keaalu: Mirii looking bashful (GG Mirii Love)
[personal profile] keaalu posting in [community profile] good_as_gold
(Originally posted on Nov. 4th, 2008. Also originally posted as chapter 4, because I apparently can't count.)

This is a smidgen late, because I forgot to post it last night (woo, go me.)

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     Sei looked particularly pathetic with his hair all plastered wetly down over his scalp when he finally emerged from the flat, grey bathwater, and Eri couldn’t help wrapping her arms around him, concernedly, under the pretence of just giving him a towel. “I know it all feels so hopeless, right now, but we’ll sort things out, I promise,” she murmured, into his ear.

     He clung to her in return, letting his nose rest in her hair and sighing. Any other time, being so close to her would have made him giddy, but right now? It seemed… perfunctory. He wanted to say something, comfort her in return, but the words had dried up. He could have laughed at how ludicrous it felt. Whole dictionaries at his disposal, for over a dozen languages, and he couldn’t think of anything to say!

     Eri had the opposite problem. She was still babbling meaninglessly as she led him out of the bathroom and parked him on a stool while she busied herself tidying up, and had finally got down to talking about the weather on the colony when she finally seemed to notice what she was doing. “I’m sorry, Sei. I know, I should shut up,” she apologised, with a pained grin, looking like she was bordering on tears anyway. “I just can’t seem to slow the torrent of words, now they’re coming out of my mouth.”

     “I know you are only trying to distract yourself from darker emotions, Eri,” Sei replied, faintly. “Because I am doing it also. I simply… I can find no words to fill the void. We will have to face the facts, at some point, and I do not wish to,” he said, softly, looking like he was trying to retreat deeper still into his towel cocoon. “We do not know where they are. We do not know why they have gone missing. We do not know who has got them, if anyone has. We do not know how we will track them. We do not even know for sure,” his voice creaked, at this point, “that they have not simply eloped together.”

     The idea clearly pained him to vocalise. What if my brother has run away with my wife? “No, not Kye,” she asserted, using the pet name only close family were ever permitted to use. “He can be an idiot but he’d never hurt you, Sei, and you can be absolutely sure of it!” She gave him a hug, and felt his arms creep around her – lightly, this time, as if scared to hold her. “There’s not been a day gone by since you went home that he’s not pined for you.”

     Whether it was true or Eri just trying to soothe his feelings, Sei felt a pang of shame. He himself had pined for long, miserable hours over losing Eri, but his brother had been an afterthought next to that terrible fire of longing.

     “Someone has taken them,” she went on. “I don’t know who, or why. I just know it’s the only possible explanation. Someone has taken them. And we will find them! We’ll find some sort of clue we can chase, or Kye will get word to us, or something, and… I don’t know. I just know we’ll find them!”

     “But we have so little information to go on. We know the ship was destroyed with tricobalt explosives, and they are difficult to source, but that is all we know! We may never trace the source.” He shook his head, agonising over the unknowns. “How am I going to find them, Eri?”

     “You won’t be looking alone,” she promised, enclosing both his hands in her own. He looked so small, so worried. So unnatural, for him. “I shouldn’t wonder if Ardea is pulled off support duty and seconded into the Coracina fleet for a while, because this is serious. Even if he is not dead, it was made to look like an assassination, and that’s not the sort of thing that people will ignore. The whole ship will probably be contributing to the search, by this time tomorrow, you’ll have all the help you could possibly need!”

     “But now? You need to get some rest,” she told him, sternly. “No arguing, no fuss, no nonsense. Just get your head down and go dormant for a while. Get rid of some of those unresolved stresses. You’ll be feeling all the brighter for it, tomorrow.”

     “I do not think that will be happening very readily,” he argued, but allowed her to tuck him into bed. He watched her retreat to the doorway, before finding the courage from somewhere to speak again. “…eri?”

     She hovered in the doorway. “Yes?”

     “…please. Do not go?”

     Her fingers hovered over the lighting panel; the main lights were already dimmed to their lowest level. “I don’t think that’s so wise, is it?” she argued, reluctantly, looking back into the room. He looked like little more than a heap of blanket, right now.

     There was a long hesitation before his reply. “…no, probably not,” he agreed, softly, and she could see the faint greenish gleam off his eyes. “I just… forgive me. I should not have said anything.” There was a low fump as he slumped back against his pillows, and the gleam vanished. “Good night, Eri.”

     She sighed, and padded back into the room; the door closed, silently, and sliced off the square of brighter light from the corridor. He only wanted company, she reasoned. It shouldn’t make her feel so… twisted up, inside. “We’re retreading dangerous ground, here,” she observed, quietly, perching on the side of his bed and stroking the loose, damp curls of hair wreathing his head. He still looked like a mop, but at least he was a clean mop.

     “I know.” He leaned his cheek against her palm. “Please forgive me for putting you into such an awkward position, Eri. I should have held my tongue.”

     She swung her feet up onto the bed. “No, Sei. Better to get the words said than to bottle it up inside. Besides, you’ll never go off if you’re still fretting over things…”

     He clung to her like a limpet, of some sort; arms twined as tight around her as he could get them, legs curled across her, resting his nose on the top of her chest. There was no fire in his manner, though. None of the wilful passion she’d dreaded. That they could end up doing that after such a terrible thing was just… inconceivable. And Sei was just… just scared. Just lost. He’d come so close to losing Mirii altogether so recently, twice in one year must be hitting him pretty hard.

     Eri lay awake for a long time after he’d finally gone dormant; he was such a sweet cob, gentle-natured and honest as they came, so it was hard to reconcile the feelings they’d shared such a short time ago – or the way he’d fled back to Imperial Space solely to keep himself from a fatal falling-out with his brother over her.

     And… What if this was all a plan of Sei’s? Everyone was happy to imagine it might be Iios, staging an accident in order to run away with Mirii, but what if it had been Sei, staging the accident to get Eri back? It left her feeling… oddly uncomfortable. She trusted him, of course! Dear, sweet, inoffensive Sei, with not a hostile thought in his head. But how better to hide oneself in plain view?

     She sighed, softly, rearranged her arms around him, and tried to allow herself to slide off into the same fuddled dreamland that Sei was lost in.

0o0o0o0o0

Some hours previously…

     Mirii did enjoy shopping!

     She and Iios had opted to go to Waystation Six orbiting the second moon, rather than go completely planetside; Tas-umskel was a nice enough little world, certainly, but the population was very tactilely oriented, and had the tendency to ‘speak’ through touch as well as speak verbally. Iios had decided that as Mirii was inexperienced in just meeting alien life, let alone having the population mauling her, keeping her in a more “Coalition Normal” environment, where folk politely ignored each other for most of the time, was safer.

     Waystation Six was more of an orbiting hotel/shopping mall than anything – a great wheel-shaped structure rotating gracefully several hundred miles up, the gentle spin generating a so-called “standardised weighting”. The shops lined the interior curve of the outside wheel, the hotels the inner wheel, and Auspice II, Iios’ little ‘yacht’ – actually Auspice I’s lifeboat, but it was big enough to warrant a name for itself – was parked in a small garage in the spacedock on one of the central pylons.

     …The main precinct had been packed. Mirii had spent the first few minutes walking around clinging silently to her brother-in-law’s hand, just gazing with wide, goggle-eyes at the hundreds of members of dozens of different species that milled in great, thronging, brightly-coloured crowds around them. The two Kirasiinu themselves barely generated so much as a single curious glance – Kiravai were uncommon, but Iios himself was a familiar face, and the oddly-coloured Kirasiinu couldn’t easily be mistaken for their biological brethren, so there was no uncertain shifting concern at having the warlike Kiravai on the doorstep.

     And yes, Mirii liked shopping. It was such a strange thing to like, she decided – all they were doing was exchanging electronic tokens for goods and services, but there was something about it made her go all silly and excited. Maybe it was the having of new things. Again, such a silly thing to get excited over, but she liked new things. And of course Iios was a constant inspiration, suggesting how about this? How about this one? Ha, that matches your eyes, get it! Oh my, Sei will certainly overheat to see you in that! Tell you what, give me an, ah-heh, ‘private showing’ *nudge nudge*, and I’ll buy it for you! How about a haircut? Manicure? Pedicure? Full-body massage? (Oh, wait, that’s just me wants that.) Makeover! Hair things, feet things, tail things, jewellery…

     Iios was not such a bad sort, she decided. His views were untraditional, and his manner tended to be brash and a little exaggerated, but he was logical and thoughtful and concerned for her wellbeing, and did remind her of a noisy, silly version of his twin brother. He’d let his arm sneak around her waist as they’d walked, pulling her closer to his side, which she had found somewhat perturbing, and he murmured silly nothings in her ear as they passed various shops – you’d look good in that, or I’d like to see Sei’s reaction to you wearing that! – but didn’t seem inclined to behave “inappropriately” towards her. She didn’t want to have to sock him one in the mouth for being too friendly – at least, not in public!

     They had been returning to Auspice II with no shopping but in a jovial (and slightly more careless) mood when disaster struck. They had just passed through the frosted glass double doors leading down to the small lower docking area, and vanished from general view, only to find a trio of ‘engineers’ had partially obstructed the corridor. Iios advanced to ask if they might be permitted to pass, and-

     What Mirii took to be a small male of an unfamiliar species emerged in a rush from the shadows, brandishing a stunblade, and slammed it down hard on the unprotected back of Iios neck. The tall Siinu gave a funny, distracted cry of mixed anger and alarm and was turning to face his assailant even as his limbs began to fail. Mirii had watched him begin to topple, and the trio of engineers leap onto him from behind, and found herself briefly torn between attempting to stop their assailants and running for help when the decision was taken out of her hands.

     There was a flicker of motion from one side, right in the very periphery of her vision, and suddenly a bag of some sort had been thrust down hard over her head, blocking out all vision and crushing painfully down on her ears. She gave a muffled squeak of alarm, flailed blindly and ineffectually for a moment or two, unable to make her hands connect with her unseen assailant, then tore at her headcover, as if assailed by biting insects. Get it off get it off getiitOFF-

     “…Mirii, get out of here-!” She heard Iios choke the words out in a halting, sticking Ve-hei’ya, before his voice died in a warble of static.

     Can’t SEE where I’m going but I know where I am in relation to the walls, she recognised. I can find my way easily back onto the main precinct, and call for help! She’d managed a grand total of three steps back the way they’d come before she tripped squarely over an unseen foot, and collided awkwardly with the wall, and in that moment of disorientation a hand had closed around her arm and tumbled her to the deck.

     “…ai-!” She squeaked involuntarily in pain as something heavy landed square on her back – not hard enough to damage, but certainly hard enough to be painful. Felt like one of her assailants. Mirii squirmed under his weight, braced herself to throw him off-

     “Remain still, and silent,” a sibilant voice instructed softly, right in her ear, “and your husband will be unharmed. Fight us, and we will start removing bits of him until you learn to behave.”

     Oh no oh no, they have Sei…! She went instantly limp under him. No no no, leave my Sei alone, oh please do not hurt him.

     “Good girl.” A hand had given her hood a derisory pat, and the weight shifted, rearranged itself at the small of her back. Rough hands grabbed at her throat, her nose, set something uncomfortable between her teeth, and a flash of alien commands had run like cold, wet fingers down her spine the second the hands found the margins of the hood, and yanked it tight. There must be some sort of illegal inhibitor built into the back of the device, she remembered thinking. Only after they’d pulled her arms behind her, fingers pointing to the opposing elbow, and slid a short, stiff bracer over her forearms, trapping them together at the small of her back, had they allowed her back upright.

     Once satisfied she wasn’t going to be escaping, they’d marched her away, following the huffing noises of individuals carrying something heavy, snickering as she tripped on objects she could not see. They followed the same general route that she and Iios had originally intended taking, so were obviously going towards a ship, but they passed Auspice II’s garage and carried on towards the docking ring for larger vessels. They ultimately stopped at the docking point of a little reconditioned Usurian-design supply ship she’d seen as she and Iios had arrived.

     Where they left her, she wasn’t sure – the hood completely blocked out any vision, and she didn’t feel secure enough to go wandering, just yet. All she knew was that she sat on a bristly old carpet, proper up in the corner of whatever room she was in. Right now, she’d been alone and ignored for some hours. There was the low rumbling sound of engines in the distance, and every now and then she’d hear bootsteps and a twitter of voices, but they never released her, never spoke to her, never even went closer. The strap under her chin holding her jaws closed would not have hindered her voice – she could ‘speak’ just as effectively with her mouth closed as she could with it open, albeit a little muffledly – but she remained quiet anyway. She wasn’t sure she wanted to talk to her captors, except to ask them where she was
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