing when Tiberius seemed to be shocked at their age of agreement. "Here I thought your kind would have married earlier. You live such short lives." It was turning out to be quite an engaging conversation and strange. She'd heard some things that were similar to her people and other things that were funny. "What age do you expect to be agreed by?"

Tiberius chuckled at took another bite before replying. "Terrans do live short lives, and some get married sooner, and some later," he replied, " As for me, I never had a set age I wanted to be married at. Terran women think more about it I think, but I want to settle down with someone in the near future. When she is ready and I can provide got her as much as she likes. Ive wanted that for awhile but the war slowed things down some."

"Don't let the war slow you down too much. You'll be silver before you find a woman." Sherri smiled at him. "Maybe if you can regale me with more of your strange customs I could find it suitable to visit the Terran colonies. I wouldn't want to go visit and be completely stricken with your strange ways." She liked the man so far and he talked nice, but she would have to see if he could act as nicely as he talked.

"I like to think I might be a fine wine, better with age," he joked in reply to comment. He took a few more bites as she mentioned strange traditions and visiting the colonies, making his smile grow all the more broad. "I'll tell you what, Sherri, come to Kinte on the weekend day sometime and I will take you to the Little Terra on one of the islands there so you get a preview of the colonies and I'll tell you anything you want to know. That way, I get to see you again."

"I'll tell you what, Tiberius. How about I come to Kinte for all of the week after next and the weekend. You should have plenty of time to coach me on Terran traditions and tell me how the uncommon Terrans live." She was slightly curious and it couldn't hurt to go see what it was like.

He couldn't tell if she was doing it to see if he would rescind the offer out of surprise of because she actually wanted to come. If it was the former, she had made a mistake. Grinning, he nodded. "Deal. I'll look forward to it. Until then, I'm grateful.for anything you want to show me here in Chip village. It's been surprising, but I like that."

"We're not quite the barbarians that some paint us to be." Smiling back at Tiberius she took another bite of her food. "Please, you'd better eat the scorpion leg stew, or it'll get cold and then it isn't quite as appetizing."

* * * * * * * * * *

Tiberius enjoyed his afternoon talking with the beautiful Chippeqouti woman and it seemed that despite her initial dislike, she was warming up. Something he considered progress. In truth, he enjoyed her company. She was warm, curious, and inviting. Also, she was kind enough to offer him a meal when she didn't need to go through the effort. They chatted some more and then he was invited out to the Chippeqouti drink house which was a scene both strange and familiar. Chips enjoyed their merriment as much as Terrans did, only their drink cups were at least three times as large. He only made it through one whole Chip sized drink before he held up his hand. "No, I'm at my limit," he admitted. It probably made him look like wimp, but that much booze didnt mix well with medicine he took if he needed it. He did give the obstacle course a try a few times and managed to complete it once while keeping up with some of the other drunken Chip men. The other few times saw him landing flat on his back and looking up at Sherri. "Probably a good thing you didn't bet on me," he laughed before dusting himself off to try again. When the bar began to close up, he insisted on walking Sherri home. "I'll walk you home and take you to your door," he told her, "That way you make it home safe and I get to enjoy your company for that much longer." The walk home too less time than he would have hoped, and he brought her up to her before nodding. "Thank you for today, Sherri. It's been a pleasure and I will see you tomorrow." With that he made sure she was safely in her door before heading off to his swanky room in the guest villa, grinning the entire way.

In the morning he trimmed up his beard, smoothed down his hair and went to the Pyrtan market. He made sure to pick the most aromatic flowers the florist had, a three bundle of purpley flowers with yellow and green stems. Whatever it was the flowers were called, he had no idea, but they smelled nice so he was sure Sherri would like them. He came to the door of her home and waited until she came outside to greet him. A man didn't just enter a woman's home without permission. When she ducked out of her house and into the sun, he gave her a friendly smile before offering the flowers over. "Ready for some breakfast? My treat."


Anonymous Me
There was quite a bit of daylight coming through the shades and it cast a golden glow over the entire living room of the cabin. Ehud hadn't thought that he slept that long. "Oh well...guess I needed it." With a grunt he got himself up and shuffled into the bedroom to get a change of clothes set out for himself before he grabbed his towel and went to the shower. There were quite a few Terran practices he liked and the shower was one of them. Hot showers were wonderful. It was a Kaerelean practice too, but Ehud associated most of it with Terra.

The hot water felt good and it soothed the ache that remained in his guts. Even if he should be rushing to pick up his son he decided to enjoy a few moments extra in the shower. When he was finished washing up Ehud grabbed his towel, dried off and scrambled into his clothing. Somehow the house always felt frigid after a hot shower and he liked to get covered up quickly afterword. Glancing in the mirror he took a quick moment to comb his hair and then take a little gel and style it. That was the good thing about having straight hair. It did the same thing every day and it was never out of place.

After Ehud stepped out of the shower it occurred to him that he had not seen Priscilla at all. She must have had things to take care of. He owed her a thank you dinner. Then he remembered that he'd also forgot to tell Illya and Kalizda that he was sending Sien to their house. That was going to require an apology. In such a brief time he'd overlooked a few details that he shouldn't have. Being sick that one day and failing in such small gestures was unacceptable.

Grabbing a quick swig of the pungent medicine Ehud slid the cap back over the bottle and took it to the medicine cabinet. He would only need one more dose later in the day and perhaps one before bed and he should be fine. Ehud had barely set foot out the front door and he saw Priscilla was set up painting with Sien. His son's feet were covered in paint and he was scampering off the black canvas. Priscilla looked up at him and offered food. For a moment Ehud just stared at them and then he slowly answered. "No, I'm not hungry right now."

Stepping over to look at the painting that Priscilla had done and the one Sien had painted Ehud nodded in approval. "That's a nicely done bit of work. I propose we finish that canvas over there." Ehud leaned over with a grunt and he slipped his shoes off and then pulled the socks off his feet too. "I'll have a yellow paint if you don't mind." Scooting his chair closer to the canvas Ehud then took a bit of cloth to dip in the yellow paint and he painted the bottom of his feet before standing on the canvas near Sien's foot prints. "Now all we need is a set from my bride to be." Ehud fully intended on having the canvas framed and hung in the living room. It would be a fine artistic piece to add to the cabin. "Should make for a fine centerpiece on the living room wall. Get a little decorating in there." When Priscilla and he were married he would suggest that they keep the Paris painting somewhere she could look at it and feel like she was at home. As far as he was concerned their home could be filled with art pieces.

Sien smiled politely and pointed to his painting. "Can mine hang next to it?"

The blob of color was not quite a masterpiece, but Ehud could see the appeal. It looked bright and it had plenty of interest. "I don't see why not. Just let it dry first." Holding his hand out to Priscilla, Ehud helped guide her to the canvas. "Stand right there." While she was standing he leaned in and gave her a gentle kiss. "I owe you a thank you for yesterday. Maybe I should cook something?"


It was relieving to know that Kalizda wasn't going to question him, or say that she was too busy to talk with him right now. Illya knew he was only a few minutes from home, but he couldn't resist much longer if she didn't talk with him. He was right here and the alcohol was so close. Just the smell was tempting alone. Kalizda wasn't the only one waiting for him. Lohgan popped onto the screen and the other children wanted to see too.

She was busy and probably overwhelmed. Illya could hear the chaos of the children in the house and he smiled for each one of the kids and said hi. A guilty feeling sank to his stomach. He had about cheated them out of the father they needed by drinking and his Kalizda was waiting for him. At the same time he felt an overwhhelming sense of relief that he had not drank. Kalizda deserved so much more than this. She needed a man that would be there for her and she needed him to be clean. Just as he was reaching the edge of the yard Kalizda hung up on him and Illya shoved his pad into one of his pant pockets. With a slightly faster walk he made his way to the front door.

Illya didn't expect to see Kalizda standing on the couch when he walked through the doorway and he jumped a little bit, but quickly regained his composure. At least it was in time for her to give him a big kiss. "Mmhmm." Reaching up he wrapped his arms around her waist. She stood a little taller than him at this point, but he didn't mind. The little giggle stopped the entire kissing spree for the time and Kalizda told Sien where to get food and then she mentioned something about next week. Illya grinned and pulled her closer to himself before lifting her off the couch and kissing her. "Why we have tah wait for next week eh? We could have fun now."

Once Sien was being steered away from the living room, she was quite content to keep right on kissing him. Apparently, he was was enjoying it too. Enough that he felt spry enough to pull her close to himself and kiss her all the more passionately. Her feet left the couch as she let out a stifled squeak of surprise and she found herself entirely at his mercy in the air. That embrace only paused long enough for him to ask why they had to wait for next weekend for something fun. She looked at him with a slightly kiss-dazed grin and laughed a little. "We could do that," she mused as she gave him little pecks between words, "We haven't had fun like that all week...mmm...but french toast..." Her delicate fingers played with his hair as she made sure to keep right on kissing him. "Breakfast...or fun?"

The withdrawals had been hard to get past and he was still having some desire for drugs, but if he could kiss long enough he knew he'd forget the drugs. ", but yah like fun first?"Still holding Kalizda he winked at her and waited for a response. He didn't feel particularly hungry and he'd struggled to eat the last two, or three days. Withdrawals did strange things with his appetite too and he just didn't want to eat much today.

She grinned and kissed him again without a single hesitation. "Both. I like both. Fun first and then food," she told him, "Might as well work up an appetite, huh?" He was home and this was the most like himself he had acted in days. Even if it wouldn't last, she wanted to enjoy him while he was there with her and not wishing he were somewhere else.

As wild as Illya felt he didn't want to just strip and do quick hard work. Kalizda needed more than that and so did he. This had been a horrible few weeks. Glancing at the little woman in his arms he winked. Each step up the stairs took some effort. Illya's back probably wasn't quite ready for him to carry her, but he knew it would be ok. The recovery had already lasted several weeks and she didn't weigh much.

Finally, they reached their bedroom and Illya stepped in and then kicked the door shut. "We lock et after I get yah on dah bed." Mumbling a bit into the kiss he took the last few steps to their bed and laid her down on it before he turned back and locked their door. Going back to the bed he got onto it and kissed her again. They were going to take a while because he planned on making sure this was slow and got lots of extra love. Kalizda liked it when he made sure they kissed a little more and he appreciated more of her before they started the hard work. She was a woman deserving of everything he could give her and that included his patience, love and trust. "Yah meh beautiful wife and I love yah." Doing his best to say it in Kaerelean Illya smiled some and he rested his hands on her waist. He hadn't even put his hands under her shirt yet. He just wanted her to know before they got wild that he still had some self control. He was using it to please her and he would do his best to use all he had to get clean and stay clean.


It was early to mid afternoon when Tiberius showed up at the docking bay where they kept the Silver Mountain. The man was on time and he looked like he was feeling a lot better. Sherri must have decided that she didn't mind him too much. Illya hadn't heard anything from the woman complaining about Tiberius. Judging by the stupid look on the Terran's face Illya determined that more than likely he'd met up with Sherri this morning too. "Hmm...yah look like stupid school boy dat had first kiss. Get on dah ship before I decide tah leave yah here." If it wasn't for Skycorp Illya was fairly certain that Tiberius would have gladly decided to stay behind. This was going to be a long week and Illya knew it.

If there was one thing that was nice about the ship it was the fact that it was comfortable. When they landed Tiberius got off and walked himself to Skycorp to get himself back to the compound before his pass expired. It didn't expire until morning, but it was just as well to turn in early. Illya felt a little sore in his back from the day before, but it wasn't significant enough to worry about.

The next day started early like usual and Illya didn't want to get up, but he knew he had to. The walk to the compound with Kalizda was better than it had been the week before. Classes, however, were not any better. The language classes were difficult. Diplomacy still didn't make anymore sense than it did before and he still got odd looks from some students. During diplomacy a group of girls sat behind him like usual, but this time it was highly uncomfortable. There was a little quiet time before the instructor came in and it made things quiet, except for the girls sitting behind him.

"Mmmmmuaaah. Ooh, so good." One of the girls practically moaned and a crinkle of a bag sounded. "This chip is so good looking."

The girl sitting next to her giggled and reached into the bag too, "I know, I want one too. Nice and salty. Imagine a hot one."

"In your mouth?" Chuckling the two girls munched on a few chips from the bag, but they could see that cadet Blackwolf was sitting stark straight in his seat. They knew he could hear them and it was intentional. He was a man after all and they were female. If he could get wild with the council woman in the halls he might be tempted to try kissing them if they could tempt him. The council woman was pretty, but she wasn't available all the time. Calysta Monroe was a busy woman and she probably enjoyed the fling with Blackwolf, but the man couldn't want a halfbreed all the time. It wasn't like Calysta was going to live that long anyway. It was nothing short of a miracle she lasted this long.

Illya cringed as he heard both the girls moan again while they crunched into what they were calling chips. There wasn't a food called chips and it was making it very difficult to feel focused. Getting up from his seat Illya moved down a row and got a little closer to the front of the classroom. He could feel the other students looking at him and he just pretended to not hear the girl's but they seemed to get louder. Finally, Illya couldn't take it anymore and he turned back toward them. "Would yah jes stop?"

Feigning innocence the girls paused and then shrugged. "It's just chips. Or were you thinking dirty?"

"Uh...I uh..." Illya didn't know what to say to that. "Dose aren't chips. Dere es nut food called after meh people and et wouldn't be someting like little crisps."

"That's alright, no reason to act shy, Blackwolf" the second girl responded. "These are called chips and they're so good. Don't worry though. If you were thinking dirty I don't mind. Just find me in the hall and take me with when you leave with your pass tonight."

"No!" Jumping up from his seat Illya almost yelled the word. What in the world was she suggesting. "I dun want dat." About that time the instructor came in and Illya had to be seated again. He couldn't move where he wanted to and that would have been to the opposite side of the class room.

As a final taunt the first girl chuckled. "Oh what is it? You only like women with power?" A portion of the class broke into quiet chuckles and then it all fell silent as the instructor started out with the next set of diplomacy theories. Illya stared intently at his book throughout the session in class and he tried to ignore the girls behind him eating chips and occasional hushed giggle. When the class was over he gathered his things as quickly as possible and rushed into the hall only to see both the girls waiting for him and calling him over. Turning his head he went straight to the next class room. Thankfully the only class they shared a schedule on was the diplomacy.

When the day was over at last Illya went out to the gate. Kalizda was not there, but he figured he would wait a few minutes for her before he started to walk back to the ship. It was rare that she was late and he started to worry after he'd waited all, but 2 minutes for her to show up. Taking up a good pace he began marching their usual route home and scanning the people on the walk way to be sure that she wasn't among them.


Curious Adventurer
Priscilla stiffened a little when Ehud turned down food. He hadn't eaten properly in two days now and he still looked a bit pale. Was he feeling any better at all? His clothes were on and his hair freshly combed as if he meant to go somewhere. Perhaps he was feeling better after all. To her surprise he wandered down the steps and mentioned that he liked the paintings. What was more surprising was that he sat on one of their chairs and began removing his shoes, adding that he would add his own foot print in yellow. The canvas would make a good centerpiece for their living room. As prim and proper as he was, Priscilla couldn't help but smile as he swathed the bottom of his feet in yellow paint and planted his own prints next to his son's. She started to offer a towel over for him to wipe his feet on when he offered over his hand and asked for hers to be added to the canvas. Smiling broadly, she grabbed a rag of purple paint and painted the bottom of one foot before dusting the bottom of the other with the bright color. She took his offered hand and he guided her over to the canvas, helping her to make her mark next to theirs. What was more was he gave her a nice, slow kiss as she stood there. He was admittedly a good kisser when he wasn't think too hard about it and there was a terrible temptation to keep right on going. Her heart skipped a few beats before he pulled away and thanked her for coming over yesterday. "Mmm...I think that sounds wonderful," she admitted as he fingers brushed his cheek. She went in for another kiss, though she knew he likely wouldn't be interested in much more beyond a chaste embrace. It was warm and nice in his arms while it lasted though, something she could bask in for the moment.

After a moment of small kisses, he picked her up off the canvas, leaving behind her narrow, purple foot prints next Sien's so that his were framed in the middle. It looked unique and she liked seeing them together as a family on something so solid. "It looks good," she smiled at Ehud, "I'll help clean up and then we can help cook some dinner, hm?"

The task of cleaning up was a fun one. They used a bucket of cold water to wash off their feet and left their projects out to dry. Her painting of Paris wasn't quite complete but she could pick back up with it as she wanted when she was ready. It was easy to stow the half finished panting in the closet along with the sewing machine and kit. She had found those a few weeks ago and figured Haza had made her own clothing at some point. When it came to Haza's things inside the cabin, she left them alone inside the cabin. It sometimes felt like the woman had simply gone on a day trip and would return soon to claim her side of the bed again and use the closet once more.

Quickly shutting the closet, Priscilla joined Ehud in the kitchen and slipped a hand around his back before planting a kiss on his cheek. A swift as she captured him, she let him go to avoid issues of the propriety he was concerned about. A fly by kissing was always fun even if it didn't always satisfy. "What are we cooking tonight," she smiled, "I thought you might want to look at some wedding ideas too." They had gone shopping the other day and gotten a few things. They would be using the cabin for their ceremony and reception. They had also looked for food they wanted made, but they needed to get a final guest list together. "I have everyone we know mutually added to our list," she said, "But I need to know if there is anyone else you would like to invite."

* * ** * * * * * * *

Calysta enjoyed the feeling of being hoisted up by her Chip for the first time in a long time. She knew she shouldn't be letting him haul her around but she doubted he would listen to any protest as he took her up the stairs. She could smell the oils he had used to bathe with and at one time she might have curled her nose, but now she breathed in the smell because it was familiar. They whispered to each other between kisses until they were both in the bed and his hand settle on her waist with a gentle touch. Calysta stared into her Chip's eyes, holding him as close as she could. Her Chip had come home to her. He had come home without drinking, though he could have if he wanted to. Instead, he had called for help and turned it down to come home. After seeing the annoyed and even angry glares she had received all week over having emptied the house along with general grumpiness, having him hold her close out of his own choice was practically magical. He was gazing at her with warmth and love, calling her beautiful. This was her Chip. A weight lifted from her chest and she felt so relieved though she knew the sensation would probably be short lived. "I love you too, love," she whispered back, "More than I have words for." While she didn't have the poetic words for it, he certainly did and he took his time whispering sweet nothings to her between kisses. For a long while, they simply held on to one another and loved on each other as if they were somewhat rediscovering each other. With each passing moment with her Chip, her stress began to lift and it all culminated into their actual love making. By the time they were well and truly spent it had been a little over an hour and a half. She held him close, grateful that he was there and that he loved on her. "There's my Chip," she smiled as she smoothed down his curls, "My best friend. I see you, love." Calysta found herself tempted to nap right there over his chest where they had ended their little impromptu session. However, a tug a the door handle told her the children wouldn't stay at bay for that long. "Maam! Maaaam! Dah! Let meh in!" Lohgan hollered on the otherside, "Ets lunch time now!"

Calysta chuckled but didn't move from Illya's arms. "You just had breakfast, silly goose."

"I know but I'm hungry! Edgar wants a snack too!"

"Have Papa Thomas give you berries then!" Calysta called back.

" Okay!"

The thundering sound of her feet retreating down the stairs could be heard and Calysta glanced up to Illya. "That bought us about 20 more minute of peace."

She had a good idea of what she wanted to do with those minutes, but no sooner had she started to kiss her husband did another jiggle of their door handle halt everything. "Mam! I don't like those berries!"

"Ah," Calysta sighed, "That sounds like my cue."

She stole one last kiss from her Chip before rolling off of him to grab a robe. She would need some sort of clothing to make sure those berries were the right ones, after all.

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

Calysta walked briskly down the hallway to the pediatrics portion of the hospital and it didn't take her but a moment to see Cypher's teacher standing alongside Thomas. When they caught sight of her, both stood up a little straighter.

"Where is he?" she asked before anything else could be said.

"They're trying to get his arm casted now," Thomas said, "It's broken in two places."

"Trying?" Calysta asked skeptically.

"It's broken and it's sore, I wouldn't want anyone touching it either," her father replied with a sigh.

Calysta pointed to the door they were standing outside of and nodded. "In there?"

"Aye," said the teacher, "I'm sorry council woman...I-"

Calysta shook her head. "He disobeyed from the sound of it. That's not your fault. He'll be adding a written apology for not listening to you and handing it in personally when it's done. It won't happen again either. " The teacher looked relieved that she wasn't in trouble for some how having busted the councilwoman's son and took this as her chance to leave. "I'll make sure he has his homework sent to you."

That was all the more that needed to be said about it. Calysta graced her father's cheek with a kiss. "Thanks for staying with him, Dad. I was worried." He nodded and held the door open for her as she went into the room where she found Cypher and an Ehaui technician who was standing over him. "Cypher Markus."

"Mam!" His reply came out thick like a billy goat's cry and he looked at her with reddened eyes.

She swept over to her son and knelt beside him, her hands checking him over as he held back his arm from the Ehaui tech. It was clear he was in pain, and with his bones being more Chippeqouti than anything else, she knew why that would be the case. Calysta sighed and smoothed down his hair. "I'm here now, and you are okay, yeah? I know it hurts. But you're going to let the nurse put a cast on it so it stops hurting, yeah?"

He shook his head, unwilling to let go of his own arm and Calysta's eyes turned a bit insistent. Over the years and despite any frame of reference, she had some how developed the look all mothers could give to let their children know they meant business. "Cypher." The added touch of his name made him cringe a little and he held out his arm which was still in the temporary cast.

"There we go," Calysta said, "Do you want to sit in my lap and I can hold you while she does it?"

Cypher was usually the kind of boy who wanted to brave things on his own, but this time he nodded sullenly, his chin trembling and Calysta didn't hesitate to shimmy him into her lap. It wasn't a fun process by any means. Cypher whimpered as he held out his arm and the real cast was applied. She caught a brief glimpse of the swollen wrist and forearm, marred by dark purple bruises. She winced and held him still until he was allowed to pick what color he wanted the cast. Red was his choice and she nodded. "Aye, that's a good color." When it was done, the Ehaui nurse mumbled something about him being stubborn as his father and then gave them a list of post treatment protocols. No pain medication would be given, save for tea and children's relievers which were non-narcotic.

Despite the fact that he was far too heavy, Calysta carried him like she used to all the way to the Silver Mountain and planted him on the couch wrapped in a puff blanket. She made him tea and checked his temperature from time to time. She would have to watch him for fevers and signs of infection released by the break in his bones. When he was all taken care of, she sat beside him and looked at him. He seemed to know he was going to get a talking to and his head dipped low. "Cypher, did you know what you did was wrong?" she asked. He nodded. "Why did you do it then?" He explained it looked fun and his friends had dared him to do it. "Ah. I think that happens alot," she said, "Your friends will tell you to do things and it's up to you to decide what you do. You know what's right and wrong, and then you have to choose, yeah? Sometimes we choose wrong and make mistakes and sometimes you'll be dared to do things that aren't right, and you know that it isn't. Doing the right thing, isn't easy or fun sometimes. In this case, the teacher's rule was there for a reason, to keep you safe and you decided to not to obey. You won't get to go to swimming class for a long time because of your cast. Now, we are brave and accept the consequences, yeah?"

He nodded and looked at her for a moment, his chin quivering again. "Are yah angry with meh? Are gonna tell Dah?"

"No," Calysta said, "I'm not angry. And you are going to tell Dah what happened, because that's part of our consequences and because he will want to hear it from you."

That idea made him worry that his father would be disappointed he had failed him. His bones weren't strong like a Chips because his arm wouldn't have broken so easily and he had disappointed his Mam. That was something he knew his father wouldn't like at all. If telling his father would make it right though, he would do it. "Okay, Mam."

Calysta leaned in and kissed the top of her boy's head. "Now, lets have some tea and we'll fly to Pyrta." She was already running far behind and wouldn't be there to meet Illya in time. That thought made her worry more than it would have normally. What if he didn't wait for her and was too tempted to drink? She pushed the worry from her mind as she gave Cypher another cup of tea with the lid and went to start the engines.

* * * * * * * *

Calysta walked down the docks looking for Illya. She'd had to move the ship to go back to Pyrta and things had been delayed due to a safety check and she was running so late. A rush of worry wash over her. What if Illya got out on time? She wouldn't be there to meet him and she didn't know how long he would wait. She scurried down the dock from a different one than their normal area completely. She had tried to call on his pad a few times to tell him, but he hadn't picked up. Walking briskly past the large ships, she ran up to the control area, hoping to catch Illya there if had come home. .

The further Illya got down the street the more worried he became. She wasn't out here at all. Within a few minutes he was nearly sweating with the stress. Where was she? Had someone taken her captive, were they holding her for ransom? Turning toward he usual docking bays Illya didn't even see their ship. What if the twins were held hostage too? Stopping near the control area he started to look around wildly and then he spotted Kalizda. Dropping his pack on the ground Illya raced over to her. "Kalizda!"

A shout of her name sent her head spinning and she turned to see her husband running full force at her, his pack abandoned on the ground. He looked half panicked as she caught his hands and slipped a hand up his chest. His heart was hammering and she blinked at him for a moment. "Hey, love. I'm sorry i was running late. I tried to get here in time to meet you there was a small emergency on Pyrta and I had to go."

Illya pulled his hands out of Kalizda's and he pulled her into a hug. He only paused when she said there was an emergency on Pytra. "Kalizda, what happen? Are dah children ok?" If anything happened he would have wanted her to load all the children up and bring them here.

He hugged her like he hadn't seen her in a year and only paused when she mentioned the emergency. "Aye...well...sort of," she winced, "But Cypher will be just fine. They called me because they knew you were in classes."

"Did yah bring dem back? Es Cypher here? What happened?" The questions began to pour out of his mouth faster than he could think about possible answers. Illya was ready to fly home tonight if he had to. His children needed him and he would have preferred that they made a call to his pad too. Even if it was at school he needed to know if his family was in danger.

He began spilling out questions and she hugged him, rubbing his arms a little. "Its alright, yeah? Cypher just had a little accident and broke his arm. He's in a bit of trouble."

His son broke his arm? It sounded terrible. A broken bone was the most painful of all injuries and Illya cringed. "Es he here?"

"Aye, I had the Ehaui patch him up and he's on the ship. They gave him a little bit of medicine but he's awake if you want to see him," she said, seeing him cringe, "He is very sore though."

Nodding Illya set Kalizda down. "We go and I see him. Ef he gets in trouble I need tah know dis trouble he makes." Glancing at his little wife again he had forgot to tell her that he was pleased. "Et's good dat yah take good care of our son. Yah very good moter and yah wise tah bring him on shep tah stay wit us."

Calysta felt her feet come to the floor again and she.slid her hand down to take his. "Aye, I'm going to let him tell you what he did." He seemed to need to tell her he was proud she had gone to get him. Of course, she had. Anything else would have been unacceptable. Then, she remembered what kind of childhood he'd had. She lead him down the docks and to their ship where Cypher was piled into a blanket on the couch. His arm was held out of the blankets in a fresh, red cast and he was looking sleepy eyed and sullen.

It seemed that Kalizda understood his need to get to the ship and make sure their son was ok for himself. When they boarded the ship Cypher was all tucked in one of the puff blankets. Illya could smell the soothing herbs used for teas and he smiled at Kalizda. She'd taken care of Cypher just as well as he could hope a mother would. Walking over to where Cypher was Illya knelt in front of the boy and held a steady gaze on him. "Yah mum say yah make trouble and break yah arm. How did dis happen?"

When they walked in, he took a deep breath and then smiled at her before breaking free fo kneel next to their son. Cypher's eyes widened as his father settled next to him and then his eyes filled with big tears. There was no lying when his Dah looked at him like that and he was ashamed. "I disobeyed deh teacher Dah," he mumbled, his bottom lip trembling. "Dey took us to swim class and I was suppose tah stay in deh shallows. Instead, I got on deh swing rope because I wanted to do et to the deep end." He sniffled and leaned close with his eyes cast down. "We arent supposed to do dat and I get dared ..I get on dat rope and let go and I fall on deh rocks."

"Hmmm..." Illya nodded some. He had to think about how to respond to this one. The primary reason he had to think about it was simply because he would have likely made the same mistake as a boy and it was difficult to fault Cypher for it. However, it was a bad thing to have done. "Well...Yah teacher es like protector for yah. Dey are older and dey know more tings dat maybe yah dun know. Ef yah teacher says dat yah should nut do someting den et es for good reason. Now yah know why yah teacher tell yah nut tah swing on dat rope. Et hurt tah make dat mistake. Dis es why Chippequoti listen to dah elders and Elders listen tah Kalizda when dey wonder about oter peoples and soldiers ask meh what tah do. People dun want tah get hurt. Et es important tah listen to yah leaders. Right now yah leaders are meh and Kalizda and yah teachers."

Cypher looked at his Dah and nodded sullenly. " I listen next time, Dah. I taut it would be okay. I was suppose yah have big Chip bones dat dun get hurt. Dats deh way the other Chips are." He rubbed at his eyes, looking more dissapointed than anything now.

Sighing Illya shook his head. "Yah do have big Chip bones, but even Chip bones get hurt. I have fake leg cause meh Chip bone in meh leg was hurt very bad and dah doctors could nut fex et. Even Chips have tah be careful wit dere bones. Et hurts yeah?" Carefully reaching around his son he picked the boy up and then sat down with him in his arms. Cypher was sitting on his lap now and Illya looked toward Kalizda. "Maybe yah mum bring yah some more tea and a little for meh too."

Cypher nodded and snuffled as his dad pulled him into his arms. It was comforting to think he hadnt done bad as a Chip gotten hurt because his bones were somehow defective. Even his Dah got hurt from time to time. He curled into his Dah's lap, happy to be next to his warm chest as a few tears escape. "I like deh tea mam made, " he added, "Et hurts but I will be tough like yah, Dah." Calysta came over and kissed both of them at the temple. "I can fix that I think."

"I know et hurts." Illya shifted so he could lay on the couch with his son. As a boy when his arm was broke his mother took him to Asha and Asha and Riyan took turns holding him the first couple of nights. That had been comforting and they had tea ready for him whenever he woke and the pain was too much to sleep through. "How about I jes sleep wit yah here on dah couch tahnight and I have tea for yah?" When Kalizda came in with the cups of tea Illya nodded to her and picked up the tea for Cypher and let his boy sip from it a little bit. "Yah mum es skilled wit herbs and she knows how tah make good teas tah help yah arm nut hurt too much."

Cypher laid down with his father and had the urge to snuggle further into his arms until he was comfortable and warm. The warmth always felt good. When his dad offered to sleep on the couch with him, he glanced up with his blue eyes to look at his father. "Yah do dat for meh?" About that time, his Mam came in with a cup of tea and he reached out with his good hand to take it. She had put a lid on it with a straw so he wouldnt spill it. "Et tastes good and I like the honey," he added to his fathers.comment. " Calysta smiled and winked at her Chip before smoothing down her boy's hair. "I dont suppose you two want snake stew for dinner?"

Hearing the surprise in his son's voice Illya nodded. He wanted to be a good father and sometimes that meant doing things that were not as comfortable for himself as he would have liked. Cypher's tea was in a cup with a lid and straw and that was good. The last thing they needed was for the hot tea to be all over the two of them. Gingerly reaching for his tea Illya brought the cup to his mouth and sipped at it. If he was sleeping on the couch tonight he'd be needing the tea too. However, at the mention of snake stew Illya and Cypher's eyes lit up. Cypher nodded vigorously and Illya smiled. "Ooh I tink dat would be very good. Snake es good for Chippequoti tah feel better." Cypher nodded again in agreement and Illya couldn't help the small chuckle. "Alright, we jes wait and yah mum will take good care of yah. Den when we eat I will talk wit yah mum. Yah need tah be wit her, or meh for first week. She es still busy and has dah twins and work. I will see ef I can take yah, or dah twins tah school wit meh one, or two days dis week."

Calysta saw both of her men's eyes light up, both little and big which made her chuckle. "I think I can do that. Let me go get started, yeah?" Cypher perked up a bit more as his Mam startes walking away. "Will yah make the sweet bread too?" Calysta paused and turned back. "What do we say?" Cypher gave her his most hopeful look. "Please?" That was the golden ticket word and he knew being polite would get him somewhere with his Mam. "Aye," she said, "Snake stew and sweet bread it is." When she was gone, Dah said something about going to school with him and Cypher bounced a little in excitement. "I really get tah go with yah?"

"Yah come wit meh after I talk wit yah mum. I will have tah get yah school pack and yah do yah work too. Yah mum will need yah tah come wit meh so I can watch yah and make sure yah get medicine yah need." There was a chance he'd need to take Cypher with him on more than one day, but he would determine that with Kalizda later on. Cypher looked excited now, but that excitement might wear off after he discovered that Skycorp was not as thrilling as it sounded.

Cypher nodded ferverently until he got too excited and bumped his arm causing him to grunt in pain. His chin began to quiver a little and he sank down further into his father's arms. "Thank yah, Dah." He was learning manners from his mother and this seemed as good of a time as any to practice them when he was really glad his father was there.

When the boy started to shift Illya winced for Cypher. He knew hitting the arm had to hurt. "How about we jes cover yah arm wit part of dah puff blanket and et will help." The blanket would lessen any impact to the arm and it would help keep his arm warm and that would soothe the bone. "Let's jes take nap till dinner eh?"

Cypher nodded and let his Dah cover up the blanket without even hurting his sore arm. It wasn't long before he laid his head down over his fathers arms and fell asleep.

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

The next few days were a blur of teas, a few tears, and a carousel of children. If it wasn't Edgar asking for snacks, it was Tomas celebrating his newfound love of shredding paper by destroying one of her files. Between that, Cypher was sleeping or awake asking for tea or berries...or both. She had watched Mickey Martian Goes to Gilland 4 at least half a dozen times by now and she found herself quoting it under her breath in the most inconvenient of places or times. "Mickey Martian makes his move," she muttered in the shower as scrubbed her hair. Half way through a meeting she could hear that same movie starting to play again as Cypher fell asleep to it in the living room. "Mickey Martian, the man on a mission from Marou!" It took her about 3 seconds of confused stares to realize she'd said the words out loud in the middle of her aid counsel meeting. Rubbing at her temples, she managed a strained and embarrassed smile. ", right?"

By the last two days of the week, Cypher was safe to go with his father to Skycorp and to her relief, Illya helped gather up everything their boy would need and put it safely in his pack. "I have a little meeting I have to go to on Juya," she explained, "I will be back long before you two get out of Skycorp." She looked at her Chip and their son who was a miniature of his father in so many ways. He looked excited to be going with his father and had become a question box all morning long, to which she answered 'you'll see when you get there'. No use in ruining his curiosity. Before they stepped out of the door, Calysta smiled to Illya and squeezed his hand. "Before you go, I have one other small thing on Friday night. It's not entirely work's a party...a female only party. Kirit's mother and a few of the Chip women invited me. I might go if everything is alright with the children. Priscilla is going too because it's a fashion show." Her smile become more playful. "I might find a nice dress for a date, yeah?"


Anonymous Me
The first night with Cypher on the couch was rough. Illya felt his boy shift every couple of minutes. He knew the arm had to hurt and he knew it was hard to sleep even with the teas and little medicines that the doctors prescribed for the first few days. The couch wasn't nearly as comfortable as his bed and he Illya could feel his back cramping up almost every time he tried to adjust, or even move his head. Every few hours Cypher would wake up with a little whimper and Illya would grab the sippy cup with the tea in it. Thankfully, with Cypher sleeping on his chest he could tell when the pain started to seep through the deep sleep and it was time for more tea. The trick was catching the pain before it fully awakened a person.

Early the next morning Illya was already awake when Kalizda came out to get him up. Cypher was still asleep on Illya's chest and he moved his son onto the couch. A whimper sounded from the boy and his little forehead wrinkled some. Leaning over Cypher, Illya kissed him on top of the head. "Yah be jes fine. Kalizda will take care of yah. I go tah school and get permission for yah tah come with meh."

Illya struggled to sit still in the classes. His back was hurting and sitting for a long period of time was making it worse. He didn't remember feeling like this in a while. When he first started the withdrawals Illya felt sick to his stomach and he puked a few times, but he hadn't felt like this. The achy feeling and the soreness was still here and it seemed to have returned with a vengeance. For the time he wrote it off as a side effect of sleeping on the couch. Sleeping on the couch had left him crunched up and his back bent at an odd angle that put plenty of pressure on the rods that had been put into it.

By the end of the day Illya was ready to be done, but he could see Kalizda was just as tired. It had been hard on her to have him going through withdrawals and still try to handle the kids. She hadn't been able to meet him outside of the gates of Skycorp like usual, but he knew it was because of Cypher and the twins. How was she was she supposed to handle both the twins and Cypher? When the boy had his broken arm it wasn't likely that she would be accomplishing much of anything. Stepping into the ship's galley Illya limped over to where Kalizda was standing at the stove. "Hey, how about a little kiss and den yah rest for a little bit eh? I finish cooking dis." She could use a few minutes off her feet anyway. Glancing at the counter he saw that the makings for the tea was out and there was a little cup sitting nearby with a lid. Cypher probably had a rough day and he was likely still sleeping quite a bit, but he would need the tea if she had been in the kitchen making it.

Grabbing the cup, Illya filled it and put the lid on before he stepped out of the kitchen long enough to greet his oldest son and make sure the boy had some tea. Despite his attempt to give Kalizda a break it appeared that she still had her hands full with the twins. The boys kept cooing and giggling and then trying to snatch her files while the other made every attempt at escape. Was every day like this?

After finishing making the dinner Illya helped get the twins in their little booster seats. He and Kalizda sat the twins between them because both boys still needed help feeding their mouths. Edgar and Tomas had no problem feeding their hair and faces, but getting the food to their mouth was challenging. When the twins were finally wore out Illya smirked tiredly at Kalizda. "I tink we jes let Cypher sleep in our bed tahnight eh?" Illya knew he'd have to wear his boxers if anyone besides Kalizda was in the bed with them, but it would be easier on his back to do it that way.

The second night with Cypher wasn't that much easier. Cypher was still restless and Illya was still exhausted, but he was determined to take the boy with him on the last two days of school. Kalizda needed some kind of break. With Cypher sleeping so much it was easy to have a small discussion regarding the arrangements for school and Illya looked over the medicines for possible seizures, pain, and little ointments. He would probably take them all in his pack and let Cypher have his blanket and a few toys and his homework sheets. Illya plopped his son's study books in his pack too. It was going to be a little heavier, but he knew better than to have his son carry something so heavy when he didn't feel as well as he could. Just as Illya was finishing packing the bag for the days at school with his son, Kalizda mentioned having Friday night plans. They would have to leave immediately after the classes and that meant that she would probably have something special from one of the Kinte food places. It sounded like a long day for him. He'd be left to put the kids to bed by himself and they'd all be wanting him, but then again, it could make things easier. "Ok, I tink yah and Rose should go. Dah kids will be fine." Inwardly Illya was cringing a bit. It wasn't that he didn't love his children, but he was already tired out and pushing it that hard when he was sore was just not much fun.


Illya had sent notice to Swyft the night before that he needed to bring Cypher to school with him for the last two days of classes this week. His son had broken his arm and needed parental supervision until the infection period had passed. With the permission granted Illya showed the note to Cypher. Of course his son was nearly bouncing with excitement, but at the same time Cypher was still being careful of his arm. Illya knew that as excited as Cypher was, the boy probably would want to sleep more in the morning because he was healing. Illya still felt tired too in the mornings and therefore he figured that they were going to need to be early enough to have breakfast at the school. Just as Illya expected Cypher was wanting to sleep in, but he got his son dressed and had Cypher put on his pack with his homework. Illya packed the teas, action figures, and blankets for Cypher in his bag. No reason for his son to carry that much all day long and then they were ready to go out the door and walk with Kalizda to the gates. When they came to the gates Illya showed his pass and the pass for Cypher to get in. Cypher stared at the guard and waved his little red cast. "Hi!"

The men in the guard post blinked at the boy, his eyes traveling between Illya before settling on Cypher again. A grin came to his face and he nodded in recognition. "Heyo, little Blackwolf!" The gates began to open with a creak as a few more joined, revealing the expansive compound within. A trio of flyers were taking off from the flight grounds, making the air roared with the sound of their ascent into the blue sky.

Cypher was practically skipping the whole way to the first building in the compound. Along with the skipping came excited yells every time he saw something he liked. Letting go of Illya's hand he pointed to the sky with his good arm. "Look dah, flyers!" Illya nodded and grabbed his son's hand. "Yes, we need tah go get breakfast now eh?" The boy nodded and they finally stepped inside one of the large, long halls. When they reached the line at the cafeteria there were already plenty of students and Cypher immediately spotted Rezna. "Whoa! What is that?"

No one quite noticed the little boy entering the cafeteria with his father until he practically shouted and pointed to one of the tall novice cadets in line for her breakfast. The outburst caused a wave of turning heads, all curious to see where and who it had come from. The turning heads included the tall, grey skinned woman as she swiped up a juice pocket to her tray. Her eyes turned to Cypher, zeroing in with a sharpness before a grin spread over her face. A few others around them we inching over and looking all starry eyed at Illya and then at the miniature Blackwolf beside him. "Well, who are you, little fella?" one of the cadets giggled. Rezna loped closer and stood over the woman. "Who do you think it is you dope? That's a Blackwolf goblin if I ever saw one." She shifted around the growing crowd of curious people and grinned toothily at Cypher. "I know what you are," she chuckled, "But what am I? I am the fiercest warrior there is, little goblin."

Of all the people that his son could have yelled so loudly about, it was Rezna. Illya just stood there and held onto his son's good hand and pretended not to hear anything. However, it didn't last long because he was quickly being surrounded by people and it was a little nerve-wracking. Cypher beamed at one of the nice ladies that asked who he was and then the big grey thing walked over to him and stated exactly who he was. "Yup! Dis es meh Dah!" Pointing to Illya he grinned even bigger until Rezna said she was the fiercest warrior. "No yah nut. Meh Dah is and he could beat you up."

Rezna grinned and her eyes shifted briefly to Illya before she chuckled again. "Oh , he's definitely yours," she laughed, "I suppose he could try. But you look strong yourself, little goblin. Care to take a try?" She held up a hand and tapped her palm inviting him to strike it.

Illya had been so preoccupied watching everyone else that he almost missed his son's estimation of his strength. What was worse was that Rezna challenged his son and Illya felt Cypher let go of his hand, but not in time to do anything about it. Cypher grinned at Rezna. "Yeah...." He remembered a few things about wrestling with his dah. You trapped the extended arm and then moved in. Tucking Rezna's thick hand and wrist under his armpit Cypher moved in with his little cast held tight to his body and arm securing hers before he punched her in the side and started to kick at her knee.

Rezna was somewhat surprised and yet, given whose child this was, pleased to see Cypher grab her hand, bring her close and start punching her in the side. He had some weight behind his hits and he knew where to hit too. His little face was all screwed up in concentration on putting maximum damage to her, especially when he went after her knee. He was just tall enough to kick at it with some effort and while it didn't outwardly hurt, he'd likely leave a bruise on the flesh and ligaments underneath. "Oooh you are just like your Pap, alright," she laughed. She let him get a few more hits in before she knew her knee wouldn't stand the strain, then stepped into the little boys grip, sliding her hand through his armpit further and then scooped him up. His feet left the ground momentarily as she spun him around back to his father. "Some day, you'll meet me on the practice ring little Warrior. Remember my name is Rezna and when you're ready, you can come to my planet and tussle all you like."

There just wasn't time to grab his son before Cypher went at it like a little brute. Illya was starting to see why Kalizda thought some of his ideas were bad. Ideas like teaching his son how to fight properly at this age. Thankfully Rezna didn't seem to be upset by it and instead she turned the boy back around and sent him to Illya. Grabbing Cypher's free hand Illya nodded. "We jes get breakfast now." Cypher grinned at Rezna. "I remember yah and I tink I will be explorer, maybe I come tussle at yah planet." With a content little skip to his step the boy's pack flopped on his back and he followed his Dah to get in the line. Cypher could just see over the counter at the foods and he pointed to each one he wanted when the cafeteria staff lined up. "I like berries. Lots of dem. Mmmm."

The chef peered down at Cypher and raised a brow. It was a near carbon copy of the "shet" pranker and that could never be good. As it was, she didn't have any fresh berries that day anyways, but a slightly wicked idea came to her mind and she sighed. "Sorry, I don't have any today," she said truthfully, "I do have some raisins though. They are dried berries." She served up a big bowl of oatmeal with a pile of raisins on top and offered it down to the chunky boy. Cypher looked to the woman, his brow creasing in obvious disgust. "Et looks like little shets. No thank you." That answer got a few giggles out of the nearby girls. Specifically, the chip eaters from the other day, and one looked to Illya. "I didn't know you had a son, Blackwolf." It made him all the more appealing as his babies were handsome, though dealing with pesky moms could be a problem. "You're a handsome little man, does your Dah take care of you all by himself?"

It got under Illya's skin to see the chef decide to be rude to his son. Cypher at least tried to be polite and Illya asked the chef to get a bowl for Cypher without raisins. With Cypher here it was garnering far more female attention than he wanted and he turned toward one of the lewd ladies. "I guess now yah know I have a son." He didn't care to impart too much knowledge, but Cypher was about to help with that. Cypher looked up at the lady. "No, mam takes care of meh too and grandpa Thomas. Dah said he would bring meh because mam is busy with work. She's the council woman yah know."

More than one cadet exchanged looks over that pronouncement and a flurry of whispers began. Surely that couldn't be the council woman's child. She was half breed and they rarely carried to term. Not to mention he looked far too old for some sudden fling with her and the boy looked nothing like her. He had to think his mother was the councilwoman because that was all he could remember. Rather than bursting Cypher's bubble the women just nodded along. "Of course," she smiled. After break fast, the cadets lined up for roll call and as Commander Swyft went down the rows of names, ending finally on Tiberius' name, a cry of disdain came from down the row at the end. "Yah forgot my name!" Swyft's eyes shifted from the shortest cadet he'd ever seen next to Illya, expecting some sort of explanation.

His son was blurting information right and left. Some of it Illya had intended on keeping private for security reasons, but it was all going to become common knowledge if he didn't move his son along in the line. "Ok, Cypher we jes need tah get breakfast. Dey dun give us much time tah eat here." That hurried the chubby little boy along and he finally decided to stop talking with people long enough to shovel down his breakfast and jog next to his dad as they headed for roll call. He was excited to try roll call at his dah's school. Like everything else with Cypher, Illya found that it did not go smoothly. Naturally, Swyft came over to look at them and Illya glanced at the man. "Dis es meh son dat yah give permission tah attend classes today and tomorrow. Eh, he uh broke his arm and he's on watch for infection dis week. Got his emergency kit wit meh ef he has complications." Cypher nodded enthusiastically. "Yah look like a nice teacher. Is my dah really good at his schoolwork?"

Swyft remembered, but hadn't been entirely sure what to expect. Now, seeing the boy for the first time, he could tell it would be an interesting day. "Aye," he nodded to Illya. Then he stepped up to Cypher before kneeling in front of him, bracing an elbow on his knee. "I'm a fair teacher," he said, "and when you learn sometimes that's better than a nice one. You want truth, yeah?" Reaching for the pin at his collar he began to unclip it as he spoke. "The truth is your Dah works very hard and that's what we look for here. If you want to be like him, you stand tall and you listen and study hard like him." He reached up and pinned his commanders wings to the boy's tunic lapel before smoothing it down. "That means you're a cadet while you're here. Now, what was that name...Cadet Cypher. I did miss it. Are you here and ready?" Cypher grinned and nodded all the more excitedly. "Good, Cadet," he replied, "Role call is complete. First block classes, then practicals this afternoon. You have 4 weeks till exams. Make them count. Dismissed."

It was a relief that Swyft didn't tell Cypher anything detailed about the schoolwork. Instead, Illya watched his little boy puff up and smile like an insane monkey. The fact that today was practicals in the afternoon told Illya that tomorrow was probably the same and that would make for some long days with Cypher. Wandering into the first class with Cypher Illya found a desk near the back and there was an empty seat next to it for Cypher. The boy dutifully opened his little pack and pulled out his pad. Mam had him do most of his schoolwork at home on the ship and he only had his math sheets to do with dah at school. Working part way through the sheet Cypher decided he was tired and then he put his stuff back in his pack and walked over to his Dah and pulled on his arm. "I'm tired." It was a room with good acoustics and the little voice carried. Illya nodded and he unzipped his pack to pull out Cypher's blanket. Wrapping the boy up in the blanket he held Cypher with one arm while the boy dozed and continued taking notes with his free hand.

There was no escaping the notice of the class room now that Cypher had fully pushed the rumor mill into motion. Every now and then, people would look back at the boy studying his heart out while his father worked. Everyone except Wynry had either waved or said hello in some means. The small Kaerelean woman simply sat in her seat with pink cheeks, looking a bit down cast. When Cypher announced he was tired, all heads turned to him again and the women in the room went doughy eyed, making soft sighs. "He is such a good Dad for taking his kid in like this. Look at him...he's out like a little flytr bug." Cypher snoozed comfortably and kept right on sleeping when the bell rang for class swap. "You need some help there?" Tiberius said, nodding to the limp boy piled into the blankets.

When it was time for class swap Illya shoved his pad and books into his open bag and then zipped it up and gathered Cypher's little pack. About that time Tiberius came over and offered help, but it appeared by his nod that he was offering to carry Cypher. "No, I jes take him to dah batroom and get him tea before next class. I might be few minutes late." Depending on how long it took to get hot water out of the dispenser would depend on how much time Illya had and then sometimes Cypher took a long time to go pee when he first woke up.

"Alright," Tiberius shrugged, "Let me know if you need anything. I don't mind helping." He had also noticed Wynry was strangely quiet, so he collected her and brought her along out of the door toward the next class. Cypher's head lolled back, sending his wild curly hair in every direction as he snoozed deeply in his father's arms. A few stopped and stared as Illya carried him to the bathroom and Cypher himself didn't want to wake up at all.

Illya had to get his son awake because he was sure Cypher would need the bathroom soon and he needed the bathroom himself. "C'mon, yah wake up and use dah batroom and I get yah some tea." Cypher grumbled and tried to nuzzle into his blanket deeper. Since the boy was clearly not going to wake up for the time Illya laid Cypher down with the packs in a part of the bathroom was not near the urinals. Once he was done he returned to Cypher and picked him up and the bags. Then Illya went to the water dispenser. He'd never had to get hot water from it and he didn't know how long it would take. Thankfully the water was actually boiling hot when it came out of the hot side and Illya dropped a little packet of Kalizda's tea in it. With that Illya headed toward the classroom. About time Illya arrived with the packs he saw Tiberius had saved a spot for him and he went to sit down. Cypher started to wake up now and he whimpered some and moved his little arm to rest on Illya's shoulder. Then he woke up. "Dah, I need tah go pee."

Cypher felt groggy has his father hauled him toward the bathroom and even more grumbly when he realized that these bathrooms weren't really meant for people his size, making it difficult to use. When he was done, he was left with the predicament of being unable to wash his hands properly. He had been told firmly not to get the cast wet and washing was more out of habit than anything. His Mam always fussed when he didn't and had been giving him some sort of jelly to put on his hands that wouldn't ruin the cast. Poking his head out of the bathroom door, Cypher looked to his Dah with his big blue eyes. "Dah, I can't wash meh hands in dere sink," he said, hoping his father would offer a solution.

Of course Illya had to escort his son all the way to the bathroom and he stood outside the bathroom in the hallway. Only a few minutes later his boy poked his head out and asked about washing his hands. "Dey got wet towels tah cleanse yah hands. Jes use one of dose and bring one out for meh tah help yah wash yah hand around dah cast."

"Okay." His father sounded a bit stern that time and Cypher ducked back into the bathroom and grabbed a handful of the small packets on the sink and brought them out for his father. Swabbing down his hands was annoying, especially when his hand was jarred the wrong way in the cast, making it hurt. He frowned some on his way back to the class room with his father and they went back to their seat. Whatever subject his father was learning was incredibly boring, Even worse than Terran grammar! He finished his math sheet and finished his apology note to his teacher before doodling over the page. He made a monster than looked vaguely like the stuffy teacher at the front over his pad. It had long, gangly legs and bulgy eyes and a sharp nose. When he got bored of that, his legs swayed back and forth with his feet unable to touch the ground. Occasionally his toe would nudge the back of the seat in front of him, making the man in the desk look back at him. He smiled and gave a friendly wave before going back to kicking his legs. When the class was finally....finally...over, he happily got up with his father and sighed in relief on his way out of the door. "I'm glad dat class is over, Et was boring." A few of the passing cadets snickered in silent agreement as the diplomacy teacher's mouth opened and shut a few times in protest. Now, they were going to something interesting. He followed his Dah to a big gymnaisum which housed...well, he wasn't sure what to call it. The others were calling it a pool. To him, it looked like a big, deep lake with clear water and all sorts of things sunk to the bottom. Everyone else was getting to go in, but he couldn't follow his Dah with the cast. "Are yah really going all the way down there, Dah?"

Illya helped his son wipe up his hands and he accidentally bumped Cypher's arm. "Ooh, I'm sorreh." Once he finished with the wipes Illya tossed them in a garbage can and took Cypher back to the class. He had a little cup of tea ready for Cypher at his desk and then resumed taking notes. Most of it didn't really make sense, but that was apparently what diplomacy was about, dumb choices and unnecessary risks. When the class was over at last, Illya smirked at his son's comment. "Well, yah nut dah only one tah feel dat way." He most certainly wasn't going to discipline his son for having a good sense of opinion. As they got to the practicals it turned out to be a swimming one. Illya hadn't remembered to bring swimwear. He was going to be a very wet cadet at the end of all this. At least his boxers would be wet. Slipping out of his uniform and down to his boxers he shrugged when one of the other students looked at him. "I forgot meh swim pants." Illya's metal foot clunked on the floor with a loud clunk everywhere he went. Glancing to Cypher he grinned. "Yeah I go down dere. I jes sink like every Chip in dah water. Ef dey dun give meh gills I jes work hard tah come up for air when I need et."

When his father stripped down there was a flurry of giggles from the opposite side of the room from a pack of women and Wynry scuttled over with a bouncing, folded piece of material in her hand. She kept her eyes squarely on Illya's head. In fact, it looked like there was a concerted effort to keep her eyes above his head as she thrust out the garment in her hand. "It's wet shorts....just..uh...put them on. They'll fit I think." Then she scrambled back from him, her own full wet suit squeaking from the effort. A pair of gills were passed to Illya and Cypher waited eagerly to see his father dive in. "What will yah do down there? Es the water cold? How long can yah hold yah breath without the gills, Dah?"

Within a few seconds Wynry was on her way over with some wet shorts. Illya wasn't sure why they looked so tight and uncomfortable. His wet shorts at home were nice and loose like boxers. Illya glanced around and he didn't see a changing area so he stepped into a corner and stripped his boxers off before he slipped the very tight wet pants on. They felt like they were going to crush a portion of his body. "Ugh...." Grabbing the crotch of the pants as he turned around and pulled at it to try and give some extra space. Cypher was calling after him a series of questions and Illya chuckled. "Yah jes watch."

The last thing anyone really expected was for Blackwolf to completely drop trow in the middle of the pool deck and bare his tan, but shapely bottom to the world. The women in the room either looked away quickly, stared opening with mouths agape, or simply giggled at the strip tease...until he turned around grabbing at a admittedly large bulge, giving it a tug. Wynry's face turned the color of a tomato and she quickly dove into the water, not bothering with testing the temperature at first. The girls all grinned and joined Wynry, obviously in need of a cool down themselves except for Renza who rolled her eyes. Men were always such ninnies about their dangly bits, it was any wonder they got anything done sometimes. The tall woman snorted and dove into the pool too. Cypher gave his Dah and encouraging wave. "I'll watch yah."

Now that Illya was ready to get into the water he clumped his way over the deck to the poolside. He wasn't much for fancy entries into the water. With just a simple step off the ledge he made a splash big enough to get the rest of those gathered around the pool including the observing instructors. It wasn't long before Illya sunk all the way to the bottom. Some of the others in his team had to work a lot harder at staying down and Illya slipped his gills in. Once he was down under the surface he recalled the heavier piece of equipment his team had trouble moving. Grabbing one end he lifted it up and waited for his team to do the technical work on it. He could watch this time and know better when it came to the practicals, but at least he could do this and it saved them a lot of time.

Cypher watched his father sink down in a flurry of bubbles and waited patiently to see what would happen. When he realized all he could see was the top of his fathers head as he moved around the pool doing random all become less exciting. He waited on the bench for awhile, then played with his pad some as he sipped on his lidded tea cup. After awhile though the tea came back to haunt him and he started to get antsy. Sliding down from his bench he wandered around hoping to find something interesting, or at least a bathroom. He could always pee outside, but the door that they came in was only connected to more hallways. Opting for the exploration route, he stepped into a room where he heard the sound of flushing and then walked inside. There were toilets here at least and it smelled nice in there. He even saw more of the washcloths and a few other items on the sink. Padding over to a toilet he didn't bother closing the little door behind him and went to the bathroom as he needed. On the way out he smiled to the pretty woman walking in. "Et smells nice in dere," he said cheerily before continuing to explore different doors. He found a heavier door which was marked in a language he couldn't quite make out. The letters weren't Traders Tongue at least and he didn't know his Kaerelean letters very well yet. A closer inspection revealed the door lead outside and he took a glance at the pool. His dad had said just to watch but there was nothing to see and he could walk around outside before coming back for just a minute. With that reasoned out properly, he stepped outside and into the pathway.

The practical was going well and Illya found that simply moving the larger parts had saved his team enough time that his team came in third of all the teams that were practicing for the day. It was pretty good for a first time working together and Illya was sure that he could help his team mates make this faster. When the real tests came they would score among the top. Now that his back was in order he could do a lot more. When he finally crawled out of the pool Illya drug his metal leg some. It was still draining water and it was extra heavy, but there was one problem. Cypher was missing. Grabbing his pack and his son's pack Illya left his boxers and uniform on the floor with his boots. Immediately he started to run through the halls leaving wet foot prints and droplets of water everywhere. "Cypher!" Rounding one bend after another he started to feel a little more panicked and he yelled louder. It didn't matter if the officer training was being interrupted, his son was missing.

Coming out of the cafeteria, Cypher licked on an icecream cone with Commander Swyft flanking him. The man had found him outside on the training grounds after getting turned around on his way back to the pool. Swyft ushered the boy along at a casual but purposeful pace, as he knew class would be letting out soon. Of course, the echoing shout from down the hall informed him that the practicals in the aquatics center had been let out early and there was an anxious Chippeqouti father on the rampage."I think you know who that is, hm?" he said, looking down to Cypher, "Best go let him know you got lost." Cypher took off running down the corridor and slid around the corner. "I'm right here, Dah!"

Illya was about to tear into the mess hall next if he didn't find his son in the auditorium. On his way down the hall he kept right on yelling. Sometimes the rasp in his voice made it sound more like a growl, but his son would know he was just calling for him. A short distance from the mess hall he heard the boy call out to him as he ran around the corner with ice cream. Illya still kept up the jogging pace and he slid into a kneeling position in front of his son. "Cypher, I told yah tah wait. Dat dun mean for yah tah wander all over dah compound. Dis es a big place. Yah have tah stay close to meh. Tomorrow when I finish wit dah practicals I ask..." Looking up at Swyft Illya got to his feet and saluted the man. "Tank yah sir. I assume yah find him. I uh...can I run obstacle course wit Cypher on meh back tomorrow after practicals?" That would be a treat for the boy, but only if it would be allowed.

Swyft took his casual pace around the corner and saw Illya standing up to deliver a salute after attending to his son. As soon as the question came out of the cadet's mouth, his son bounced on his heels, eyes dancing in excitement. "Can I?...please?!" Running the obstacle course on his father's back would be fun and if it was a contest they would no doubt win. Swyft looked at the two of them, the cadet with known back problems and the heavier-than-he-seemed boy with a bit of icecream on his chin. "Aye," he said, "So long as it wont disrupt the course or any other issues." He gave a knowing look to Illya, indicating that he had best not bust up his back again and then knelt next to Cypher. "If you're going to do the obstacle course, you stick close to your Dah, eh? You don't want to miss it." That seemed all the more encouragement he needed to not wander around too much. There wasn't anyone here he knew of that would hurt the boy, but there was plenty of equipment that could.

"I dun plan on disrupting anyting. Ef yah mean meh back et es cleared for running and activity, dat means I can do as I need." Illya didn't know what else Swyft would wonder about disrupting. After a few seconds he gave another salute and then turned with his son. "Ok, now I go get meh clotes. I need tah get changed on men side of dah room again. Remember et works like bat house. Yah stay on man side wit meh and we let dah girls have dah oter side. No looking when dey change."

Swyft had tried to give the man an out in front of his son regarding the issue of his back, but he chose to be blunt and that was just fine. He nodded in recognition of the salute and turned to leave as the other two did when a comment made him pause. Had he hard that right? It sounded like the man had mentioned something about them women's changing room, instructing his son not to look. The boy was a curious one, and maybe Illya didn't want anymore wandering mishaps. At least he was teaching his son how separated bath houses worked, some cultures didn't have that or lacked a gender altogether. Shaking his head, he folded his hands behind his back and made his way to his office. He had an appointment this afternoon that he couldn't miss.


Arriving early to Skycorp was a good thing. Illya had barely arrived and he found out that he was supposed to be going to Swyft's office. There was apparently something that needed to be discussed. With Cypher in haul, Illya opted to get the meeting with Swyft done before breakfast. Illya tried to figure out what the meeting could be about and he couldn't think of anything, unless his grades had dropped in the diplomacy class. He was barely passing it now. "Cypher, yah wait right here for meh." Illya had Cypher sit down on the bench outside the office and stepped in. "Yah leave notice for meh tah come see yah dis morning."

Cypher couldnt imagine why his father was asked to the commander's office. When he got sent to the principle's office it was because he was misbehaving. He sat down on the bench like his father asked and let his legs swing free as his father went inside. When the Chip went into the commander's office he looked up from his tea and reports before nodding. "Aye, I did. Come in and shut the door, if you would." He waited for Illya to do so and then offered him seat in the cozy chair in front of the desk. "Sit down, yeah?" No point in having the man strain his back more than necessary.

Shutting the door as instructed Illya waited for some short message, but instead he was told to sit. Taking up a seat he began to wonder if this was going to be a very long discussion. "Tank yah, Sir." Even if he was using his manners, part of him just wanted to tell the man to hurry up and say what he was going to.

Swyft took a sip of his tea and then turned to his pad, bringing up a hologram file. "I flagged you because I had to," Swyft explained as his fingers worked over the keyboard. An image blared over the hologram coin. The figure if a tall, broad man with his bare butt exposed as he faced a tile wall. They both knew it was him and Swyft simply looked at him. "Is there any particular reason you dropped your pants in the pool room?" He said it calmly, waiting for some sort of explanation that might follow. He knew there were cultural differences sometimes and Blackwolf was hardly modest or shy about himself.

Flagged didn't sound like a good thing and Illya's eyebrows went up. What had he done? As soon as Swyft turned the image on Illya laughed. "Dis es a joke, yeah?" By the look on Swyft's face, he could guess it was not a joke ad Illya frowned. "Eh, I drop meh pants because I have water pants tah put on and et was dah man side of dah room. Why did dis get flagged?"

Swyft raised a brow at his explanation. "The men's side of the room? There isn't one," he said, "There is a men's locker room for that purpose, Blackwolf." The tone wasn't accusatory. Simply factual and calm. "It was flagged because there were several comments about indecent exposure. Some of the folks around here are not as worried about it. Some from fringe planets saw it as...ah...propositioning. Something I don't think you were intending."

"Uh..." Illya stared at the man for a long moment. "Locker room. Let meh tink of what dis would be in Quoti." The word wasn't fitting anywhere that he could think of, but he understood that Swyft told him there was a place for men to change and it was not where he'd done it. To make matters worse, the proposition word was not one that he was familiar with in Trader's Tongue. The last thing he wanted to do was end up sounding stupid, but it was hardly avoidable at this point. "Eh, yah jes show meh what dis locker room es." It sounded like a prison to Illya. "Den eh, tah be clear. A proposition es like a deal for someting? Like I propose tah sell..." Stopping right there he broke into a wide grin that was sprinkled with a healthy dose of red. "Oh, dat kind of sale. Dat's nut what I meant at all."

Swyft bit back the urge to laugh a bit when Illya realized what he meant and nodded. "I didn't think so," he said with the smallest lilt of good-natured amusement, "Just don't be surprised if a few of the women and men ask later on. Apparently, they were quite impressed." With that warning given, he stood up and waved for Illya to follow. They walked out of the office and toward the south end of the hall with Cypher close at their heels. He tugged on his father's hand and grinned. "Dah, I got tah show ya something! Come look!"

Getting out of the chair after the beckon from Swyft was a bit of work. Illya's knee was feeling a bit poorly and he wasn't sure if he'd tweaked it, or if it was sore because of the running with his prosthetic leg. He hadn't been running like this with his prosthetic in a while. When he finally got to his feet Swyft already had his office door open and Illya was almost immediately attacked with his son's need to show him something. "Yah jes wait. Swyft es going tah show meh dat dey have special place for men tah change here." He wasn't looking forward to the stares from the classmates after what turned out to be an indecent display.

"But I want tah show yah! I found Mam!" Cypher insisted as he tugged on his dad's fingers. Try as he might, he couldn't get the man to slow down. Swyft glanced to Cypher and nodded. "Aye, there are are few pictures of her on the wall across from my office. She's still a record holder here. Fastest run time on nearly all the courses." Cypher's eyes lit up and he glanced to his father as if he hadn't heard that the first time. "Es dat why you call her little bird when yah kissing her?"

"Ok, we go look after dis." Illya figured at the rate they were going he could get some snacks out of the bag for Cypher to eat for breakfast. They weren't going to make it to the cafeteria in time to eat before his first class. Kalizda being mentioned as a record holder brought a grin to Illya's face and then Cypher started to ask about name Little Bird. "Eh, dat might be one reason dat I call her dat when I kiss her."

"Dere's another reason?" He asked curiously. Swyft smiled to himself slightly at Cypher's inquisitiveness. The boy reminded him of his own and he hoped one day that his son could wander as freely as Illya's did. They kept walking down the hall with Cypher pacified that.they would come back and Swyft lead them to the pool area. Already some his classmates had gathered, having changed in the locker rooms and sitting in their suits poolside. A few whistles went out when he entered and Cypher gave a merry wave, assuming they were for him.

At least this time the question was welcome and Illya nodded. "Mmhmm, dere es anoter reason. Yah mum es like Little Bird in Chippequoti legend. She teach Chippequoti many tings. Chippequoti always watch for Little Bird because she es good omen and sometimes she es bad omen. Kalizda means little bird in Quoti and I tink yah mum es like good omen of Little Bird. She es very strong and she teach Chippequoti many tings and she flies dem tah safety in her ship all day way tah home in Alliance lands." Of course when they came into the pool room Illya found himself being beckoned by a few of the classmates and he simply tried to ignore them. Wherever this special room was, Illya hoped it would stop the waiving.

Swyft brought them over to a door marked by a few words in traders tongue and pushed it aside revealing a glossy tiled entry with a benches and lockers. Beyond that was a row of showers and sinks, some of which were in use. To the right was a steam room made of sweet smelling Wildwood planks and beyond a whirlpool bath. There were towels and soap provided on the opposite ends along with a few robes. A few of the officers were playing around inside. They laughed and ducked out of the way of vicious towel snaps aimed to make a nice red mark on the ass or legs. It all came to a halt when Swyft entered and they suddenly became very proper, folding their towels and shuffling back to their business. "This is the men's locker room."

It was only a short time later and they came to the odd door in the pool room. Inside there was plenty of activity and it actually looked like a nice room. Nodding a little Illya glanced at Swyft. "I see. I will be sure tah change in here next time." There was a little time left before the next class and Illya decided to give Cypher a choice. "We can go eat breakfast, or I get yah some snacks for first class and we go look at Kalizda in dah hall and read about her time in Skycorp eh?"

Swyft gestured toward the steam room and the whirlpool bath, nodding to Illya. "Those might come in handy after PT if you have the time." With that done, he left the father and son to do as they needed to before classes began. When Illya presented Cypher with the choice, he tapped his chin, a gesture reminiscent of his mother and then grinned. "We eat deh berries Mam packed and go see her pictures. I eat berries for breakfast anyways and Mam's are better than the little shet ones."

Stepping into the hallway with Cypher, Illya walked all the way to the end to look at the placards and holograms of the various students that were of note. Kalizda was toward the middle. There were generations of notable students, but Kalizda did have a sizable placard with plenty of notable things on it. "How about yah read et to meh and show meh how well yah know yah letters eh?" In truth it looked a bit long and slightly intimidating to Illya. He felt more intimidated with the reading when others might hear because he didn't do it well and his son would correct him. Cypher didn't try to be unkind, but the boy certainly didn't know how to be quiet about those things.

With a little skip Cypher walked himself over to the hologram and began to read. "Calysta Marie Monroe was not the strongest looking cadet, but she persevered. Through her weakness she found creative solutions and contributed to the flying maneuvers of the corp..." It was clear by Cypher's shifting about that he was tired of reading something so long, but he was also excited. The boy liked to know that his mom was impressive and Illya listened carefully. Kalizda had left her mark here too and he couldn't help feeling a bit proud to call her his woman. Who else could claim they had a woman that had managed to change the way an entire corp did things. Of course most of her accomplishments were for her outstanding flight test scores and her continued success with engine work. She was good at it and he knew it. Illya had worked with her on machines a few times.

Once they were done it was time for class and Illya winked at Cypher. "Now yah know how smart yah mum es. She's very smart woman and I'm proud dat she's meh agreed." Cypher glanced up at his dad and grinned. "I'm proud that she's my mam." Grinning broadly, the boy followed Illya to the classroom. In the classroom Cypher wrote his apology letter for the teacher while he nibbled on berries and sipped his tea.

Illya could still feel the women in the room staring and he almost cringed with every sigh and googly set of eyes that rested on him. Had they stared at him when he stripped? He hadn't really paid attention and never noticed the 'men's changing room' before. Illya hadn't needed it till that day and he had got completely naked in front of so many people. It was a little embarrassing. Keeping his head down for the rest of the class Illya figured he would focus on the work for today and just do his best to ignore the stares. Lunch wasn't any better than it had been earlier in the day and he only felt more awkward when one of the women slid onto the bench and got close enough that her thighs were almost touching his. Scooting away Illya grunted. "I need elbow room tah eat meh lunch eh?" It seemed she want to hear that and she scooted in closer again and this time she smiled at him with a frighteningly friendly sort of expression. Illya scooted toward the edge of the bench and it began to creak. There was enough weight on the other end that he wasn't quite going to tip it, but there was strain. "Please, I have woman already. I dun need yah sitting so close." Despite his plea, she remained where she was and looked at him several times with those daring eyes.

When it was at last, time to go home Illya gladly packed the last of his son's things away and started on the walk to the ship. Kalizda was going to be waiting for them because they had to get going right away if she wanted to make it to the party on time. It was some sort of fashion show and Illya was on kid duty for the night. There wasn't any telling how long the fashion show would go, but Kalizda deserved the break. On the flight home to Pytra, Illya cooked up a fast meal for himself and the family. If he was going to watch the kids, he was going to be certain they were fed before he got home and Thomas would have already fed the others.



Anonymous Me
Somehow it was remarkably easy for Kalizda to get out the door and Illya ended up buried under a mound of children. The twins were happy to lay on his chest and maul him while Lohgan wanted to paint his nails and Cypher was happy to lay in his dah's chair and sip on tea. It was a day that had gone a bit longer than Cypher was ready for. Having two full days at Skycorp left him tired out and feeling sore.

"How about we watch some of dah Micky Martian?" Cypher mumbled with a deep set frown and heavy pout. His lower lip was nearly touching his chin and his eyes were nearly squinted shut as he made his suggestion.

Illya met his son's gaze and nodded. "Aye, I tink a little adventure hologram would be fine. Lohgan, how about yah put one of dah Micky Martian holograms on and den yah paint meh nails." The girl nodded and went to get her favorite polish. Getting her to select the hologram with the Micky Martian show was a bit more challenging, but at least she managed to focus long enough to do it.

When Lohgan returned she had her favorite Micky Martian hologram recording. “Dis one.” Proudly the little girl flopped a hologram coin on the floor and turned it on. The Micky Martian and the Ludicrous, Boisterous Party came on. Lohgan was entranced just long enough to see the wild people dancing all over the place and the bright colors before she began to pull out the little nail polish set. Both the twins laughed at the dancing and bounced on Illya’s chest with glee while Cypher slowly began to drift off to sleep. Lohgan was still awake long after her brothers had gone to sleep and she watched the party hologram over and over until her father fell asleep. Very quietly the girl examined the nail job on his hands and then decided to go get her pretty hair ties and barrettes.

Illya didn’t remember falling asleep during the third round with the Micky Martian and the Ludicrous, Boisterous Party, but he did. Tomas had rolled off to the side and he was held in Illya’s left arm while Edgar was still flopped out on his chest. There were little streaks of pink and purple all over Illya’s dark brown hands and his nails were almost goopy with the amount of polish on them. For added glamour each finger had been dipped in some glitter.

Tiptoeing from her room with the little box of barrettes and hair ties, Lohgan made her way over to the couch. Her father had nice looking nails and now she wanted to make his hair. Illya’s head was tilted to the side and his chin rested on his right shoulder with his mouth open. There was a drool spot forming on the shoulder of his shirt. “Tsk tsk.” Lohgan scolded him gently and then went to get a little spit cloth. She’d seen her mother use them when the twins were drooling and now dad needed one. Setting her little box of ties and barrettes aside she went into the kitchen and grabbed the nearest spit cloth. It was a little crusty, but weren’t they always? Returning with her little spit cloth she shoved the slightly sour smelling cloth underneath her dad’s chin as far as she could.

With a sort of precision she laid out each little instrument she was about to apply to her father’s hair. Using the tips of her fingers she carefully selected the first barrette with a pretty yellow flower and used it to snap in a few of Illya’s curls near the center of his head. When Lohgan was finally finished she had placed every last barrette and strung some of them together with hair ties. Some barrettes were holding tufts of hair that stuck up from multiple other barrettes, but it was glorious. Standing back she admired her work and then crawled up on the couch to flop over her dad’s stomach. Snagging the beautiful gold blanket from the top of the couch she pulled it on top of herself and then promptly fell asleep.


The next morning came more than early enough for Illya. His back was sore, he hadn't slept well and he had a bit of a headache. To make the morning all the more exciting he found a few barrettes that he hadn't found before getting into bed. Some of the ones remaining were tangled in his hair so badly he couldn't get them out and he turned toward Kalizda. "Help meh get dese out eh?" She looked slightly amused and he had to grin a bit himself. It probably looked ridiculous. "Even barrettes dun look so manly on meh I tink. Dey are only for girls."

Kalizda seemed to be in a good mood and Illya wanted to see her keep on smiling. Last night must have done some good for her and so he decided to try and do something special. "I plan eh? We pack nice lunches for us all and go to dah park. I tink dah kids need little holiday too. Den after dah park we go to dah little chocolate shop and get some sweets before we come home." It sounded good to Illya and he hoped Kalizda wouldn't mind that it wasn't terribly adventurous. They hadn't really done anything for just the kids in a while. From the sound of it she was entirely on board with the idea and they got up after the fourth knock on the door from Lohgan. The little girl had outrageous amounts of energy, but Kalizda seemed to think it was only because the girl didn't want to miss him when he was home. She waited for him all week and so did the twins and Cypher. That was apparently the reason that they were all extra clingy when he got home too.

After breakfast Illya pointed to the pantry. "Lohgan and Cypher, yah two go get some good snacks for picnic. We go to dah park tahday and yah mum and I play wit yah dere. Den we go to dah chocolate shop and get treats." With a resounding yell of joy the two ran for the pantry and filled their little arms with snacks they wanted to eat and have everyone else eat too. By the time the lunch pack was filled it was heavy enough Illya decided to split it and let Kalizda take some. One, she wanted to help and two, his back was too sore to be carrying a bunch of extra weight in a pack. The twins were happy enough to get in their little mini, controlled baby flyer. There nice little hover craft and made it easier on the parents. All Kalizda had to do was move the joystick and the little craft would go wherever she directed it.

At the park the kids went crazy. They ate little bites and then raced around the park taunting Illya and Kalizda. "Chase us!" With delighted squeals they would run and then jump onto the picnic mat and yell safe before shoving a few more bites of food into their mouths and running off again. It didn't take as long for Cypher to wear out, but that was understandable given his broken arm. Lohgan was still wanting to play, so Illya let her run around on the way to the chocolate shop. Cypher, naturally wanted the hot chocolate drink and Lohgan wanted the little chocolate balls. The two smaller boys just liked having hot chocolate drinks too. Kalizda had what she wanted and Illya ordered the caramel like usual. He didn't like the chocolate as much, but he did like the nice, creamy caramels. For whatever reason, Illya felt about as exhausted as Cypher looked. The boy had managed to get dark rings under his eyes and he was ready to lay down when they got home.

For the rest of the day the kids bumbled around the house and helped Illya with the chores outside in the yard. Cypher didn't do much more, but he did help feed the chickens. Illya drug himself into the house after the chores outside and did his best to help Kalizda with dinner, but he was too tired to do much more. He'd been pushing all week and he felt exceptionally tired and sore.

Once Illya finally got to bed he didn't feel like doing much. Wrapping an arm around Kalizda's waist he grinned and pulled her close. "How about we jes lay here and talk like old people eh?" He figured he could get a little giggle out of her. "Den I can admire yah when yah young instead of waiting till we bot have so many wrinkles dat we work on memorizing dem tah be sure we can tell one old wrinkly face apart from dah oters." Cracking jokes was always the best way to distract her, but it was always a gamble if she'd see through it. Illya didn't end up staying awake for much chatting, or face memorizing before he fell asleep with deep, soft puffs of breath. There was only the occasional rasp of breath that still indicated the damage done to his lungs.

It was a good, deep sleep and Illya didn't want to wake up in the morning. Kalizda's fingers tickled his scalp while she talked to him and Illya reluctantly opened his eyes. "Ugh...I want tah sleep all day." That wasn't quite acceptable, but she did let him sleep a little longer. Eventually Illya had to get up. This was the last day at home before he had to head back to classes again. Sitting up and then getting out of the bed, Illya shuffled his way into the shower and washed up quickly. Once he was in the room again Illya took his towel off and swayed over to where his boxers and pants were. He couldn't quite remember where his shirts were, but he could ask Kalizda later. Stumbling into his boxers he pulled them over his hips and then fought with his pants. They just seemed difficult to put on.

With his pants barely pulled up, over his boxers Illya took a step to get close to the bed. He was sure he was dizzy and about to fall. His heart rate started to get a little faster and he had a momentary lucid thought. It felt like a seizure! Suddenly his body went stiff and he fell forward and hit his head on the foot board of the bed and his body went into rhythmic contractions while blood trickled through his wet, freshly washed curls and began to drip onto the floor.

His breathing was uneven and he choked every now and then instead of getting more oxygen. A slightly grey tinge settled over his face and lips. Before completely losing consciousness, Illya heard some sort of banging and he tried to force himself to do something. Instead everything faded into blackness. When he started to wake Illya heard beeping at a nice constant pace and he felt Kalizda's fingers squeezing his. Lazily Illya opened his eyes and looked at her. "Mmm...Soreh." Slurring the words he closed his eyes again and breathed in deeply. It smelled like the hospital and it definitely wasn't his bed, but he was too tired to do anything about it. Drifting in and out of sleep for a few more hours he didn't worry about much of anything until he was finally aware enough of his situation to realize he'd had a bad seizure. It was bad enough that she hadn't been able to stop it, even with the medication.

The doctor came into the room after getting the notification that his patient was awake. Looking over the charts he sighed. "Well, that was a big one. You been tired lately, drinking? Nothing showed up on the toxic screening and you don't have a fever." The questions were only fair and he wondered if the General hadn't found something a bit creative that wouldn't show up on the toxic screening. There were plenty of ways that addicts found to keep the habits.

"I jes tired. Been a lot tah do." Answering as honestly as he could Illya went through the series of questions with the doctor and then answered some basic questions about the day. It was all routine to be sure that he was actually ok before going home. Gingerly feeling the spot at his hairline where he'd hit the bed he felt the stitches there and frowned. Kalizda was naturally worried and he hated to think that he made her life that much more difficult. "Et's alright. I jes go tah bed early tahnight and I try nut tah stay up too late tah study for classes. Et will be jes fine." He was most certainly not going to be missing another day. Missing another day at school would be difficult to catch up on and especially when he was so close to testing.
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Curious Adventurer
Wedding day was beginning to creep closer and closer, leaving Priscilla increasingly busy as well as a bit anxious. How on earth had she put this together on Terra one time before? There was so much to coordinate and things had changed from something small to something overwhelmingly large. Somehow, inviting a few of the Elite men who helped guard Illya's home meant they all were coming. All of them. And probably their wives too. Not that Priscilla minded their presence, but she had to go to the venue and caterers to get extra seating, supply food and drink at the caterers, then she had to get a list of everyone for seating. Luckily, somehow Calysta found time to help her compile a list and she made place settings for all of them. The small Kaerelean woman did ask a few questions about Terran weddings, the most amusing of which was regarding the size. "Are all Terran weddings this...big?" Calysta asked curiously, "I've only ever seen them in holograms." Priscilla took a sip of her coffee and shook her head. "No, some are quite simple and small. That's what I was hoping to do here. I had a large one with Harry and it was mass chaos. but here I am in the thick of it again." She sighed and looked into the empty mug of coffee. There were still a few details that had to be arranged and time was running out. "I'm going to get some more coffee," she smiled to Calysta. The woman looked tired but was still helping her create name places in Qouti for the guests. "Do you need anything?" The woman declined anything and ket working on writing out names.

Priscilla came into the kitchen and poured herself another cup of coffee with sweet cream. Whatever brand Calysta had brought from Kinte was absolutely delicious. Stirring her cup, she opened her notebook and sighed. Wedding planning was never easy no matter who you were and she was coming to a slightly saddening realization that her side of the aisle was looking barren. Sure, there were the Monroes but otherwise she wasnt sure who else to bring. Her family was long scattered, or would sooner kill her than come to her wedding. About that time Illya came into the kitchen and she sat up a little straighter. There was one decision she had already made. "Illya? Do you mind talking for a minute?"

It was a weekend and Illya had just finished putting the kids down for a nap, or quiet time. For his and Kalizda's sanity there had to be some quiet time during the day. Kalizda said that she'd got him some soda that was made the old fashioned way, with sugar and not corn syrup and she had a few other special geyser drinks for him. She knew that he missed having a special drink every now and then. There was juice too and if he mixed it with geyser water it would be like a soda, but healthier. Illya wanted to make a geyser juice for himself and Kalizda and he was on his way into the kitchen when Priscilla asked if they could talk. "Yes, I can talk wit yah." Heading over to the fridge he pulled out one of the juices. It looked like it was called tart cherry. Some of the little shops in Pytra had hired Rose to help them make Quoti labels and helped increase their sales because the Chippequoti liked shopping when they could easily read what the product was.

He went straight for the fridge and she shifted to allow him better access. His reply was a bit gruff and it made her wonder if there was a better time to be asking him questions. She knew he was struggling and it wasnt easy. How Calysta was managing so many children, work, and a husband who was having trouble was some kind of miracle and she was glad things seemed to be working out. "You know that Ehud and I are planning a wedding soon. It will be Terran style though, and I'm not sure how familiar you are with Terran ceremonies but I wondered if you might want to help me in the process?"

Pouring to glasses half way with juice Illya listened to Priscilla talk about her and Ehud getting married. He grabbed the geyser water and then paused when she asked if he would help. "Yeah, I would help yah. Nut sure how much help I can be. I dun know anyting about a Terran wedding."

He seemed entirely distracted and Priscilla folded her hands over her coffee cup, enjoying the warmth. "I thought not. I was hoping you might want to walk me down the aisle. Its a role usually filled by the father. He escorts the bride down to the man and gives her away to her knew protector, so to speak... my father wont come, so I was wondering of you would do it."

"Oh..." Illya set the geyser water on the counter next to the two half full glasses and then turned around. "Dat's a pretty serious ting tah ask. Et's a honor and I dun know ef I..." He couldn't say that he'd really been a protector, or even good at it, but she'd asked him to do this. "I will do et as yah ask. Jes might need tah give meh some pointers on how tah do et right."

His slow response made her sink a little. She wasnt sure he would actually want to do it and it sounded like a 'no.' When he rounded to a yes, she smiled brightly and her eyes lit with relief. "You would really want to? Of course. I could teach you what you need to know. Thank you, Illya." She put a hand over his and squeezed it a little before letting go. "It means alot to me that you're stepping in like this. I'll let Ehud know."

Priscilla moved a little closer and she put her hand over his briefly. Having her put her hand over his was a little disconcerting to start, but Illya realized it was just a friendly gesture. Some people were that way. "Yes, I tink et would be good for Ehud tah know how his wedding planning es going." Illya couldn't really think of anything else to say and so he smiled.

That evening, Priscilla sat alongside Ehud after their dinner and poured over her agenda, making sure everything was timed and paid for exactly as it should be. It was strange to think of having a large wedding again. The reason her wedding was so large last time was because Harry's family was massive and it was expected for them to attend. With a small sigh, she flipped the book closed and yawned before inching a little close to her fiance who was looking over something on his pad. He looked deep in concentration and she couldn't help but inch her delicate bare foot across to casually nudge his leg some. It got his attention and she chuckled playfully. "Well, I think I've managed the last of the arrangements. Food will be there, drinks, seating, and a Terran officiate. All the Elders have their nice tables set so we can agree afterward too. Illya agreed to walk me down the aisle too. We're a month away from the day," she said. Her smile grew more playful and she nudged him again. "It's not to late to run for the hills before you're stuck with me, hm?"

* * * * * * * * * *
Calysta was more than excited to attend the fashion show. She had never been to one before and had planned on wearing a simple tunic and boots before her daughter appeared in the doorway wearing a pretty skirt and loose fitting peasant top. It was a very Terran outfit and her makeup was certainly heavier than Calysta had ever worn before. Rose clucked her tongue and shook her head. "Kalizda you can't go in that. It's a fashion show. Women dress up to go to these." Calysta raised a brow at her so suddenly knowledgable daughter as the girl swooped in and began rummaging through the closet. A few articles of clothing were tossed out on the bed until Rose let out a satisfied "Aha!" A nice, short summer dress of deep green and white fluttered to the bed and she tossed out a pair of strappy tan sandals. "Here. Now that's better. Go ahead and try it on." Calysta hesitated for a moment before peeling off her tunic in favor of the dress. She hadn't worn that one in about a year or so and it was still the warm season. She might as well dress up while she could. The tunic was tossed into the closet and she began shimmying into the dress which looked to be a few sizes to large at this point. It slid over her bony shoulders and spine to hang lose over her hip bones. "Hmm..." she said, "I'll just wear a belt with it, yeah?" Rose's brow was knitted together in a clear look of unpleasant surprise, but Calysta ignored it and found a woven brown belt to make the dress fit properly. "There. Much better," she said, making the outfit final. "Now, lets go."

The massive tent had been set up in one of the rotated fields for the evening and flytr bugs were already started to hover over the stubby red grasses, their glowing bodies creating a trail across the skyline. Rose looked excited and Calysta smiled at the sight. It had been awhile since she had gotten to do anything with her eldest daughter and this seemed like a good thing. Women from all over Pyrta were already pouring into the tent. Rose grabbed her hand and tugged her forward into the tent where they were met by a steady drum beat and the smell of food. "We had better get a seat down front or we'll never see anything," Rose grinned. If all the Chip women stood up, they would be entirely engulfed.

They found a low lying round table surrounded by Reylian poufs and occupied by the familiar faces of Tabit and Ahvah. The two women were already sipping on drinks and chatting to others as the show was starting to get underway. "Hey Ahvah! Tabit!" It had been a long time since she had seen her friends outside of any sort of work capacity and they were a welcome sight. Rose guided them over and they sat down on the soft poufs, ready to see what the night had in store. Before much more could be said, a waiter came around and offered them sweet creme liquor along with some small finger food. Calysta selected a few chocolate bon-bons and a glass of the sweet creme. She knew she wouldn't have anything more than just that drink because she wasn't about to go home to Illya with having alcohol in her system. He didn't need that temptation or reminder. The cream was delicious and she savored the sweet taste between the little bites of dessert being offered up by the passing waiters. "This is much bigger than I thought," Calysta admitted, "Thanks for making sure I got an invite, Ahvah."

It wasn't long before the show began. Calysta exchanged looks with Rose with nearly every beautiful gown that swept over the catwalk. There were some stunning evening wear dresses and some beautiful tunics available too. The colors had expanded from traditional black to a rainbow, but strictly the colors of sky blue and dark blue were avoided. No one wanted to look as though they were in mourning. Eventually, they showed off some mens wear which Calysta found appealing too. There were several things she thought Illya might like or would look good on him and she carefully selected those on her order form. She knew his measurements better than her own at this point and marking them off was easy.

They had seen quite a few beautiful dresses and more than enough handsome Chip and Kaerelean blend men's tunics in a rainbow of colors already. It was enough that when the music faded into the back ground that Calysta was beginning to fill out her purchase sheet on her pad while chatting along with Ahvah and the other Chip women who had come to watch. To her surprise, the lights dimmed even lower until soft red lightening hummed to life over the walkway, creating a sensual sort of look against the flowy black curtains being unfurled on either side. Pyra stood at the end of the catwalk in a stunning dress of black and silver made from her own design as she announced in trader's tongue, then in Kaerelean that the next show was about to start. The announcement was made by a translator for the Chippeqouti women in attendance as well and the music began to rise with a steady beat again until a woman appeared onto the catwalk sporting a long, billowing nightie of turquoise silk. There were oooohs and aaahs over the crowds of women and Calysta's mouth slipped open a little as she realized that this was also...a lingerie show. Her eyes peeled from the models, all of whom were tall, gorgeous women, and glanced to her daughter who was looking eagerly at the sets. "Do they work?" she asked openly to the table, "I mean, the seem impressive and beautiful, but do men actually like them?" Her daughter was bold and Rose had always been the prudent type. She wouldn't invest in something she wasn't sure would work as intended.

A few of the Chip women had some things marked on their orders. Ahvah specifically wanted to get Ehvan one of the tunics that had a little bit looser cut. His guts seemed to hurt badly enough that some days it was all he could bear to have a tunic on, much less have it snugly tightened. He often wore them open when he was at home and having a painful day. Perhaps if she got him something that was a little more roomy inside he would be more comfortable and he could feel like it was appropriate to go out even if he didn't feel the best. About time she finished carefully selecting a few pieces for Ehvan the best part of the show started and she sat back to watch. Rose burst out with an odd question and Ahvah and Tabit both looked to the girl and laughed. Tabit answered first, "Oh they work alright. Just make sure you tell him he gets nothing if he rips it."

Another set came down the walkway, a more daring set of strappy corsets and garters with a bright tangerine color combined with black lace. Calysta hardly noticed this one when her daughter asked an open question. The girl had already tried once and she highly doubted that abstinence would work for long after she was off her grounding time. Still, it wasn't a subject she was good at talking about without blushing or sounding awkward even to her nearly seventeen year old daughter. When the answer came from Tabit and Ahvah with a few chuckles, Rose looked aghast. They would get excited enough to rip it? "He wouldn't dare," she said confidently, "Or he certainly wouldn't be getting...anything. " It was a proud attempt at sounding grown up but Calysta could see through that, and Rose knew it too. "I think I will see what I like though. Is it better to go with something...ah...simple?"

Ahvah raised an eyebrow at the girl and she laughed again. This time a few of the other Chip women laughed with her. Naturally, they were going to let Ahvah have her moment and shock the poor girl. Every girl had a chance to learn this lesson and it was better learned from a woman that had gone the road ahead of her. "Naked is simple as you get and it's still uncomfortable the first night. Ehvan didn't quite know where to put it and I tried to help him on the first night. It was horrible." Speaking in Quoti she hushed her voice some, though it wasn't likely that anyone besides other Chips would hear the language and know it. "He just thought he could go right at it like a wild rabbit. I screamed and there was blood and he jumped off of me and danced about like a mad man trying to figure out if he'd somehow murdered me. It was embarrassing to say the least, but I eventually had to ask my mother if we'd done it wrong and found out it was right, but we needed to take our time the first round. I wouldn't get in such a hurry to wear something exciting, Simple is better." Tabit snorted, "Or naked is fine. No man complains when he sees a naked woman."

Rose's eyes grew round at the story Ahvah uttered in hushed Qouti. Discomfort? Pain? Blood? These were not at all like the romance novels she had read nor was it like any thing she had heard Kalizda and Illya doing upstairs which sounded so nice sometimes. Her eyes shifted to Calysta as if looking for confirmation that this was the truth and not some older woman trying to scare her away from such activities. Calysta had told her how sex worked but Rose had never thought it would be painful. She found her mother was nodding in agreement. "It's not all that glamorous to start and....depending on your takes a long while yet to get good at it."

Rose shifted uncomfortable and glanced at Ahvah again with a wince. "He didn't even...take it slow? He just jumped right in? Don't men know they're supposed to romance a woman. That's a simple thing too."

Tabit glanced at Ahvah and both women shook their heads. Ahvah smiled gently, "No, they don't know they're supposed to romance the girl unless she tells him, or unless he's older and he already knows better. Once you have them trained they're quite nice." Ahvah pointed to a racy blue bit of lingerie. It was a lovely aqua blue with gold decoration on it. There was enough to cover the breasts and stomach and then long slits on either side that went up to the hip. "I think I'll ask if I can try that one on. Ehvan would like it and he knows to take it slow." Stepping up to the stage she walked over to Pyra. "Please, I try dat one and see how et looks. Model et for meh friends and see ef dey approve?"

Rose looked almost wild eyed at the idea of a man having to be trained to do anything. They should just know to treat a woman. They grew up with them. Suddenly, it was seeming like having a man was alot of work. The more she thought about Sam, the more that became apparent. Sometimes he couldnt find things in plain sight, left the toilet seat up or made wild choices. That would hve been what she was climbing into bed with! When Ahvah got up, her eyes followed the woman over to the glamorous Reylian who smiled. "Of course," she said gesturing to the changing tent, "My assistant in the tent will find the right size for you at your leisure." Beckoning the woman forward, she lead her away to go sample the merchandise. "Do you see anything you like yet?" Calysta asked Tabit, hoping to recover some of her surprise, "Pris has a wedding coming up too. These might make good little wedding presents."

Ahvah nodded eagerly and she walked with one of the women showing her to the changing tent. Inside she went through the racks and chose a few pieces beside the aqua one. "I try dese and get in line tah show et off." Stepping in behind the other models, Ahvah gave a swish to long lingerie and grinned before marching out confidently to show her style to the other women. A few of the ladies clapped and yelled to her, "Yah look like sexy!" Sticking one scarred let out of the side slit on the Lingerie Ahvah gave a smolder and small twitch to her hip. It made the whole piece of lingerie ripple gracefully around her legs and then she swung around and let her hips sway as she marched back to go try on her next piece. As soon as she finished that little display several other women jumped up and wanted to begin modeling the pieces they liked.

Apparently, the Chip women were more raucous than Calysta gave them credit for. Tabit must not have heard her question over the cheering when Ahvah took the stage. The woman looked wonderful in bright turquoise and gold with her deep tan skin. Rose watched as more of the chip women got up to try the fashion pieces. She was so lost in thought over the fact that the first night would be awful and that dressing up would do little to fix that, she hardly noticed her mother vanishing. She certainly noticed when her mother appeared on stage in a tiny, red silk nightie with stockings. She looked shy, and lacked Ahvah's flair in walking across the catwalk, but her cheeks were pink with a bit of alcohol and carried a look of determination. .

Tabit stood in the back and cheered loudly as Calysta stepped out in her red little number. Ahvah was returning from showing another piece and she grinned. "Yah look like little flame." They all knew that Illya would like to see her wearing red and with stockings it was quite risque. One of the other women jumped up, "I want one of dese leg socks!"

Calysta looked slightly emboldened when the women cheered and she smiled a bit more before tucking a strand of hair behind her ear. Her little steps grew that much more confident as she laughed as she continued down the walk way. When someone called out for "leg socks" Prya called over her assistant, a reedy looking woman, and had a quick conversation in Kaerelean before addressing all the women in attendance. "I'm having all of my stockings brought out for show along with the garters and matching shoe selection." Some of the women looked uncertain as to how that worked, so Pyra called over Calysta. "The stockings clip right into the garters like so and then you can unclip to let your lover discover as you like." Pyra smiled and knelt next to the councilwoman. She easily unclasped the garter and slid down the stocking over her pale, smooth legs.

A round of loud 'ooohs' and 'aahs' fell over the group of women as Pyra demonstrated the leg socks. Some of the other younger women decided to get in line to buy some of those leg socks. They were quite exciting. One older woman's eyes widened and she huffed a bit as she got up and decided to walk out of the fashion show, but not before entering her order for some of the more appropriate attire that was offered.

Rose cheered a little as her mother had decided to try some of the lingerie. She supposed that some girls would have been embarrassed, but it was no secret that Kalizda and Illya lead an active night life- evidence of that came in the form of multiple children- and Kalizda had always encouraged her not to be ashamed. Cautious, yes, but not ashamed. The other women got in line when the leg socks were displayed in all types. Fishnets, delicate laces, soft silks and sexy shears with matching garters and heels were on display everywhere. Calysta herself bought the little red number and another set for the absent Terran woman Priscilla. It would be a good gift for their wedding as they already had a fully furnished house to live in. Maybe it would supply them with some motivation to fill the extra bedroom. That wry little thought came to Calysta's mind and she laughed before joining the other women in line. "Thank you for the invitation," she said to Ahvah with a grin, "I think the whole affair turned out wonderfully. I don't think the gentlemen will mind it so much either. Illya will get his little flame, yeah?" She chuckled and then took a sip of water as they placed their orders.

On the way home, Calysta grinned up at Rose and winked. "That was fun. Maybe they will do another one soon. Did you order anything?" Rose gave a rare bashful sort of look and shook her head. "No, I thought...well, I thought I might wait awhile." It didn't take much to see that she was talking more than just about clothing and Calysta wrapped an arm around her daughter's waist and they walked home together. When they arrived, she found the house was dark and silent except for some absolutely obnoxious episode of Micky Martian playing. She knew this one all too well and the hologram coin had been set on replay apparently. Letting go of Rose, she quickly crossed the room and turned off the hologram coin. At some point everyone had gone to bed and the only remaining evidence was globs of nail polish on the floor and a few crackers stuff into the chair. She would clean that up in the morning. One by one, she checked on the children. The twins were sleeping soundly and Lohgan was piled upside down in her bed. Cypher was asleep with his arm tucked carefully against him. Best of all was finding her Chip in the bed his hands were a rainbow of glittery colors- no doubt a present left by his youngest daughter-and there was a pile of berets on the beside table. Calysta chuckled at her snoring husband and dropped her bags by the door before slipping into bed with him. He was warm and his steady breathing was nice to listen to, even with the snoring, as she fell asleep have come home a literal fashion model.

The next morning she woke with a small yawn and found Illya struggling with few remaining clips in his hair. She chuckled as one fell free and his fingers fumbled with another one, unable to loosen it enough to let go. "Aye, c'mere." Her fingers played over his scalp as she unclasped the remaining pink berets. "I don't know, I rather think they are your color." The earned her a look and she laughed all the more as she helped him undo the rest.

That afternoon they played at the park with all of the children and it was a glorious day to do so. The sun was out in full display and the children ran through the red grasses to the swings and climbing squares without a care in the world. They set up a nice lunch of snacks and let the children run. Occasionally, she would give chase to them just to hear their peals of wild laughter when they managed to escape to the "safe" space on the picnic blanket. It was a grand romp of a time that left her cheeks pink from the sun and her lips curled into a happy smile long after they had left to go to the chocolate shop. Calysta helped the twins sip on their hot chocolates, blowing on the hot liquid to make sure they wouldn't burn themselves before tipping the cups to their lips. "Oooh was that good?" Edgar smacked his tongue against his lips and grinned with his chubby cheeks. "More!" She chuckled and nodded. "Please?" He nodded and eagerly gripped the up to suck down his hot chocolate with gusto.

Dinner would be a lighter one since they had eaten so heavily during the day and everyone was tuckered out from a full day of simply having fun. They needed a little fun as a family and she was glad Illya had wanted to go out with his children. He tried to help with the cooking, but she could tell that he was tired and probably sore by this point. "I'm almost done," she whispered to him, "Why don't you go help the kids get set at the table, yeah?" There wasn't any need for him to be standing any longer than he had to. Later that night, he held her close and cracked off a few jokes about wanting to just lay around before they got too old to admire each other. It was odd to hear him talk like that. Not that he wouldn't normally make a joke of that nature but because he didn't seem to want hard work. That was the true concern. She gazed at him, studying his tan face with his prominent, but handsome features in a look of worry before masking it. "Who says we'll get wrinkly, eh? All I'll see are the laugh lines from too my smiles, and the crows feet from the same," she chuckled as her fingers brushed over his cheek. They chuckled in the dark with one another until they both fell asleep.

Morning came all too soon and Calysta woke to the sound of Lohgan stomping through the house. "Mam! Maaam! French toast! French toast!" A tacked on little "please!" was added through the door on an after thought and finally Calysta could sleep through the ruckus no more. She slinked out of bed, put on her robe and gave a stretch. Her body felt achy and she groaned some before stiffly padding out of the door. Lohgan was right there and immediately the girl clung to her legs, beaming up at her expectantly. "French toast?" Calysta ruffled her daughters firey mop of dark red hair and nodded. She had no idea how to make french toast, but apparently she was going to learn today. Lohgan had successfully woken up the twins and Cypher emerged from his room looking grumpy. "Can I have the tea, Mam?" Calysta had one of the twins on her hip and he was crying because she had taken a spatula from him. "Edgar...stop..." The crying continued into an all out toddler fit which caused his brother to burst into tears from...lack of the same attention? Or maybe they had both been woken up too early by their sister and were simply grumpy too. She was beginning to think it was all a conspiracy amongst her children to see who could break her first.

Rubbing at her temples, she mixed up the goopy eggs for french toast and then summarily burned the first batch trying to make tea for Cypher at the same time. Lohgan helped herself to some berries while she waited and Calysta struggled with flipping the dredged cinnamon doused toast over the hot pan with Edgar wailing in her arms. She chased the toast all over the pain, her tongue stuck in the corner of her mouth and her nerves on edge already for 7am in the morning. "I am a highly decorated pilot, engineer and mechanic. I can bloody well make french toast!" She told herself with determination. After a desperate chase over the hot pan, she finally managed to free the toast and slapped it out on a Mickey Martian plate. The first order would go to....where was Lohgan? The girl had left an empty, blue stained bowl and gone into the living room to play. "Where did your sister go, Cypher?" Calysta blinked. "She said she wasn't hungry anymore. She ate all my berries and den left," he grumped. He still hadn't gotten his tea and now all of his berries were gone.

After fixing 12 more batches of french toast, which was kind of required since thats how much egg dredge she had managed to over-make, she wandered into the bedroom to put on real clothing and to wake up Illya. It was close to 9am now and she didn't know if he would sleep much longer or not. "Illya?" She sat next to him on the bed and ran a hand through his hand, smoothing it down gently. "Illya, are you ready for some breakfast? It's ready. Why don't you come eat with us?" He grumbled something back about wanting to sleep all day and she chuckled. "C'mon. I made french toast. Sort of."

Finally, she cajoled him up and into the shower. How he had managed to sleep through all the children was a mystery. While he was showering, she went back downstairs to make his plate and her own so they could all sit down together. Just as she was putting syrup onto the table a heavy thud rocked the house. Calysta knew that sound all too well. Disentangling herself from Tomas, she ran upstairs half stumbling at the top then hit the second flight of steps. By the time she made it to the bedroom Illya was flopped out on the ground like a pale fish, flopping rhythmically. "Shit." Diving for her night stand, Calysta fumbled to find the vials of medicine she kept close by. Pouring the medicine down his throat was even harder since his face was slick with blood. A swath of red on the bedpost told her he had definitely hit his temple when he fell. The liquid medicine didn't work even after she counted down the seconds. "Damnit!" She dumped out her bedside drawer entirely and found the shot he needed. With a well practiced hand, she primed the needle then drove it into his leg, pushing all of the medicine into his system. "One....two...three...four..." The longer she counted the more it became apparent the seizure wasn't going to stop. Half panicked, she grabbed at her pad and called the Ehaui, her fingers mashing the holographic buttons in desperation.

They came quickly, but by the time they arrived the grand mal seizure had ended and they carried him down the stairs limp as a ragdoll with all the children crying. "Is Dah dead?" Cypher asked, his bottom lip trembling. He certainly looked dead with pale skin and limp limbs everywhere. "No, he just had a very bad seizure. It's okay," she told Cypher numbly. In nothing but a pair of pajama bottoms and a tunic top, Calysta followed them in her flyer to the hospital while the children stayed home with Papa Thomas. It seemed to take years for Illya to show any signs of waking up and even then she wasn't sure how much of a state he would be in when he did. How badly had he hit his head? Calysta slumped over the side of the bed and curled her fingers around his large, brown hand. When his bright green eyes cracked open she was waiting for him. Immediately, he mumbled something about being sorry and she winced. "Shh...there's nothing to be sorry's okay." She whispered to him and smoothed down his hair again, her fingers running through the messy curls with a gentle touch.

Eventually, the doctor came back in when Illya was more awake to give his report. Ehaui were always straightforward like that and it was something Calysta preferred. Except, this time the doctor suggested that he might be taking medicine again or drinking instead of going entirely clean. It was a fair question of course, but it made Calysta bristle until those issues were ruled out and the Ehaui came to the conclusion that it was pure and simple exhaustion. Illya needed rest and that's all there was to it. He had been working so hard and she knew it was for her. That thought struck a cord in her that hurt and she found herself nodding along with the doctor. "He'll get proper rest." She would make sure of it, though this did put an end to some of the other things she had planned. This was her fault and any plans she made were irrelevant in comparison to making sure he was alright.

* * * * * * * * * *

The children were naturally terribly upset by the time they came home. Cypher and Lohgan wanted nothing more than to cling to her when Illya went to bed for the rest of the day and she let them stick to her while they sat on the couch. She fixed them something to eat and let them snuggle on either side of her until the both fell asleep from the effort of the afternoon. While the children napped, she did a few things that needed to get done. Namely, she cleaned the kitchen and went to the laundry room where her and Illya's bag was packed. It didn't take but a few minutes to unpack it, but she paused at the bottom of Illya's bag before pulling out his handsome red wedding sash. It was the same one he had worn in their first wedding. The second one too. Her fingers brushed over the smooth silk as she remembered what he had looked like in the desert that morning when the sun rose. Something he likely didn't remember. With extra care, she began to fold it neatly and stow it away in the closet when her father came in carrying his own laundry. When his eyes set on the sash, he frowned. "You're unpacking?"

Calysta nodded. "Aye."

"Why? He's had seizures before. He'll be fine," Thomas replied, stuffing his clothes into the washer.

"Not like this."

Thomas paused and stood up to look at his daughter. "It's not going to do you any good to cancel your plans over this."

Calysta's mouth set into a stubborn line and she hung up the sash deep in the back of the closet. "He had a seizure because he's exhausted, Dad. I'm not dragging him out to Verais just because it's our anniversary. It's only the ten year one anyways and we have many'll be fine for now. It's my fault he's so tired anyways. He's doing all of this for me, Dad. Putting himself under all this pressure. It's not his fault." Her voice cracked a little and she stuffed Illya's back into the closet too. She felt threadbare and her body hurt some. Maybe an impending cold coming on, or just flat out stressed.

Thomas looked over his daughter. She was thin looking and had red rings around her eyes as if she wanted to cry but refused to let it happen. He'd seen that look a time or two. "Why don't you just ask him how he feels in the morning, yeah? A man already feels bad enough when he misses his anniversary and it's important to you."

Without the energy to argue, she gave him a passive nod. "Okay." Then she left the laundry room with a few other arrangements for the kids to undo before tomorrow's anniversary.

* * * * * * * * *

Time had gotten away from her through the day as Illya slept and Calysta sat in her chair with her pad propped up tightly against her knees. Now that the children were all snuggled into bed, she had a few moments alone and it was about time she contacted Helena and Edgar for the first time in awhile. She doubted they would be awake, but if they were maybe they would give some advice or counter what her father had said. As the call went out, Kalizda rubbed her eyes tiredly and waited to see if anyone would answer.

Helena glanced at Edgar as the pad rung. They were simply sipping at tea, but it must have been important if Kalizda was calling. The elderly woman turned her pad on. "Kalizda, I'm here with Edgar. Are you alright?" The young woman looked terribly exhausted and she knew it had been a tough couple of weeks. They hadn't seen Illya, or heard from him, but when he did have time they had seen he was tired out too and he was barely pulling through.

Calysta was surprised when the couple actually answered and found herself at a loss for any greeting other than answering Helena when she asked. "Aye," she said. Despite the words coming out of her mouth, her head shook from side to side a little. "I'm fine. I just hadn't called in awhile and I wanted to touch base with you. I know I was supposed to be going out of town tomorrow but I've changed plans. I can bring the kids over tomorrow if you like." She was hoping they wouldn't mind that but she needed to get some work done and having the kids out of the house might very well be the only way to do it.

"Well, I hope the change of plans didn't happen because of an emergency." There was no telling what sort of emergency might have arisen, or caused this sort of response. Kalizda had seemed so pleased when she'd asked them to help watch the kids.

"Its alright," Calysta said, "Illya just had a bad seizure and hit his head. The Ehaui says its because he needs more rest. He has been working very hard and over extending himself, often times with alot of pain. He has finals at Skycorp coming up and he needs rest. Trips and anniversaries arent so important when compared to his health and there is no need for him to be exhausted. Especially when its me pushing." This time her eyes were wet with tears and she was afraid she might burst with it all, so she mustered up a water smile and nodded. "We'll see you tomorrow afternoon, yeah?"

The seizure was concerning and Helena knew that. She didn't like that her grandson happened to be epileptic and it had been a problem since he was tiny. There was, however, a different side to all this too and it was easy to forget. "Well, I can tell you that I remember since he was little that he liked to be given options. Does he know that you've decided this?"

Rather than signing off, Helena asked if she had told Illya what she decided. "No," Calysta replied, "It was meant to be a surprise before the seizure and the first thing he did when he woke up was apologize to me. I didn't want him to feel bad for this. It's not his fault."

Helena nodded and took a deep breath. "I would suggest telling him and asking him what he would do to get the rest he needs and if he would like to do this party." It was probably going to be an easy guess that he would want to go to the party, but it was only fair to let him have a say. "I know it wa supposed to be a surprise, but he can't help it anymore than you can and he hated having things taken away from him because of the seizures when he was little. Especially because when he was tiny it felt like a punishment. He's old enough to manage his time now and he can tell you if he can do it, or not. Just taking it away isn't fair to you, or him."

It wasn't necessarily a party and it would require travel, but Calysta recognized the woman's point. Of course, he was able to say no because he didn't feel well and it would be perfectly acceptable. She couldn't go in there all weepy though. She wouldn't do that. Wiping furiously at her eyes, she nodded. "I'm not trying to punish him. It's just a Kaerelean tradition and if he's not up for it, he can say so. Maybe it will be better that way and we can try again in 10 years, yeah?" She solidified that thought in her stomach though nothing else felt okay at all. "I'll go ask him. Thanks Helena."

The older woman smiled gently. "It will be fine. I'm sure you'll find a solution with Illya. Have a good night." Helena had a feeling Illya would find a way to make the anniversary work. Her grandson was a wiley fellow and he loved parties of all kinds.

"Goodnight, grandmother," she said, offering up what little smile she could before handing up. Before she went upstairs, Calysta spent several minutes wiping down her face so she was presentable. Her eyes would be a tinge pink but if she waited too late Illya might actually go to sleep and she would be loathe to wake him up. Dousing her face with cold water from the kitchen sink for the third time, she dried off her cheeks and then went upstairs to their bedroom where Illya was already in bed. His big form was a practical mountain under his heated blanket and she knew the only activity they would be doing was snoring that evening. She hastily peeled off her tunic and crawled into bed alongside him. More out of instinct than anything her hand sought out his in the dark and she kissed his cheek. "Illya?"

It felt good to be at home in his own bed and Illya was still tired out even after his long nap at the hospital. When Kalizda crawled into the bed with him, he turned over to face her and grunted. "Huh?" She would know he was awake, but he didn't really know what she wanted to talk about.

"I feel jes fine. Little tired, but I will be ready for dah week tomorrow. Naughtin little sleep won't fex eh?" Illya flopped one arm over Kalizda and pulled her in tighter for a kiss. "How yah feel about little more activity before bed? I dun get enough exercise tahday and I get fat ef I dun do some hard work regular."

He hefted an arm over her and pulled her tighter as he assured her he would be ready for the week...and that he was ready for a little hard work. His excuse for it made her chuckle a little and she kissed him back for a long moment. "I had something planned...but it would be a long day trip...and alot of was supposed to be a surprise, but I didnt know if you would still want to go."

Illya mumbled a little as he got closer to Kalizda. "I like walking." Kissing the side of her jaw he moved to her lips and kissed her a few more times before answering her question more fully. "When es dis little surprise?"

"It was meant to be tomorrow. I had permission from Swyft to take you for the day. I spoke with all the professors on their lesson plans and thought maybe you could work a little bit on Classwork while I flew us to where we were going." Her words spilled out in little hums between kisses. "Its alright if you are tired. I won't make you get up..." The kisses on her jaw and down to her lips left her feeling both wanting and guilty at the same time. The two clashed and emerged as tender kisses in return and her hands creeping around him to hold him closer with the utmost tenderness. .

"I'll be jes fine tah go tomorrow. Dat doesn't sound like et will make meh too tired. I jes walk around a little. Fly on dah shep and dun worry about meh classes. What good es all meh study ef I dun remember et? I memorize a lot." Grinning a little in the kiss Illya felt her teeth bump his and he pulled away slightly. His head was starting to hurt a little, but he was going to ignore that for now. "I like yah surprise idea. We do et eh?"

He didn't seem to understand that it would be alot of walking and some of what he was saying didn't make sense. Where was he getting the memorization comment from? She had no idea but the distraction of having their teeth bump derailed that comment and he said he liked the idea. It wasn't all too encouraging for him to say that when he didn't know what he was in for, or didn't seem lucid enough to understand at the moment. Rather than pushing the conversation, she decided to ask him again in the morning to make sure it was what he wanted. Her little hands wrapped around him as she felt him smiling into another kiss. "Alright. We'll do it so long as you feel up to it. For now, let me do the work, yeah?" She drew him closer until she was on top then went back into the kiss hoping he would be able to relax all the more.

Their little session was short and to the point before Illya crashed out with one arm flopped over her side. She listened to him breath in the dark and let out a tired sigh. Laying there made her feel dizzy. It was an uncomfortable sort of vertigo and she shamelessly clung to the only solid thing that she could which was Illya's form in the bed. He was asleep and wouldn't remember it anyways.

The next morning she let Illya sleep and got the children moving along to their various spots. Cypher would go to Priscilla and Ehud's for the day after school. Lohgan would be going with her twin brother's to Helena and Edgar's house until Papa Thomas came to pick them all up after his teaching day. Once all the children were off to school or dropped off where they were meant to be, she went home and repacked Illya's bags. Inside, she placed everything he would need for the trip. An exchange change of clothes and something new to wear later on that she hoped he would like. His red wedding sash went in along side his other clothes too. Having packed everything he might need, she put the bag on the chair in their bedroom while he snoozed and left a note on his pad and on his pillow written in Qouti. If you are feeling up for an adventure today, come downstairs with your bag sitting on the chair. If not, come down stairs anyways and eat breakfast with me. There's plenty of creme waiting.- Love, Caly.