Chapter Twelve

Sunny kept a close eye on the Miotalan guarding her. She had calmed down from her previous shocked state, and reasoning and meaning was beginning to return to her.

She did not like this cell. She did not like the fact that the bars meant that she could be observed at all times. She did not like the hostile looks the Miotalan was constantly throwing her way. He sat in a small room she had not immediately noticed upon her introduction to her cell, a room that had evidently been designed to allow a guard to watch prisoners at all time.

The only redeeming fact was that she was clothed. But clothes would not help her should her need for the toilet grow any greater. She sat on the narrow bench with its thinly padded mattress. she could feel her weight sink straight through the padding to sit firmly against the metal beneath.

What was she going to do now? She didn't know if Kilnor was alive, or if he had succumbed to his injuries. She didn't know where in the Universe she was. She didn't know why she was locked in a cell, and she didn't know what to do to get herself out.

She knew that she had been found by more of Kilnor's kind, but she didn't know if they were friends of Kilnor's or not. They clearly knew who he was, had evidently been tracking him and wanted to save his life. But did he know them on a personal level?

Sunny sighed. Her cheeks felt stiff with salt from her crying jag earlier. She had no more tears left to cry. She squeezed her knees together, trying to push past the urge she was feeling to go to the toilet. Another look at the guard told her he was still watching her.

There was no helping it. She would have to expose herself to his view and go to the toilet, or risk sitting here in a puddle of urine, an outcome which was far from desirable. She moved to the toilet slowly. The guard watched her progress, her evident destination causing a lecherous grin to rise on his face, and Sunny felt her face flush with heat from embarrassment and anger combined.

She sat down over the toilet, only sliding down the pant and underwear as little as she could help it. She hunched over, shoulders curing in on herself, arms pressed against her abdomen, hoping to obscure anything from view.

The guard's grin only grew, and Sunny sensed he was drawing an inordinate amount of malicious glee from her humiliation, and she closed her eyes, not wanting to see his face. She finished as quickly as possible, restoring her clothes to their rightful position. She rushed back to the bench, and lay down on it, facing the wall, keeping her back to the guard.

The position made her feel vulnerable, knowing that there was a hostile entity at her back, but she reasoned that she would feel the bars opening should he decide to approach her. She wrapped her arms around herself, closing her eyes tight and trying to will herself into believing that it was Kilnor's strong arms that were embracing her.

With that thought in mind, she drifted off into an uneasy sleep.

She jerked awake not long later, staring around at her surroundings, trying to determine where she was. It hit her in a flash - her and Kilnor walking to the space port before being chased by the Olcens. Kilnor falling, a knife buried in his chest.

The sound of footsteps reminded Sunny that she had been awoken by a noise, and she spun around, suddenly terrified that the guard from before had waited for her to fall asleep before deciding to enter her cell.

She threw her hands up, prepared to shield her head and face, but the footsteps stopped outside the door to her cell. She lowered her hands slowly, peering past them

Copper eyes stared into hers, and Sunny recognised the Miotalan that had handcuffed her and led her onto the hovercraft, and then place her in this cell originally before disappearing. She glanced at the observation room. It was empty. So this was a changing of the guards, she thought.

The Miotalan observing her did not look furious as he had before, but neither did he look particularly pleased to see her. He stayed just outside her cell, instead of retreating to the observations as her previous guard had done. He intimidated her, but, Sunny thought with an internal rueful smile, nearly everything did now. His expression was not malicious though, and Sunny couldn't see him taking great pleasure in her humiliation as his predecessor had done. His eyes still had not moved from hers. They were the brilliant copper of a shiny new penny.

Copper, copper.

The colour triggered something in Sunny's memory, and all of a sudden, she could hear Kilnor's voice.

"…their skin and scales are a dark copper…"

He had been referring to the twins, or womb-mates as he had called them. What had he said their names were? Sunny strained her memory, desperate to remember.

"Zalon?" she tried, her voice questioning. "Zandin?"

Dark eyes shot to hers, a faint look of surprise colouring his features. A torrent of Miotalan spewed forth from his mouth, and Sunny blanched, unable to understand any of it.

"Zalon?" she questioned again.

"Dach," he answered sharply, with a swift shake of the head.

Sunny almost smiled - she recognised that word! If this was not Zalon, this must be Zandin, the other brother.

"Zandin?" she asked, seeking confirmation.

"Fach," he agreed. "Zandin."

His eyes watched her warily, his entire bearing suspicious. He did not trust her. Of course he wouldn't, Sunny though with dawning comprehension. There had been something else she was supposed to say, the phrase that Kilnor had made her repeat numerous times. But what as it? Zandin continued to hover, clearly waiting for Sunny to continue.

"Kilnor?" she asked. Was he okay? She didn't have the words to ask, and they didn't have the words to answer.

Zandin's eyes narrowed further. He didn't seem to like her mentioning Kilnor's name, but with a flash of clarity, Sunny recalled the phrase that Kilnor had taught her, and it definitely involved his name.

"Kilnor seibh manam," she said, ebullient in her remembering. "Kilnor seibh manam."

Zandin's facial expression transformed from a wary narrowing of the eyes, to a full-blown scowl to fierce that Sunny actually shrank back.

"Dach!" he barked, an immediate denial.

"Fach," Sunny replied, pressing her case, though she wasn't sure what exactly she was trying to assert.

Zandin stared at her for a moment, muscles tensed and entire body bristling with some sort of tension before he stormed out of the room. Sunny watched him go, a trickle of unease making itself known in her stomach. What had she just set in motion.

Sunny heard the sounds of harsh voices before the cage door was yanked open. Stifling a squeal, she scuttled back along the floor, until her back was firmly pressed against the wall, watching this new intruder with wide, wary eyes.

He was massive, taller even than Kilnor, and with muscular bulk to match. His skin was the colour of wrought iron, gleaming softly, the pale gold scales decorating his body a stark contrast. He tilted his head slightly as he considered her, and Sunny's heart gave a small leap as she recognised the movement.

"Cade?" she asked hopefully.

At the sound, his muscles tensed, his figure growing even larger. Sunny tried hard to stay where she was and not to cower in fear. This may be the chance she was looking for, and she did not want to mess it up now.

"Cade?" she repeated, moving forward slightly.

He gave a sharp, jerky nod, but did not relax his stance.

"Kilnor seibh manam," she said, the words Kilnor had made her memorise coming to her lips with ease.

Cade tensed even further at her words, and despite her best intentions, Sunny shrank back some as he opened his mouth "and let forth a barrage of words she had no hope of understanding. He stopped immediately, and took a small step back, but his eyes never left hers.

"Kilnor seibh manam," she said again, her voice soft.

"Dach," he said, his voice firm.

Sunny knew what that word meant, and her eyes narrowed. She folded her arms.

"Fach," she retorted. "Kilnor seibh manam."

Cade stepped towards her, but unlike earlier where he had paused at her obvious fear, he took not notice, and continued stalking closer, until he was close enough to reach out and touch her neck. Sunny shivered in fear, as he ran his finger down the side of her neck, stopping just shy of where Kilnor had bitten her.

"Dach," he repeated, as if whatever he had been thinking had just been confirmed.

A lightbulb lit in Sunny's head, and she shifted her tunic so the bite came into view, wondering for the thousandth time what it was exactly that Kilnor had made her learn to say.

Sunny had not thought it possible that Cade's eyes could narrow further, but at the site of the bite mark, she learnt that it was. Setting his jaw, he reached his hand out once more, and briefly touched the mark. Sunny was unprepared for the bolt of pain that shot through her at the light touch, and she snapped her teeth together, stifling a cry of pain.

He dropped his hand immediately, looking contrite.

Sunny just glared at him again

Kilnor lay unmoving in the sterile bed, eyes closed, seeing and hearing nothing, but around him, voices spoke.

"You saw the dress, Zandin," Zalon's voice was measured. "What reason would she have for possessing what is clearly a Miotalan dress?"

"Bait!" Zandin threw his hands up in the air from his usual position lounging against a cleared bench. Zalon was not one for clutter in his work spaces. "I do not know why you and Cade are so sure she is Kilnor's mate!"

Zandin was clearly opposed to the idea, and Cade could think of no reason why. Surely, if someone was going to be against the notion of a small weak female being his brother's one true bonded mate, it would be he.

Cade answered him. "I saw the marks. I touched them. They are authentic."

Cade's words were a statement of fact, brooking no opposition. He pictured the surprised pain that had flashed in the female's eyes as he stroked her mate-mark. There was no acting there - it had been a genuine response.

Zandin held Cade's gaze for a moment, eyes challenging, questioning the truth, before he lowered them.

"We are agreed then?" Zalon asked, calm and unflustered by dissent as usual. "She is Kilnor's mate?"

"Yes," said Cade firmly. Whether or not he held an opinion on her suitableness was not important. With Kilnor indisposed, it was up to him to watch out for his brother's female.

"It is interesting," Zalon reflected. "For all that we are a space-faring species, with trade and interaction with other species, there are precious few alien life-mates, and none that I know personally. The possibilities are interesting."

"What possibilities?" Zandin asked his twin. His tone was neutral, but a brief look at his face revealed he was still not convinced of Kilnor's female.

"Reproducing," Zalon threw his brother a slightly confused look, as if unsure as to why he had not immediately reached that conclusion. "We have few interspecies matings, and those that have been recorded have not produced any viable offspring."

Zandin's brow wrinkled. "I cannot conceive it," he said, sounding vaguely repulsed by the idea. "She is weak," he continued. "Small and delicate. She is the size of a child."

"Not a child," Zalon corrected. "That of a later-stage adolescent."

"Even still," his repulsed grin was replaced by a suggestive smirk. "Can you imagine? All that fur," he shivered theatrically. "It would be like mating an animal."

Cade stiffened, and his gaze sharpened.

"That is enough," he intervened firmly. "We have agreed that she is indeed Kilnor's mate, and as such, she should be treated with respect."

Zandin's face lost the grin and he looked suitably chastened, but Cade had no doubt that he was still laughing at his joke internally.

"Her reproductive abilities are not important," Cade continued. "What is important is the fact that my brother's life mate is in a cell with Eowan's warrior's watching her."

Cade's pronouncement subdued Zandin completely and drew Zalon's attention away from his scientific concerns.

"You are right," Zalon agreed with his usual seriousness. "I shall volunteer to take the next turn watching her. I can attempt to make sure she is not too gravely injured."

Cade inclined his head and thanked him.

"That is only a temporary measure," he continued, directing his words to Zandin as well. "We need to get the female into our custody on a more permanent basis - at least until Kilnor awakes."

Zandin frowned. "Our favourite Comleoir is in charge of this mission," he said, words heavily laden with sarcasm. "I cannot see him passing up the chance to have Kilnor's life mate in his hands, and to have any chance at gain custody, we would have to tell him of the bond."

Cade scowled, the mere mention of the Comleoir enough to darken his mood. The fact that Zandin may be entirely correct did not help matters either.

"She is of my blood," Cade countered. "He has no legal way of keeping custody."

"He is commanding this ship," Zalon spoke. "He is the law."

Zalon's words, baldly spoken, encapsulated the situation entirely.

"Then we ask permission, knowing we shall be denied, but giving us legitimacy for when we petition on-planet." Cade stated. "In the meantime, we com Miotal and inform them of Kilnor's recovery and the discovery of his bonded life mate."

"Cannot," Zandin said, removing a surgical instrument from one of Zalon's carefully organised drawers and fiddling with it. "Coms are down."

"What do you mean, the coms are down?" Cade's voice was thick with disbelief. "This is a brand new ship, with brand new systems!"

Zandin shrugged, the movement conveying a similar lack of understanding. "Be that as it may, they are still not online."

"I do not like this," Cade said, staring at his brother's inert body. "I do not like this at all."

A/N: I was super excited to receive 7 reviews on the last chapter! Keep them coming!