Alex could have asked for directions when he left Eleya’s quarters. He should have. It would have been the smart thing to do, but pride kept him from that. He ought to know his way around the ship as well as anyone else who spent a large portion of their time there, but nothing in that section indicated where on the ship he was. All the doors were labeled, but none of the corridors were. At least he knew where to find the linens now.
It was somewhere around thirty minutes of wandering when the desire to be self-sufficient boiled away and he just didn’t want to look incapable. It felt unthinkable for him to flag someone down and ask where his home was. He wasn’t a child. He’d do it on his own. Besides, he hadn’t seen anyone since he got out of the elevator the first time and didn’t have any sort of communicator with him.
Eventually he found his way into, of all places, engineering. It was a hive of activity for being the middle of the night but repairs and maintenance on a ship this size were never truly done. There were more than a few questioning glances tossed his way but they didn’t linger, presumably he was well known around the Sword of the Morning Light already.
Alex found his corridor markers and made good time once he had oriented himself properly. Eleya’s quarters were somewhere near the back of the ship and his cabin was well towards the bow. By the time he leaned in to the retina scanner and tossed his jacket onto a hook in the antechamber, he was done for the night. The conversation with Eleya hadn’t settled well during his walk, leaving him feeling used, again.
The scene Alex returned to inside was unexpected. The lights had been turned down and air was lightly perfumed, a delicate scent that was floral with a hint of berries and - because he could come up with no other word that fit - pink. As his eyes adjusted, he was struck by how warm it was. The compartment normally felt like it was around fifteen, but it was easily ten degrees warmer than that now.
Carbon was laying on the bed reading a book, naked, as she was wont to do. Neya was straddling Carbon’s rump, tapping a fine iridescent powder from a tin onto her back. At least Neya was still partially clothed, black cloth wrapped about her hips.
“I do not know. It seems... needlessly complex.” Carbon looked up from the book as he closed the inner door, smiling with relief and giving him a little wave before returning to her conversation with Neya. “It requires equipment.”
“A chair is not equipment.” Neya shrugged from her perch, carefully picked one of the many grooming implements scattered around the bed and began to brush the powder into Carbon’s fur. “It is not as though you could fall very far, I just think it would be fun to try.”
“Try what?” Alex picked up one of the chairs from the dining table as he crossed the room, setting himself down next to the bed.
“This.” Carbon held the thin book out to him, fingers pressing the pages apart.
Alex raised an eyebrow at the sex act illustrated on the page, a rather acrobatic looking position that did require a chair. The translation of the text that accompanied it was riddled with words that weren’t in the database, but he got the gist of what was going on. “Tempest of the night, huh. They look like they’re enjoying it, but I get the feeling it’s a tragedy waiting to happen.”
“Thank you.” Carbon withdrew the book with a smile and a quiet laugh, flipping the page. “This looks much less dangerous.”
The sound of her laugh lifted his spirits and washed away the dirty feeling Eleya’s spy games had left on him. They were a small price to pay, even if he didn’t want to. Alex shook his head, a sly smile barely hidden. “Whoa, hey. I didn’t say I wouldn’t want to try it.”
That earned him a skeptical look that turned to annoyance as Neya wriggled with delight and tapped her fingers on Carbon’s back. “See?”
“Yes, I see...” Carbon huffed and closed the book, hiding it under crossed arms. She laid her head down, eyes closed and words pointed. “That I will have to keep you two separated so I do not find myself in the sickbay.”
“It’s not that bad.” Alex recognized the book when it was closed, one of the three Eleya had given him at the temple. A gift to help you in the task that has been set before you. That made a bit more sense now... What the hell is in the other two volumes? “I’ve had plenty of first aid training, I bet I could take care of anything that comes up.”
Carbon’s eyes opened just enough for her displeasure to register clearly.
“But if you don’t want to, I’m fine with that.” He said as he moved up onto the bed, leaning down to kiss her. She seemed to be completely covered in that iridescent powder and it was definitely the source of the fragrance, which carried over into a similar taste. “That stuff has a flavor, too? Interesting.”
“She believed that you might find it enjoyable.” Carbon tossed her head towards Neya, eyes again closed but voice softened. “Also that you may want to have a quiet evening after your meeting with Eleya, though I do not think that is the exact ending to all of the preparation she insisted upon.”
“If you wished to complain, you should have done so before you agreed that it was a good idea.” Neya had finished brushing her and was packing all of her tools and tins back into a small bag.
“Indeed.” Carbon grumbled quietly at that. “Since it has been mentioned, how did you fair with Eleya? You seemed well enough when you returned.”
“She just wanted me to ‘listen’ at the dinner. I don’t think I found out anything surprising.” He specifically neglected to mention their conversation about her. If Eleya came around and started to at least try to set things right, he’d tell her. If not, he wouldn’t be raising her expectations. “Did ask me about my use of mediboards, though. That was odd.”
“She is often inscrutable.”
“Yeah she is. What was the deal with the secret meeting there at dinner?” He reached up with one hand and massaged the base of her antennae.
“Colonel Lhenan is the official intermediary for the joint operation for exploration of the artifact. We are still in charge of it, but do not want the Humans to know of our station for now.” Carbon sighed with content, her body going slack. “A little harder, please.”
Alex had come to find the demarcation between him and Humans unsettling. He understood what she meant, but he was still Human. “When you say we, who do you mean?”
“You and I, Alex. Royals always lead, even if there is a deceit.” She shifted as Neya climbed off her and rolled onto her side, nestling down into Alex’s arms.
“Interesting. So I’m actually going to do something, huh?” He still didn’t know what the hell his function as a prince was. Dragons were still fictious and his princess certainly didn’t need any saving.
“That is what Eleya indicated.” She gave his neck a delicate nip and warm lips kissed the spot a moment later, a smile in her voice.
Alex shivered, partially from the pleasant sensation and the rest from the proximity of her sharp teeth to his carotid artery. “And what might that something be?”
A little shrug and another kiss as her hands worked on the cloth wrapped around his torso. “I am sure we can figure that out in due time.”