Chapter One

Consciousness slowly returned to Sunny, the world fading in and out around her. Her head was pounding, and her tongue lay thick in her strange-tasting mouth. She was cold, goosebumps pimpling on her skin, and it occurred to Sunny that was because she was wearing no clothes.

As soon as that thought registered, she bolted upright to be rewarded with a surge of pain through her skull.

Where am I? she thought. The world swirled around her, out of focus and dreamy like a Van Gogh painting. She closed her eyes again, and that action momentarily soothed the throbbing in her head. Straining her mind, she stretched her thoughts back to how she had begun her day, running through the events trying to figure how exactly she had ended up here. Wherever here was.

She had vague notions that maybe she was being held in the basement of a perverted old man awaiting unspeakable horrors, but even before that thought was fully formed she brushed it off. That just didn't happen to people outside of soap operas. The last thing she could remember was getting on the bus to visit her parents for the upcoming long weekend, and then it all went black - no memories of the bus trip, or leaving the vehicle.

A faint shuffle caused her heart to leap in her chest and her eyes to snap open. There was something in here with her. Heartbeat loud in her ears, Sunny could almost feel the adrenaline beginning to course through her veins. It took a few moments for her eyes to adjust to the dimmer light and make it possible for her to catch a glimpse of her company, and when she did, Sunny stifled a shriek.

Eyes stared back at her through the gloom - the slitted orbs of a cat glowing gold. Like herself, the bearer of the strange eyes was naked, but unlike Sunny, he seemed completely unabashed by his blatant nudity, sitting crosslegged in the opposite corner, thickly muscled torso leaning against the wall. Sunny felt a flash of heat, and a hot blush rose up in her cheeks, before she averted her gaze. He wasn't human - not with that faintly shimmering metallic skin, and certainly not with those patches of glossy scales - but he wasn't bad looking, and despite the utter absurdity of her current situation, Sunny wasn't immune.

He scowled, the expression terrifying, and Sunny cringed back into her corner, fighting the urge to hyperventilate. This just couldn't be happening. Any moment, she was going to wake up on the bus, her head slumped against the window, a red marke forming ignominiously on her forehead. His scowl deepened. He clearly was not following her example and appreciating the assets of his cellmate. Keeping half of her attention on him, Sunny allowed her eyes to scan the rest of her surroundings, whilst also attempting to calm her breathing. Sheets of grey steel made up three of the walls, with thick floor-to-ceiling bars completing the rest. She was sitting on a grate of some sort, and when she looked up, the ceiling was much of the same, except for a hatch in the middle.

Flicking her gaze back to her cellmate, Sunny noted his scowl had lightened somewhat, to be taken over by what could be a contemplative expression. His eyes were narrowed and his head angled slightly to the side. His lips were pursed, which, Sunny noted with some shame, only accentuated his sharp cheekbones.

He noted her preoccupation with the hatch, and his scowl returned. He shook his head sharply, the universal expression for no. Well, thought Sunny, at least something is familiar. Thinking about the hatch was stupid anyway. If the beings that had took her had managed to subdue the beast she was sharing a cage with, they would not have an issue with her.

Seeing she'd obviously decided against exploring the hatch, he gave an easily defined roll of the eyes, and turned his body away, lying down on the floor. He'd evidently come to the conclusion she wasn't a threat. Sunny didn't have that same sense of security, and hugged her knees up against her chest, hoping against all hope that she'd close her eyes and wake up at home again. The beings, she'd thought earlier, as if species previously undiscovered were commonplace. This just couldn't be happening. Despite all efforts to the contrary, tears began to blur her vision, before overflowing and trickling down her face.

Sunny didn't know how long she sat huddled, slowly rocking herself back and forth in an attempt to keep herself somewhat together, before there was the sound of scratching overhead. Her roommate, who'd Sunny assumed to be resting, if not peacefully, at least fairly solidly, jerked into a crouch, fierce eyes intent on the hatch and every muscle in his body tensed. A low growl sounded, rumbling through the room. Sunny shuddered, holding herself even tighter. That wasn't a human sound - not even remotely.

There was a loud scraping as the hatch slid open. Sunny wasn't sure what she expected to see, but a square of impenetrable black emptiness wasn't it. The beings who had taken her - Sunny staunchly refused to call them aliens - had blocked any light above them to ensure neither her nor her roommate could glean any information about the ship outside the cage.

A package then dropped through the hole, landing with a thump. The hatch slid shut immediately, closing with a secure thud. Sunny heard the click of a lock closing, but quickly diverted her attention back to the box-like shape in the centre of the room. She didn't miss the fact that her roommate was eyeing it too, and with another quick glance at his bulk decided it was probably safer to let him investigate and not get in his way.

It didn't take him too long to move for it, and Sunny watched with wide eyes as he left his corner. HIs nudity didn't seem to faze him, and Sunny's cheeks burned red as she caught another glimpse of what lay between his legs. His size made her glad she'd decided against challenging him. Standing at full height, he must reach close to seven feet, every inch of that comprising of toned muscle. She definitely didn't want his attention solely focused on her - especially considering she had no idea how long he'd been alone in here. After a while, even an evidently foreign woman such as herself might start to seem appealing.

He opened the box with quick, sure movements, and Sunny came to the conclusion that he must have done this before. So this package delivery thing was a routine. She filed that information away for later, and returned her focus to the items he was pulling out of the box. Items that were universal enough for even her to recognise.

She let out a cry of delight at the sight of a water bottle - the dryness in her mouth flaring to life now that the water that could quench it was within reach. Well, sort of. At the sound of her cry, roommate's eyes had settled on Sunny once more. She resisted the urge to squeak, and shuffled back into her corner as he came closer to her. It seemed like he only wanted to give her some of the spoils, but Sunny couldn't quite quiet her instincts to stay well out of reach. He was at least a foot taller than her, and one of his hands looked like it could easily wrap around her neck should she annoy him.

He stopped at her squeak, and tilted his head, the same considering expression he'd work earlier shaping his face. A rush of panic flowed through Sunny. Should she cower even further, showing she was not a threat, or would that merely ignite the predatory instincts she was sure he had to have?

A low rumble filled the room again, but unlike the earlier sound he had made, this one didn't seem designed to sound threatening, rather, it almost sounded like a purr, as if he was attempting to soothe her.

The symptoms of fright she was so obviously displaying must be universal too.

That made Sunny's decision easier. If he was worried about her feelings, he clearly wasn't about to batter her to death - he would have dispensed with the niceties and just gone straight to the probably brutal and possibly gory murdering.

She cowered further, some small scheming part of her noting that life in captivity would be easier to survive with a protector. She then heard what could have been a sigh, before the purring started again, softer and slightly more insistent. With her teeth gritted, she forced her muscles to relax as he drew nearer. When he was about an arms lengths away he stopped, holding out the bottle for her to take. His fingernails were a brighter gold than his skin - and she assumed, harder than her own, considering that he'd obviously been here for some time and they were still smooth and chip free.

She took the water bottle, ignoring how her arms shook - with fear or suppressed tension, she wasn't sure.

"Thanks," she muttered reflexively, before shaking her head as she realised it was highly unlikely an alien from the other side of the galaxy would speak or even understand English.

The message must have been received regardless, because he flashed her a grin, his white teeth bright against his dusky gold skin. The expression might possibly have been more reassuring were it not for the rather impressive set of fangs he sported. Where a human would have canine or eye teeth, he had a double set of what looked to be extremely sharp fangs.

Sunny swallowed, hoping that there was never an occasion for his mouth to come anywhere near her. Some of her fear must have shown in her face, because he dropped the smile immediately, his face falling back into its original stern lines.

"Teach," he said, gesturing behind him, and moving back to the box.

Sunny stayed where she was, inspecting the water bottle. She gave an experimental twist, and the top screwed off. She started to drink, taking a few sips to dampen her mouth before swallowing a few mouthfuls. The water was cold and refreshing and completely taint free, and Sunny had to suppress a ridiculous smile. Apparently her kidnappers had access to better water than the city of Melbourne.

Roommate looked back, evidently realised she hadn't followed him, and scowled.

"Teach," he said again, sounding slightly impatient.

Remembering that she was trying to make a friend of him, Sunny hurriedly screwed the cap back on and hastened over to him. Before he could offer her something else out of the box - Sunny assumed there was some sort of sustenance in there - she decided it was long past time for pleasantries.

"Sunny," she said clearly, tapping her chest.

Her roommate looked at her as if she had lost her mind, but when she repeated the gesture, understanding crossed his features.

"Sunny," he repeated, drawing the 's' out slightly.

Sunny smiled in return and repeated her name for the third time to confirm it. She was about to point to him to ask for him name, but he beat her to it.

Tapping his chest as she had hers, he spoke.

"Kilnor," he said, almost rolling the l.

For the first time since he'd spoken, Sunny took note of his voice. It was pleasant - low and husky, and she hurried to try his name before she could dwell on that thought too much.

"Kilnor," she echoed, though her pronunciation was off, unable to roll the 'l' as he did.

Noticing her difficulty, Kilnor's mouth twitched in the ghost of a smile as he said his name again, saying it slowly and sounding out each syllable.

"Kilnor," she tried again, getting closer but still not quite perfect. It was clearly good enough for Kilnor though, as his attention shifted back to the box. He rummaged briefly, retrieving what looked like a plastic wrapped muesli bar, and handing it to her. Sunny took it, and then, looking at Kilnor as he pulled out another one, decided she'd had enough socialising for the time being and slowly edged her way back to her corner.

Kilnor watched her retreat for a long moment, no trace of his thoughts visible on his face, before his attention shifted, and he took a bar for himself, and like Sunny, returned to his corner, ripping the packaging open with his teeth.

Sunny took a few more sips of the water and then concentrated on the food bar she'd been given. She brought it up to her mouth to tear open like Kilnor had, but her teeth were nowhere near as sharp as his, and the plastic stayed sealed. Her stomach gurgled noiselessly, but Sunny could feel it, and her eyebrows drew together. She twisted the plastic in her hands, looked for a section where she could pull at it with her fingers, but unlike packaged bars on earth, this one didn't seem to have any tabs to pull. After a few fruitless minutes, Sunny gave up, and tossed the bar on the ground, resisting the urge to stamp her foot petulantly.

She sat still for a few minutes, but then she began to fidget. There was absolutely nothing to do in this cell - even the walls were smooth steel, completely unremarkable. She supposed if she grew even more bored she could count the almost seamless bolts and rivets, but that was a level she hadn't quite reached yet.

Kilnor kept a fraction of his attention on the small female as he ate his food bar, trying not to grimace at the bland, paper like taste. It didn't matter what it tasted like, he told himself, he needed to keep up his strength if he was going to get out of here. And he was going to get out of here, or die trying. The food ingested, the next part of his routine was exercise. He stretched himself out onto the floor, feeling every muscle in his body twinge and protest - a cold cell floor did not a restful nights sleep make.

Keeping count in his head, he started his push ups, enjoying the feel of his muscles flexing. He was about halfway through his routine, and slightly out of breath, when he felt her attention return to him, her eyes leaving a trail over his skin. Her attention didn't waver as he finished the routine. He stood slowly, shaking out his muscles, before opening his own bottle of water. He made eye contact with her as he broke the seal and took a few slow steady sips. Her cheeks turned red, and he wondered why that was - it was an interesting reaction to have - he couldn't fathom a purpose for the odd colour-changing. If it were supposed to make her look more intimidating, it didn't do a good job. She was too little for that - too fragile, with none of the toned musculature the Miotalan women commonly had. Her pale white skin was equally non-threatening, translucent enough that Kilnor could see the delicate web of her veins in places. Her eyes seemed huge in her face, and her pupils were round and large - making her look cute, like a child's soft toy.

She was shifting on the spot, evidently disinterested by her surroundings.

Get used to it, Kilnor thought with a tinge of bitterness, it's not going to get better any time soon.

He was just about to return to his exercise routine when a sound gurgled through the room. He tilted his head, confused, and noticed as the red beneath Sunny's skin deepened. The sound echoed again, and he recognised it for what it was - a complaining stomach.

Why hasn't the female - Sunny - eaten?

He noticed the food bar lay untouched at her feet, and fought the urge to snarl. Foolish female. Did she not know to take food when it was given? If she was holding out for a higher class of cuisine, she was going to be sorely disappointed. Muscles tensed with irritation, he strode across the room once more, ignoring her flinch.

With once sweeping movement, he picked up the food bar from the floor and deposited it in her hands.

"Eat," he commanded.

Her eyebrows gathered together, soft wrinkles forming in her forehead, before she opened her mouth and a spout of unintelligible gibberish came out.

To quieten her, he placed one finger against her lips, ignoring her flinch at the movement. He was momentarily distracted from his task by the feel of her lips against his finger. They were soft, softer than anything he could remember feeling. He frowned slightly - her temperature seemed cooler than it ought to be. A puff of breath on his finger drew his attention back to her stubborn refusal to eat the food bar, and he pressed the bar further into her hands.

"Eat," he repeated, his voice slightly louder than before.

She took the bar from his hand, but Kilnor had no chance to bask in his victory, as no sooner had she taken the food bar, she dropped it back on the floor, folding her arms defiantly over her rather - he could help but notice - plentiful chest.

"No," she replied.

Kilnor wasn't sure what she'd said, but from her tone and body language, he presumed it was in the negative.

"For Natair's sake, female," he cried, shoving the dropped food bar back at her. "Do you want to starve?"

She recoiled from his loud tone, shying back into her corner, and Kilnor immediately felt guilty for scaring her. She was so small after all, and he was not. He had no doubt he could restrain her if he so chose, and from the wide-eyed panicked look in Sunny's eyes, she knew it too.

He softened his voice, and pushed the food bar back towards her.

"You need to eat, Sunny," he said.

To his delight, she took the proffered food bar and didn't immediately drop it. Instead, using exaggerated movements, she attempted to open it, and Kilnor watched with no small amount of amusement, as the plastic wrapping refused to yield. Understanding her frustration, he reached for her again. She watched him warily, but made no move to withdraw as he took her hand in his, gently spreading her fingers and carefully tracing each fingernail.

It appeared his initial impression of her being delicate was correct - whilst not quite as soft as her lips, her skin was still remarkably smooth beneath his fingers, and each finger was topped with little nails, pale pink and utterly useless. He gave her back her hand and took back the food bar, tearing it open with ease.

She smiled tentatively as she took back the food bar, finally lifting it to her mouth. He watched as the smile was quickly replaced by a frown as she tried to tear a piece off.

Dear Natair, how had her race survived?

Reaching out for her once more, he pushed aside the soft plushness of her lips against his fingers, and held her firmly as she tried to buck away. He ran a finger over her teeth, marvelling at their dullness and ignoring her attempt to bite him. If he had thought her fingernails were useless, it seemed her teeth were even more so.

He let go of her abruptly, taking the food bar from her once more, bringing it to his own mouth. With short, sharp snaps of his teeth, he broke the bar into small pieces, feeding them to her even as she continued to frown. She appeared to be trying to yell at him, Kilnor noted with some amusement, an action he impeded by shoving a piece of the bar in her mouth every time she opened it. Like he'd expected, despite her front teeth being completely inadequate for tearing, the others were acceptable and capable of grinding the pieces of bar.

He didn't stop until the last piece had been swallowed, and only then did he move away. She was still scowling at him.

Ungrateful female, Kilnor thought with a roll of his eyes, before he left her to her corner and returned to his.