Posted July 18, 2021 at 12:00 pm

"You don't think he ought to know?"

Numair cast a glance over his shoulder. "At some point, certainly, but I..." he frowned, and continued, < ...I like not having to be the Cynn for a bit, all right? >

Vlad raised his eyebrows as Janis crawled, purring, into his lap. "Wow. Okay, look," he said, "I don't care if you wanna play hooky and have a fling with a mixed-species guy. Go nuts." He dropped effortlessly into Aetherian and went on, < But the old folks in Aetheri will care. If you get yourself removed over something like this, it's going to put a lot of people in serious danger, you realize that? >

An image was forming behind his words, of something searingly white-hot and liquid, pouring from a spout into a basin.

"I," Numair began, but then simply said, "yes."

< ...What does Hawk think you do all day? >

< He thinks I'm an Assembly clerk. I didn't lie, > Numair added quickly. < I simply...didn't correct him. >

"Okay," Vlad said shortly.

< ...Are you going to say something to him? >

"No. You guys are adults. You need to figure it out." The liquid in the basin, Numair could see, was cooling some, but little brilliantly hot white flecks lined the edges of it. Vlad, who was otherwise sitting cross-legged with Janis held like a purring infant against his shoulder, fixed Numair with a slit-pupiled glare over the top of his glasses. "Just don't break his heart."

Hawk's footsteps down the stairs were loud enough, but Numair still jumped a bit when he said cheerfully, "Sorry for makin' you wait! Mornin' Vlad."

Vlad's glare had vanished seamlessly, replaced by a pleasant grin. "Morning, hon!"

Numair didn't move for the moment, leaning against the wall with his arms crossed and his shoulders hiked up, until Hawk touched his shoulder gently and he unwound some.

"Ya ready?"

"Yes," he replied quietly.

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