“Hey.” Alex laid his hand on Neya’s shoulder and shook her gently, barely awake as he tried to get her attention. “Hey, wake up.”
Neya didn’t respond immediately, still whimpering and twitching violently in her sleep. Her body went stiff when she came to, a yell strangled in her throat. The pale Tslao panted quietly, limbs spasming with less and less force as she started to relax.
“Just a nightmare. Ketoen?” All right? Alex kept his voice soothing, using one of the few Tsla words he knew by heart before he slipped his arm over her chest and pulled her close. He leaned in between her thin antennae to kiss the back of her head and gave a little squeeze. It seemed like what Carbon would have done, if she had been there. Probably in the bathroom.
“Te. Meha shon.” Yes. Thank you. Her hands came up and gripped his forearm as she curled up around his arm, tremors passing as her breathing settled into it’s natural rhythm.
He pressed his translator into service despite the success he’d just had with his functional knowledge of Tsla. He knew he wasn’t anywhere near conversational. Alex set up a phrase and carefully picked through the phonetic translation so Neya could understand him. “I am glad. Do these often happen to you?”
A little shrug as she adjusted herself, setting her cheek down on his hand. She spoke slowly, matching his pace. “Every few days. Sometimes once a week. I think the... Nh, changes that have been going on lately have made them worse.”
“Changes?” Alex blurted out his reply before he even thought about translating it.
Neya shook her head. “I am not wearing my connection. Let me-”
“I’ve got it.” Alex reached up for the little case sitting on the ledge at the top of the bed, the metal beads that would connect her to her AI inside. He’d seen her put them on a few times now and closed them around her antennae easily, snugging them down at the fluffy purple tips. They glowed a dim blue as she established a connection. “Not sure what you meant by changes?”
“You were unexpected. Carbon did not hate humans when she left, but that she would return with one holding her heart...” She petered off, sounding particularly defeated when she continued. ”I am not as swift-footed as I should be in my adaptation.”
“By your own admission, you had no idea I would show up. How much precedence is there for this sort of thing, anyway?” He had an excellent idea what the answer to that would be.
“It has never happened before, as far as I am aware.” Neya worked her feet slowly, rubbing her inner toes together as she considered what he was getting at. “There is no way for me to have changed any faster.”
“Yes. Given the difference of our cultures, I’d say you’ve been far more quick to accept me than I have of you.”
She processed that with a silent laugh. “You are faster than you think. You did not send me away on errands last night and you do not seem to have clothed yourself afterwards.”
“Yeah, well...” He cleared his throat. “I said we’d both work on it.”
“So we are.” The smile in her voice was clear, just short of teasing and very much like Carbon when she kissed his hand. “I am again glad you have such dedication to her.”
“Me too. Speaking of, did she fall in or something?” He pushed himself up on an elbow and looked to the bathroom door. It was closed and the panel next to it dark, unoccupied. A hint of surprise crept into his words. “Where’s Carbon?”
A shrug, apparently unconcerned. “She is likely in Engineering. She enjoys going there to help out in the early mornings. Particularly after state functions, meetings with Eleya and sexual activites. I do not know how those correlate.”
“Really.” Alex sank back down to the bed, a little annoyed that this was the first he had heard of it. He back sat up, a shock of realization through his mind. “How do you know she likes to do that after sex? She said she’d never been with anyone before.”
A nod in agreement. “That is correct, she hasn’t.”
“Those two statements don’t jibe. They... preclude each other.” He didn’t mind if she had, it was only fair since he had other partners as well. He just didn’t like the idea of being lied to about it.
“No, they... Oh. You forgot that I am her.” As though it were the most obvious thing in the world.
“This is another zeshen thing, isn’t it? It’s not sex because she was doing it with herself?” It seemed like semantics to him, but they were aliens. There was no point in stressing himself out about it, it wouldn’t do any good.
“Yes, that is correct.” She sounded quite pleased with his deductive ability.
“Interesting.” Alex mulled it over, chewing on the inside of his cheek. If he hadn’t been shown their feelings for each other he would have had a lot more trouble digesting this information. In retrospect he wasn’t surprised, in private they were very warm with each other and love was a complex thing.
“For me, yes.” He shrugged mentally and dismissed the subject. Maybe he’d revisit it with Carbon later, but it was their relationship. He didn’t feel right interjecting himself into it, even if he was supposed to. “When does she usually come back?”
“When it is properly morning. She makes breakfast on those days, too.” Neya sounded excited about that prospect. “A full breakfast, not just a quick meal as we normally enjoy.”
Alex was unsure if he wanted to know what that included, or at least what the raw ingredients looked like. Still, it was breakfast, it couldn’t be that bad. He settled back down and hugged the fuzzy Tslao to his chest. There was one thing he wasn’t sure about, though. “She is a good cook, right?”
A laugh, genuinely happy. “One of the best I know.”