Setting: Immediately after Scratch and Sniff
Disclaimer: Not mine. If it was we'd have a Farscape channel
Eight solar days ago:
*ping ping ping*
The rain soaks easily through her shirt, threadbare and torn, stinging the pale green skin beneath. She ducks in the nearest open door to find temporary shelter.
“Get out of here!”
Something small sails past Ccri’s head; she whirls around in that direction.
“I said get out of here, you little bag of dren.”
The order comes from an emaciated looking Medyr. His head too large for his body, it bobs up and down the angrier he becomes with each microt she hesitates. Finally when he reaches beneath the counter, she obeys the command.
Running back outside, she quickly scans the area for someplace else to wait. She spots a side entrance to the building and by the time she reaches it, her hair is already dripping wet. The rain itself isn’t dangerous, but the dust that comes down with it causes enough discomfort that she avoids it as much as possible.
The Medyr is thankfully distracted by the time she returns to the lobby and hides behind one of the angled couches. It’s almost nightfall and soon the room will fill with customers when the doors connecting to the neighboring tavern open. She sits in the corner, eyes darting back and forth, biting her nails out of nervous habit and hoping that no one notices her sitting.
The flash storm had interrupted her search for food. Her stomach growls and she wraps a small arm around her waist and rocks. It’s barely enough to help push the almost constant need away; though it’s enough of a distraction that she’s able shut her eyes away from the world.
She visits her father and better times as she waits for the rain to end.
It works to calm her until she hears loud voices, arguing. She looks in the direction of the inn’s front doorway as they enter. Two males. At least she believes that’s what they are.
Once, what she thought were two males holding hands turned out to be Zenetans. The more masculine of the two was actually the female. She’d followed them for the better part of the day out of curiosity.
Although now she quickly thinks her judgment is wrong. Their bickering reminds her too much of her parents and the other life-mates from her village.
They don’t seem aware of her, or anyone else, as they continue through the large lobby’s entire length. They had to be life-mates she decides, watching each one gesture in different directions as their debate continues. No one else would argue like that unless they’d been bonded together for cycles.
Though she’s never seen a Luxan and Sebacean together – in that way, she knows there are many things that she still has to learn. This is actually the first time she’s seen either species this closely.
Younglings such as herself were never allowed to leave the domicile until they were bonded with their own mate, and that only came after instructions were completed at fifty cycles. That will never happen for her - or her older siblings.
She pushes the thought from her mind, back in the dark where she tries to keep all of the other memories that sadden her.
Returning her attention to the two newcomers helps, and she can’t help but laugh at them, covering her mouth so as not to be heard.
Tilting her head, she leans into the corner and watches as the owner gives them one key. The Sebacean shakes his head enthusiastically, quickly followed by the Luxan.
“No. We want two rooms.” The smaller man jerks his head in the larger man’s direction. “He snores.”
The Luxan looks down at his companion, propping his arm on the counter. “And you don’t? Rygel emits gas more quietly than you breathe.”
The Sebacean turns to lean his side against the counter. “You wanna get into gases, D’Argo? There ain’t no-frelling-way I’m going to sleep in the same room as you after I saw you munching down on that turquoise lettuce. Veggies make you sound like a trawling motor.”
The short proprietor watches the exchange between the two, head moving quickly back and forth. She wonders if he’s getting dizzy from the motion. Apparently not since he backs away and swiftly finds an additional key, hand shaking before shoving it forward.
“Enjoy your stay,” he mumbles before scuttling to the back room, slamming the door behind him.
Ccri finds it hysterical and cups her hand over her mouth to keep from laughing at the sight.
“What’s up with him?”
“Obviously you frightened him.” The Luxan reaches down for his bag and laughs.
“Me? Look at who’s seven foot tall and carrying a freaking sword! I’m a pussy cat.”
“Do you really want to know how that translates?” Thumping the other man on the shoulder hard enough to knock him backward a step, the Luxan looks his passkey, turns to walk away as he says, “Let's get going sweetheart, it's been a long day.”
The Sebacean just glares at the Luxan’s back for a microt before picking up his bag and following to the lifts.
So strange. They appeared as one thing, behaved as another, but still contrary to what little she actually knew of their species.
In the end all they are is another pair of customers for Ysberin, owner of the factory and mine, enslaver of her family. From the looks of the pistol and the sword, they were most likely mercenaries or others of that ilk.
She’s seen more than a few of those on this world. They will stay here for a few days; wrinkling their noses in distaste at the native Medyr, laughing at the enslaved, purchasing what they came for, then leaving.
She knows they will likely quickly forget about the conditions that everyone here lived in to provide them with the metal and minerals they required.
No one new has come in the front entrance, but she knows that will change all too soon.
Sighing, she wonders what it would be like to be able to come and go as she pleased, following whatever path she cared to imagine. All of them, her siblings and her mother, flying off this world, maybe even one day find their way home again.
Don’t think about it. Don’t think about it and it won’t hurt.
Making sure there is no one around to witness, she crawls out from behind her hiding place. Her hunger brings her back to more pertinent matters, and she tries to think on where might be the best place to find something to eat at this time of day.
Being small has its advantages at certain times of the day. She’s able to walk beside the crowds coming in and out of the shops; trading and arranging to have their needs met, so preoccupied they don’t notice one child.
She easily slides between paying guests. Of little consequence, invisible and out of their line of sight unless it interferes with their comfort.
A female Targoth steps back, deep in conversation, knocks her to the ground.
She flinches automatically as the alien looks down, horror creasing her already wrinkled face as she flicks a clawed hand down to brush away offending dirt that might have remained from the impact.
Ccri climbs to her feet and runs away before a patrol can be summoned for assaulting a visitor, the tale-tell mark under the crusted dirt along her neck discovered.
More cautious of her surroundings, it’s almost completely dark before she catches sight of bright lettering crumpled in a heap beside a waste container just inside a fenced in dining area. Reaching through the bars she grabs for it, hoping it holds a little more than crumbs.
Unwrapping it, she sighs with relief to discover half-eaten plovich sandwiches. She pulls the hem of her shirt up and places the meager treasure inside and runs off before anyone can spot her.
The alley is one of the shorter ones in the city and at this time of the day almost no one bothers to investigate the backend if she’s seen.
It’s not much, simply a hole next to the docking platform for the building that owns the alleyway, but it stays warm and dry and there is no risk of anyone finding her while she rests for the night. She’s padded the floors and walls with tattered rags scavenged since her escape.
It also allows her to have a place to keep enough of a water supply for her needs. While the rain was an irritant when it occurred, it was also infrequent, and Ccri has set a small container beside the dock, a torn shirt covering it in order to trap and keep out the dust that falls with the moisture. It’s not perfect, but the water is less foul than without the simple straining. Shaking the caked dirt off of the cloth, she smiles at the amount inside.
She looks behind her and slips in the crevice, putting away her food before getting a cup. Dipping it into the water, she takes a sip and makes a face at the taste, then drinks more before re-covering the supply and going inside for the night.
Seven solar days ago:
This time when she returns for the night, she’s disappointed to find that there is a haul-skiff blocking the way into her ‘home’ and that the water cistern has been destroyed under its weight.
The vendor that owns this alleyway normally doesn’t employ them this large. Unfortunately, Ccri has no way of knowing when the man will have larger shipments. But she does have a back up place to sleep only a few stores down. It’s subject to more night-time traffic, but its safe enough to use in an emergency.
She’s almost reached it when she notices the Luxan from the day before. He’s staring into the window of one of the shops that caters to female clientèle. A holo-mannequin is modeling a light blue, almost gray dress. The collar is low, bunching at the shoulders and across the chest and back.
He is still standing there as she makes sure that the way is clear and Ccri slips into the crevice broken out of the wall.
Six solar days ago:
Ccri has developed a routine to fill her days. The main idea is to not stay in any one spot for too long so that the guard detail that ensures the safety of off-world visitors doesn’t spot her and return her to the slave camps housed on the other side of the factories.
She’s standing just behind a group of females when someone brushes up behind her.
“Excuse me,” she hears.
It’s the Sebacean from the hotel. He’s distracted as he examines a belt and holster. It’s too small for him, but he’s grinning as if it is.
Five solar days ago:
Voices rouse her from her sleep and when she peeks out, she’s not surprised to see the Sebacean and Luxan again. She thinks the smaller man has had too many inebriants because the Luxan is holding him up as he retches onto the ground.
“Get – Get the frell off me,” he growls angrily. “Jusss need to get…”
“Come on, John; give me your arm before you pass out in the street.”
The Sebacean throws his arm up, to accept the help or attack.
She can’t tell because he falls back against the wall instead, staring up and meeting his companion’s gaze for several microts before dropping his chin and holding out a hand, which his friend grabs.
The Luxan pulls him upright before putting the arm over broad shoulders and leading him out of the alley.
Ccri lies back, covering herself up against the night air and falls back asleep thinking that they are definitely different than the other aliens that come to this world.
Four solar days ago:
Storefronts line the wide streets, old wood and stone mixing among the newer, sturdier metal. Today is a good day, the air smelling almost clean due to the winds that come from the south.
Today is also the day the merchants throw out old food left over from the previous week.
Keeping herself close to the wall, Ccri is ready to duck out of sight if she spots the familiar corporate uniforms. Thankfully there are enough off-world visitors milling up and down the walkways to prevent her from being spotted.
The routine only causes her to miss her world, her home, even more. Sometimes, while looking in some of the storefronts, she wonders what flowers are in bloom on the trees outside the kitchen window.
She spots the café, one of the better places to gather the provisions that she needs, and cradles the rolled up bag in her arms tightly.
She notices the Luxan from before, sitting at one of the tables, staring off into the distance, alone. After spotting him and his companion in different stores along the strip, more than once carrying the Sebacean with one arm slung over his shoulder, she’s changed her opinion that they were only Aktmi customers.
He looks sad. Or bored. She can’t really tell. He’s the only Luxan she’s seen in the flesh, all of the others had been on news or teaching holos.
Waiting between two buildings, Ccri watches him and the other customers eating.
He stands, and places his napkin on top of his plate, leaving the table - and a large portion of his food untouched. No one pays attention to her as she walks through the unevenly spaced tables and chairs. Arriving at his, she quickly stuffs several vegetables into the pockets of clothing.
The familiar sound of wood crating hitting against gravel tells her that they’ve begun throwing out the older food. She takes a bite of bread, eating as much fresh food as she can, while she can.
Just as she reaches to the meat, a much larger hand grabs her own, a deep voice filling her ears.
“I wasn’t quite done with that.”
Ccri freezes in fear and looks up.
He smiles when she turns. “Or is the management trying to tell me I’m fat?”
She chokes on the bread that’s now stuck in her throat. The Luxan lifts Ccri up onto his chair and gives her a cup.
“Drink,” he orders, patting her on the back as she swallows down the mouthful of food.
He tells her his name is D’Argo. She doesn’t say a word, concentrating on eating as much of the food as possible before his generosity disappears. Though she can’t help but blush when she realizes how she appears, and glances up to see the Luxan watching her.
“I’m sorry,” she whispers, putting down the utensil. “I’m Ccri.”
D’Argo smiles as he gestures to the plate, “Don’t apologize, you obviously need it more than I do.”
And for once in a long time she can feel her uneasiness fading slightly. He doesn’t look at her the same as the guards in the camp, or even some of the visitors to this world do.
“Ccri, where is your family?”
She glances toward the towering stacks of the factory, afraid to answer him. “Sisters and mother are in there.”
“And your father?”
Shaking her head, Ccri looks down at the plate of food in front of her before turning away to the busy street, not wanting to speak of him. D’Argo seems to sense her unease and asks her how they arrived on this world and why she is now alone.
It’s the first time anyone has asked her this and it makes her nervous.
Jumping down from the chair, Ccri runs through the dining area. She’s fast, but she doesn’t get very far before she comes to an abrupt stop when someone latches onto her long hair. The fall onto the paved road knocks the breath out of her, small pieces of rock cut into her side. She rolls onto her back to see one of Aktmi’s uniformed officers.
“Let her go.”
“What? I thought maybe she’d stolen from you. I was only helping you, Luxan.”
He puts himself between her and the man. “And I guess you think that it is an appropriate way to stop a child?”
“All of these rats that live on the street steal. The little tralk is lucky I didn’t shoot her.”
Ccri doesn’t move until the man leaves them quickly when her benefactor growls threateningly. D’Argo helps her stand after she crawls onto her hands and knees.
The curious café patrons have already gone back to their conversation and food.
“Come on. Let’s go for a walk. It will actually help.”
He’s just fed her and saved her from being recognized, so when he asks why she ran, Ccri tells him about how she and her family used to live on a world made almost entirely of forests, warmer, the night skies tinged red.
The night they were taken, she had been ill. Her mother and sisters were quarantined for this reason. She didn’t remember much about it except seeing her father blocking the doorway. When Ccri woke, she was lying on a cold floor, her mother’s face bloody and tear-streaked.
She’d sung softly to comfort her older siblings until she realized Ccri was awake. There had been only enough water in the cell at any given time to wet their throats, so the blood had remained until they were assigned to one of the work camps in one of the smaller factories some time later.
Her mother had helped Ccri escape after she and her sisters had been taken away for arns and made to do things she didn’t understand at the time. She’d told Ccri to find transport off of this world, to hide so that she couldn’t be brought back.
But she couldn’t leave them and spent her days hiding at the space ports, listening to the shipping routes, hoping she’d hear their world’s name and go home. She was unsure how long she’d been on her own, or how long it had been since her father died trying to defend their home from the slavers.
“Do you know where they are?” D’Argo crouches down and nods toward the large buildings in the distance. “Inside?”
“Sir?” She knows what he’s implying but doesn’t want to get her hopes up too high.
“We, my friend and I, have a ship. We can get your family out and take you wherever you want.”
The feeling sends a warm rush through her anyway and Ccri hugs him.
“First we get you cleaned up,” he says, wrinkling his nose. “Then we go get Crichton.”
“I’d like another room.”
“There are no other rooms; you and your friend rented the last vacancies. Is there anything wrong with the one currently occupied? If there is I will try and correct it.”
“There’s nothing wrong with the room. Will there be anything open soon?” He jerks his head toward Ccri. “It’s for the girl.”
“Ah. If you’d like…” his lip curls as he looks down at Ccri, “…there are better than her, cleaner - and less likely to steal you and this establishment blind.”
D’Argo doesn’t take his eyes from the owner’s face as he says quietly, “Take the key from him, and wait for me beside the lift, I’ll only be a microt while I finish up here.”
She doesn’t follow his instructions exactly; her mother has said that’s a bad habit that she will outgrow as she gets older. Instead she stops, peeking around the corner to watch as the Luxan wraps his hand around the owner’s as the grilmik is taking the currency.
“What you said – about the girl. I don’t like it.” His hand tightens and the other man’s eyes widen. “I also don’t like the idea that you condone that type of business under your roof.”
“What does…” His voice trails off, face contorting in pain.
“They are children. If I even think that is going on at this moment… I’ll burn this place to the ground. Do you understand what I’m saying?”
“Good. Now make sure you remember it.”
When he turns the corner, she’s already run over and is waiting for him in front of the lift doors.
His shoulders drop slightly and he doesn’t say a word until they’re inside. She presses herself into the corner out of habit and fear.
D’Argo hadn’t spoken in anger, but even she could feel the threat in his words. She began to question the wisdom of agreeing to come with the Luxan. He was a stranger, albeit one that has shown her only kindness. But what if it was all a ruse – some cruel game that certain adults liked to play…
She was young, but living as she has since her home’s destruction. She was no longer naïve. And she knew what others sometimes did in exchange for food and a few arns in a warm bed.
“What you heard,” D’Argo begins, breaking the silence, “What that gasbag said…”
He towers over her as he looks down to meet her eyes. She can only see gentleness and understanding.
“I just want you to know that you have nothing to fear from me or my friend.”
She shakes her head slightly. “I’ve never…”
“And you shouldn’t have to.”
They return to silence as the lift comes to a stop and the doors open.
Three men, Targoths, stand waiting. The one in the center is old and wrinkled, claw-like hands rest on a jeweled cane.
He sneers, raising the stick up and points it at her. “I won’t ride with that - get it out,” he orders to the two men.
Before they take a step in her direction, D’Argo places himself in front of Ccri. “This lift is taken. I suggest you find another way.”
The younger men stop and look back at their elder, who thumps his cane against the floor. “Do you know who I am, Luxan?”
“No, and I really don’t care,” D’Argo answers and pushes a button beside the doors, shutting them.
Ccri bursts out laughter at the sight.
He glances back at her and grins widely. “If you think that’s funny, you should think Crichton is a riot.”
This time it’s D’Argo that laughs loudly. “Sorry, one of his expressions.” The doors open again. “This is our floor. Let’s get you cleaned up and settled in your room and then we’ll go find Crichton.”
Walking the few motras from the lift to the hotel room, Ccri keeps crossing and uncrossing her arms nervously. Despite his assurances, she can feel the lump in the center of her stomach growing. As the key passes through the lock, she notes the floor exit at far end of the hall.
D’Argo pushes the door open with one arm. “This is my room, but I’ll move my things next door into Crichton’s.”
The walls are bright yellow and absent of decoration, the only furniture the bed along with a single table and chair.
She thinks it’s beautiful.
Remembering the conversation she’d witnessed several days before, Ccri asks, “Won’t he mind?”
“He won’t like sharing the bed, but he’ll understand.” He goes over to the wasteroom and opens it. “You can clean up in here.”
He scrutinizes her for a moment. She tries not to stare back.
“You wouldn’t happen to know what size clothing you wear?”
She shakes her head. “Mother always made our clothing.”
“Figures... I’ll just grab the nearest person your size and ask them,” he says, chuckling. “Feel free to use any of the cleansers in there that you think you need.”
“Thank you, sir.” Ccri peeks into the smaller room. It’s been too long since she’s been able to take a soak in fresh, clean water.
“Uh, I’ll leave you to it then.” Before she turns around, the Luxan has already retreated from the room leaving her alone.
She dunks her head beneath the water for a moment. It’s been so long since she’d felt this clean and the oils he kept beside the tub helped soften up the rough patches of skin caused by digging and crawling.
It’s been too long since she’d felt this safe.
A noise from the outer room makes her jump, splashing water over the edges of the tub. She sinks down into the water until only her eyes remain above the surface. The noise repeats, and she thinks it’s the door shutting.
Coming out of the bathroom, she’s dripping wet, towel wrapped around her, she finds clean clothing, along with brushes and combs sitting on the bed.
She smiles and rushes to the pile, touching each thing carefully, appreciative of the gifts.
Quickly dressing, she crosses the room to the large window. Holding a thick bristled brush, Ccri begins to slowly work it through fine strands of green hair that repeated washing hadn’t removed.
It’s her first time in one of the rooms of the hotel and it feels strange to be looking down onto the streets from here. She stops in her task to press her face to the glass and look from the ground to the sky and back again.
This time of day, she would normally be walking the street, not caring to stay in one place too long. It helped her scout out a new place to sleep at night if her regular place was covered in refuse packing.
But now, for the first time in ages, she’ll go to bed warm, clean, and well fed. That makes her feel guilty that she is this lucky while her family remained behind fences and chained.
There’s a knock at the door a moment before D’Argo pokes his head in. “Good, you’re ready. I hope you don’t mind what I picked. I’ve never shopped for a girl, at least one as young as you.”
“They’re very nice.”
The smile on his face belies the fierceness that she’d witness earlier. “I’d forgotten how a child looks when they receive a gift.”
“You have children?”
His expression turns flat. “A son.”
She’s not sure what to say. “I guess you’re a good father.”
“That is a matter of opinion. Let’s go find my friend. I have a feeling I know where he is.”
“He’s not your mate?” she asks just as the door to the lift opens. He begins to step inside but stops, holding out his arm to prevent the doors from shutting.
“Not in the least. He’s my crewmate and friend. What do people keep thinking that about us?”
“It’s the way you argue, I think.”
He just shakes his head and steps inside the lift.
Instead of stopping at the bar attached to the hotel, D’Argo leads her out the front, heading toward the poorer section of the city. It’s close to the space port; Ccri remembers how she’d had attempted to find refuge there her second night of freedom.
Most of the natives living there were no better off than the slaves ‘employed’ by Aktmi.
The tavern is dark, filled with harsh laughter and strained music floats from the speaker system. It smells horribly.
“Stay beside me,” D’Argo instructs her as they cross the room to where the Sebacean sits, leaning back in his chair back against the wall as he looks out on the small crowd.
“John, we need to talk.”
“Give me five microts.” He lifts the bottle in his hand; it stops before reaching his mouth. “Wait. Is that a kid behind you?”
“Why do you have a little girl in a bar?”
“She needs our help.”
“She looks like Marvin the Martian,” he slurs as he sits back and stares up at D’Argo. “What’s the scam? Are you even sure it is a kid? Could be a midget who excelled in acting classes. Probably Raxil’s cousin with our luck.”
She starts to object, but D’Argo speaks before she does.
“No scam. She was starving. I caught her stealing my food.”
“See – right there. Stealing!” He tilts his head and looks past his Luxan friend; she shifts under his hard stare.
“She thought I had left the restaurant.”
“So she thought she was snatching your…trash.”
She can feel the heat of embarrassment on her cheeks and Ccri turns to run out the door. A large gloved hand lands gently on her shoulder and she squeaks in alarm. “Ccri – stay.”
She doesn’t try to struggle away; instead she turns to face the Sebacean. She’s surprised to see his face soften as he pushes away his drink.
“Okay, you’re right, no scam.”
Grabbed from behind, Ccri catches a flash of pale cloth; security from the factory. She hadn’t noticed them when they first entered the tavern.
“Let her go!”
“She is an escaped slave. See this?” A rough hand shoves her head to the side and points to the tattoo on her neck. “Branded claim for the Aktmi Company.”
“She doesn’t belong to anyone but with her family,” John tells him, pulling Ccri out of his grasp.
“Find some place to hide,” D’Argo whispers to her, pointing under a table as the officer is joined by two more.
“Stay out of this Peacekeeper.”
The Sebacean plants his hands on his hips “You guys - You need a new line. Either that or I need a sign.”
“Need a sign.”
Another man joins the group gathering in front of the two off-worlders. He spits on the floor in front of the smaller man and grumbles out an insult that doesn’t translate for her.
“I’ll do it tonight.”
D’Argo lets out a snort of laughter. “I think I better do it.”
John turns his head to look at his friend. “Why you?”
“Do you know how to spell in Sebacean or any language for that matter?”
He’s not Sebacean?
“Good point. You write it, but if it says: This space for rent - I’m kicking your ass.”
They turn away from each other, their movement fluid as they reach up and both strike at the nearest men. Ccri goes further under the table as bodies are hit and thrown against the floor and furniture.
D’Argo is about to punch the man that had issued the insult several microts before. “D, that one’s mine! He said something about my mother.”
The larger man holds the Medyr by his collar. “Is that what you said?”
“Yes, you frellfaced Luxan,” he replies and tries to bring his arms up to hit the man in the chest.
D’Argo drops him, and spins him around.
“He’s all yours.”
“You’re all heart.” There’s laughter in the statement as John ducks down, his shoulder hitting other man’s midsection as he lifts him up and flips him over his shoulder. “No one says dren about my mother.” A final punch keeps the man from getting back up.
Two men, not even connected to the dispute, fall against the table next to hers, pummeling one another without thought and knocking the entire line of tables over. Ccri moves just as a chair leg flies toward her head. Standing up, she tries to locate D’Argo in the mess of bodies and broken furniture.
“I have her!” A woman shouts a moment before a slender arm wraps around her neck, fitting neatly below her chin before she’s lifted off of the floor.
Ccri tries to struggle, but is unable to break the hold.
Everything around her is in chaos and she can see bright flashes before her eyes that do nothing to lighten the interior. She tries to twist her head and bite her captor as she kicks, but the grip is too tight.
Just under the sound of fighting, she hears the woman growl in her ear, “I always knew your kind were nothing but animals.”
After that the room falls dark and quiet.
When Ccri wakes, she startled to find - nothing. Her heart beats too loudly in her ears. She screams at being so completely alone. Pain sears down her throat.
She scrambles and falls a short distance onto something surprisingly soft. She crawls on her hands and knees, hitting her head against a sharp surface. It topples over and crashes loudly.
Light fills the room. She’s unable to stop the panic that doubles. Her chest tightens further and she can’t breathe.
She tries to blink away the tears and blurriness but it doesn’t work. A deep voice calls her name again, calmer. Strong arms lift her up and hold her.
“Here,” another voice says. “Use this to wipe her face.”
“Shhh…Take deep breaths, Ccri.”
She tries to do as she’s told, finally recognizing D’Argo’s voice. It takes several microts, but soon the events in the bar return as a warm, wet cloth brushes across her face.
“Hold still while I take this dermaheal off.”
Something rips off of her forehead and she’s able to see the two men sitting on the edge of the bed with her. D’Argo is holding a wide thin strip of cloth in his hand.
“You’re fine. You just hit your head when I tongued that female guard.”
She jumps when someone knocks on the door in the adjoining room.
“It’s fine, Ccri, just room service,” John tells her, placing his hand on the back of her head as he stands, “D, she’s got a goose-egg back here. We might want to have her checked out by a doctor for a concussion or something.”
He nods in agreement. “You grab the door, and I’ll get the cold-pack from the medkit.”
“Be right back.”
D’Argo glances over to the open door. “We thought you might want something to eat when you woke.”
The idea of food at the moment gives her a queasy feeling in her stomach. It must have shown on her face because he gently grasps her upper arm as she stands, wobbling slightly.
“Just give it a try,” he says softly, “We can talk about how to get you and your family home when you’re feeling better.”
Several food containers are sitting on the table, and her other new friend puts a towel over his arm and bows to her. “Dinner is served, M’lady,” he says, lift his head up and smiling widely at her giggle.
Neither man brings up the subject of the rescue until they’re almost finished eating. It doesn’t occur to her until they are done that the minor little questions they’d asked about the city, the company, and her escape were subtle ways of gaining information needed to help them when the time came.
Once finished, D’Argo stacks the empty containers and plates while John digs in his bag and brings her a writing sheet and stylus. He asks her to draw for him what she knew of the buildings where her family was kept.
“But they may not be there any longer.”
“It’s possible, but I’m banking on them still being there, just waiting to be with you again.” His confidence is infectious and she bends over the table and begins to do as John has asked while he and D’Argo speak on the other side of the room.
Thankfully, the cold-pack helps and the knot on the back of her head begins to shrink some, but it doesn’t stop the pounding she feels radiating out from that area or the ache in her neck where the woman had held her so tightly.
When she’d looked in the mirror Ccri had been startled to see small red veins streaking down the side of neck, leading into the tattoo that was usually hidden by dirt and grime.
Lying back in bed, she tries to find a comfortable position, wishing that she’d taken up the offer of pain relievers. The sounds of the two men moving in the next room are comforting. Familiar. It reminded her of better times.
“Cute kid. Braver’n hell too.”
“She is that. I don’t think I would have survived as long at that age.”
“Don’t just stand there holding your socks in your hand, John, say what’s on your mind.”
“Fine. I will. This is risky as hell.”
“Yes, it is. What is your point?”
“I’ve only seen you do something like this,” she can hear the breath that Crichton takes, “And that was when – You’re doing this because of Jothee.”
“Jothee? He has nothing to do with this.” The anger that began in his words faded as he continued. “I look at her and I see my son. Who he became the last time I saw him. Her mother risked her life to get Ccri out of slavery. I should have somehow made sure he was safe when I left him.”
“You didn’t know what would happen. There’s no way to have known. It’s not your fault. I can only imagine what you were going through at the time, but I figure it wasn’t much different when her mother did. What any parent would do to see their child safe and happy. You did what you could, D.”
“Listen. I’m going out for a bit. Pick up a few things. “
“If I’m going to be pretending to be your representative tomorrow, I need for you to stop by the transport pod. In the back compartment I have a spare set of clothes. Grab them for me.”
“Sure,” she hears the door to the room open, “Wait. You keep clothes in the pod?”
D’Argo chuckles. “With our luck, I’m surprised we all don’t.”
Crichton joins his amusement of the in-joke. “Always thought you were a smart man,” he says a microt before D’Argo instructs him to stay out of trouble and the door shuts.
The laughter trails off and she hears the rustle of clothing a moment before she senses the light streaming from his room being blocked out. Ccri cracks open one eye to see him standing in the doorway.
“Sorry, I didn’t mean to wake you.”
“I was just checking on you.”
“My father used to do the same thing.”
“Fathers tend to do that.”
“You used to do that for your son?”
He comes further into the room, sitting in the chair beside her bed. “Yes. When he was small. If he was awake.” D’Argo hesitates, lowering his head slightly. “Jothee would tell me what he and his mother had done during the day. It didn’t matter if he had already told me as soon as I’d walked in the door.”
“Is he with his mother?”
He shakes his head slowly. “He’s grown now, a man. I don’t know where,” he says, almost angrily. Ccri reaches out and takes his hand.
“What games did he used to play?”
D’Argo reaches up, sandwiching her small hand between his. “If I tell you, do you promise to try and sleep?”
“Yes, sir,” she answers he places her hand back on the bed, covering it with the blanket.
She closes her eyes once more, and falls asleep to tales of father and son chasing jusup beetles in mountain creeks.