“Hey, sweetheart, heard you got into a fight with some laundry and lost.” Xorne looked up from his holopad to see that human-Todd was standing next to human-Penny’s cot.

“You should see the other guy,” she muttered but her speech was slurred.

“Hope he looks just as bad.” He said before he brushed hair out of her face. Xorne was intrigued. He so rarely had a chance to observe casual interactions between humans. He knew humans were pack animals-it was the first lesson that any individual needed to know when working with humans-but this kind of physical intimacy was stunning to Xorne. “Darling, they gave you the good stuff,” human-Todd laughed at her and then looked at her wrist, wrapped firmly in bandages and a heavy brace. “You’re a klutz! You didn’t have to go this far to avoid buying drinks tonight.”

“You’re buying,” she mumbled. He smiled and pressed lips to her forehead. Xorne would have blushed if he were capable of doing so. He had not known that human-Todd and human-Penny were mated.

“You’re sticking to water til you sober up.”


As she drifted to sleep human-Todd looked at Xorne. “What’s the prognosis?”

“human-Penny will make a full recovery.” Xorne said. His tone was flustered to his own ears. “I am sorry to intrude upon your intimate time. I will leave if you wish to continue. I did not realize you two were mates…” He stumbled over the words. He had thought that humans were supposed to be prudish by other species’ standards! The guidebooks all said so!

“What?” human-Todd had a confused expression. “Theres nothing intimate going on. That’s disgusting!”

Xorne hesitated. “I have offended and angered you. I apologize for my actions. What have I done that I may not repeat it in the future.”

Human-Todd made a disgusted noise. “Penny is like my kid sister! We grew up on Charon Six together in the old Catholic group home in the city. I would never ‘mate’ with her!” He was very upset. Xorne tried to puzzle this out.

“You are… hatchmates?” Xorne asked tentatively.

Human-Todd sighed. “Not literally but… you guys don’t have adoptive families? Found family?”

“My people are solitary by nature.” Xorne said. “I can recognize hatchmates by scent to avoid inbreeding but we do not form social groups similar to your ‘families’.” Human-Todd seemed so… sad. “Do not cry, human-Todd!”

“I wasn’t going to cry.” He replied. “That’s just… sad, I guess. I never knew my…” he fumbled for a word. “What would you call parents?”

“That term is sufficient.”

Human-Todd nodded “Anyway, never knew my parents. The Sisters said I was a war orphan. So I made my family. Penny and I signed on here together… hell, I couldn’t leave her alone. You see how klutzy she is! She needs someone to look after her.” He said mostly to himself. “I think you’re part of my family too, Xorne.”

Xorne blinked. He felt oddly good at the statement. It was clearly very significant to him.

“You’ve always been good to us and you try to look out for Penny. So… honorary cousin or something?” Human-Todd offered his hand. Xorne hesitated before he recognized the human gesture for handshake. He extended his clawed hand

“I am honored.” Human-Todd grinned. The expression always seemed predatory to Xorne but he had been assured it was a friendly expression. They released hands. Xorne paused a moment before speaking up. “What is a ‘cousin’?”

Human-Todd laughed. “Its uh… your parent’s hatchmate’s kid.” Xorne made an odd face. “Part of our families.” He assured Xorne. “Hey, I gotta get back to that meeting with the researcher. Shes gonna bitch if I don’t and then the Commander will scold me. Not that I would mind that too much.” Xorne did not understand what was obviously some kind of human innuendo. “Keep an eye on her? Lemme know when she wakes up?”

“I will… cousin-Todd.” Xorne said, testing the new phrase. His human cousin grinned.

“I like it!” And he left. Xorne felt his frill rise and fall in pleasure at this new feeling. He was part of a human family! He gave a little trill before he settled back in his seat with his holopad, contented now to be watching over his new human-cousin.

About C.A. Jacobs

Just another crazy person, masquerading as a writer.
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