tagSci-Fi & FantasyKita'thalla Ch. 04

Kita'thalla Ch. 04

byBowoodstock©

Breaking the surface of the water, Kita'thalla wiped water out of her eyes, breathing a sigh of relief as the coolness cascaded down her body. After setting the crutches and her clothing down on a nearby slab of rock, she had been able to ease herself into the shallow pool with just her arms and good leg. After going so long without a bath, it had been extremely satisfying to submerge herself all at once, cleaning off several days of sweat and grime. With the water supporting part of her weight it was easy to move around, even with the bad leg.

She took a few moments to massage the knots out of her arms and back, smiling with pleasure as she still felt taut, well toned muscle beneath her skin. Even if she was in a weaker state right now, it was a pleasant reminder that she still had a body to die for. That being said, she didn't waste time as she washed herself. There was no telling how long the human would give her. She could hear him tramping around in the forest, even at this distance. She smirked. He'd be a terrible hunter, she realized. Thankfully, with the food supplies he had, they'd be able to last until she was up and mobile. By then, regardless of if she decided to kill him or not, she wouldn't starve.

She stopped as she realized something was wrong with that previous thought. If. When she'd first met him, there was no question that she wanted nothing more than to taste his blood as he took his final breath. But now...just two days later, she realized that she was debating on whether or not to take him out. As annoying as he was, compared to others of her own species that she knew, she realized he was actually fairly decent company. It was actually a little refreshing to talk to someone else, outside of the bounds of military protocol, and without any of the social norms of ketral society.

These thoughts were still going through her head as she wrung out the long braid of hair behind her head, absentmindedly moving to leave the water without remembering just exactly what condition she was in. Her bad leg refused to bear weight and keep balance as she stepped on an algae covered rock obscured by the water's surface. Her legs went flying out from beneath her as she came crashing down into the shallow water, a yell escaping her throat as she lost her footing.

She quickly surfaced, spluttering and spitting out a mouthful of water filled with silt that her fall had churned up. She dimly thought she heard her name being called, but at that point in time she was just focusing on getting out of the water. If there was one thing she didn't want right now, it was for Eric to see her in such an undignified position. She turned around to pull herself up with her arms out of the water to sit on the slab of rock with her clothes on it. She had just managed to get her behind onto the edge when a noise caused her to look up.

Eric stood wordlessly as his eyes locked with those of a very wet and very naked Kita. She was safe, he dimly thought in the back of his head as he fought a losing battle not to stare at the perfectly shaped golden mounds and dark areolae, the wonderfully taut stomach leading right down to...

The world seemed to move in slow motion for both of them as a loose part of the embankment Eric stood upon gave out under his weight. Before he had a chance to recover, he was sliding down the bank. His feet hit a rock at the bottom, causing him to trip and go flying head first across the shallow pool, arms flailing, before landing on his face right at her feet. She was frozen in utter surprise as he brought his head up, choking on a mouthful of water.

Any previous efforts not to stare were completely wasted when Eric's eyes finally came to focus. In the half sitting position she was in, it was impossible not to follow her well toned thighs up to their final point of joining. Light pink folds protruded slightly from the cleft between her legs, contrasting with the light tan of the short velvety fur that adorned the outer lips. He briefly registered the small nub at the top of the inner folds before tearing his eyes away, forcing himself to look past her breasts and the valley between them. Her teeth were bared, and he realized that she was trembling.

"You..." she growled through gritted teeth.

His mind snapped back to reality and he stumbled backwards into the water, falling several more times along the way as he scrambled to dry land. He stammered out an apology before turning and running back in the direction of the cave. She held herself there shaking, watching him retreat noisily through the woods, almost tripping again on an upturned root. Only when she was absolutely certain that he was out of earshot did she allow herself to fall back on the rock, laughing harder than she ever had in memory.

When she returned some time later, Eric was in the process of cleaning out one of the pistols he wore. She saw the other weapon lying in pieces at his side. Based on the fact that he was still wearing the same soaked muddy clothing as earlier, she surmised that he was making sure that the river water didn't have any adverse effects on his sidearms. As she got closer, he finally noticed her, although he pretended not to. The growing redness in his face as she approached betrayed the feigned ignorance however, and she fought back a grin, instead keeping her face as emotionless as possible. She hobbled over to her usual spot opposite him in the cave, glancing at the disassembled firearm.

"Gun problems?" she asked. Steady Kita'thalla, she reminded her self as she smothered a laugh, as the sudden question had caused him to flinch.

"Yeah. While they're designed to operate even in heavy rain, they don't take too well to being entirely submerged in murky water."

She nodded conversationally. "Yes, well that's the case with just about any kind of firearm."

"Right"

She noticed that he was shivering slightly. "You know, you're going to get cold if you keep those wet clothes on"

He didn't look up from his work. "It would be inappropriate for me to undress in front of you" he replied.

She raised an eyebrow. "Well it's not like I'm wearing much at all"

That one caused him to sharply glance over at her, as for a split second, the comment had made him wonder if she'd come back in the same state as she'd been bathing. But no, she was indeed wearing the usual shorts and top as before. Upon looking at her, he realized that she didn't seem all that intent on ripping his head off in retaliation for his earlier blunder, which lessened his nerves a little. It still didn't quell the huge embarrassment he felt for his none-too-deft entrance into the pool, but at least there didn't seem to be hard feelings. Now that he was thinking clearer though, he did realize she had a point. He'd probably turn hypothermic if he didn't remove some of the soaked clothing.

He shrugged and pulled off the sleeveless undershirt he'd been wearing. Soon it was followed by his combat boots which squelched even without being worn, along with the completely inundated socks. Finally, he reached for the belt holding up his fatigue pants. If there was one bright side to this situation, he thought as he undid the buckle, it was that the cold water removed almost any chance of him getting excited. Still, he was slightly self conscious of the fact that the water did nothing to help obscure the bulge in his undershorts. After laying his clothes to dry, he resumed his work on the firearms without looking back at her.

Through out his undressing, she had watched, keeping the same blank expression. In reality, she was actually somewhat curious. The only time she had really encountered humans was on the battlefield, most of them wearing full battle gear of a much heavier variety than Eric wore, and so she didn't have a terribly good idea of what human anatomy was like. She was surprised that despite his obviously alien appearance and lack of fur, there wasn't a huge difference between human and ketral biology. The bulge in front of his shorts was a little odd, but as she'd initially surmised that she was looking at a male due to the lack of developed mammary glands, it wasn't totally unexpected. There was a light covering of hair across his chest, similar to the stuff growing on his arms and legs, but it hardly seemed functional in any way. The muscles of his chest and abdomen weren't as clearly defined as those in male ketrals, but she couldn't tell if this was due to a lack of hard exercise or a difference in species, as he was hardly what one could call flabby. The obvious lack of a tail was unusual, as was the structure of his feet, although she guessed that was to facilitate the manner in which he walked.

After he had finished stripping off the wet garments, she continued to study him for a bit longer before glancing at his clothes. She couldn't resist a jab.

"You know, most would take their clothes off before jumping in the water, rather than after."

Eric cursed as the comment made him lose concentration and fumble the components of the pistol. He looked at her with pursed lips. "Look, I heard a splash and a yell, and I was worried that something had gotten you."

She scoffed. "As if. It was a slippery rock under the surface, it could have happened to anyone."

"That still doesn't change anything! You could have made your injury worse with a fall like that."

"Well at least I wasn't sent skidding through the mud to land flat on my face" she replied, a smirk making its way onto her face.

Eric opened his mouth to retort, but was distracted by the twitch at the side of her mouth as she tried not to smile. The silent opening and closing of his mouth was too much for her. She finally broke down laughing as he stared wordlessly, not really sure what to say.

"The...the way you fell...and after..." she gasped. "You looked like an idiot that had too much kalab wine to drink!"

As she continued to unintelligibly describe his floundering through fits of laughter, through his disbelief he couldn't help but notice that her laugh, although far from the giggle of a smaller woman, did have a somewhat musical tone to it as it echoed off the cave walls. It occurred to him that aside from his inadvertent examination of her intimates, when thinking back to what had happened it actually was pretty funny. Her laughter soon proved to be infectious, and he himself was soon chuckling as an instant replay of the fall went through his mind.

As they finally managed to calm down, he looked at her and saw that she was still smiling as she looked out of the cave. She was a beautiful creature, he realized, especially when she wasn't snarling or yelling at him. Her eyes glinted a vibrant golden color in the sunlight, adding to the exotic beauty that the pleasant expression on her face only enhanced.

"So...you do know how to laugh then." he said, breaking the silence.

She snorted, though the smile didn't fade entirely. "Of course I do. Who doesn't?"

He shrugged. "Well, you didn't seem all that humorous when I first met you, although I suppose that isn't terribly surprising"

"As a soldier, you have to keep a sense of humor" she said grimly. "Sometimes it's the only thing that keeps your mind intact."

Eric thought back to the marines that had been joking and poking fun at him back on the transport. The years of war had already numbed him to the deaths that occurred right in front of him, and he had gone immediately into survivor mode after the crash. "I know what you mean." he replied. "It serves to distract from a reality that isn't always pretty to look at."

She nodded, although something he'd said earlier had suddenly popped into her head. Was that just a choice of words or...? She contemplated on whether or not she wanted to pursue that idea, and finally gave in as she realized it would bug her until she resolved it.

"Eric..."

"Yeah?" He sensed a slight change in the tone of her voice.

"You said you were...worried?"

The question caused his thoughts to grind to a screeching halt. Had he said that? And more importantly did he mean it? "Well..." he stammered to fill the awkward silence. "It would have been really bad if as a medic, I allowed harm to come to you as my patient."

"Ah, I see" she said.

Did she sound disappointed? His mind was staggering as he tried to sort out the truth of what he really had felt. In the panicked run through the forest, had he been merely thinking of her as a patient he was responsible for? Or had he been...did he consider her a...the thought solidified and he realized the truth of it.

"Although, that being said..." he started, realizing that she was staring at him. He looked at the ground, unable to meet her gaze. "If...something had happened to you, it would be...very lonely. And well..." he paused, searching for the right words.

She blinked, not really sure why she was so interested in what he was saying, but she remained silent and allowed him to continue.

"Despite how things started off, I do not regret meeting you." he said, finally getting the nerve to look back up at her. "I am happy that you are here, alive, and I am glad to know you. So yes, I was worried" he finished.

There was a tense silence as he wondered if he'd just made a bigger fool of himself than at the river. He looked away as he mentally cursed himself before he realized that she'd said his name.

"Eric." she repeated again. He looked back at her and saw her take a breath before she continued.

"I...do not regret meeting you, either. While I can't say I've ever had the chance to meet one of your kind on friendly terms...for a human, you are interesting, and I am happy to know you. I am glad that my previous efforts to kill you had failed."

"I..." he stammered, trying to think of something to say. Finally, he settled on "Thank you." as he realized that anything else was unnecessary. He watched as she returned his smile before lying back, exhausted from her trek back from the river. Returning to cleaning his firearms, he marveled at the turn of events. From foe to friend in the space of two days...it sounded so unlikely, like something out of a cheesy movie. He almost wondered if she was just trying to get him to drop his guard. But thinking back to their recent conversation, he was convinced that she was sincere.

And there was something else. In his conversations with her, he'd realized that there was more to her than her tough outer facade. When they'd first met, she acted as if he was beneath her and that she was just putting up with him. He remembered the previous day when they were eating, he noticed that her body language and the way she scraped the sides of the ration tin had said she'd enjoyed the meal far more than she'd let on. However, even beyond that he was starting to notice something else beneath. Even over the course of just two days, he could sense that a wall was being taken down brick by brick, and she was speaking to him more freely. And then of course, there was her sense of humor, and the more sensitive side she had revealed to him today. Was this a glimpse of what Kita had been prior to becoming a soldier?

Finishing his work on the last pistol, he returned them to their holsters. Glancing at the now snoozing Kita across the cave, he realized that the pile of firewood he'd gathered the previous day was getting small, and that he'd dropped everything to go running when she'd fallen. Deciding now was as good a time as ever, he reached for his pants but found them still wet. He sat for a moment, balking at the prospect of going to gather firewood wearing so little, before laughing at himself as he realized there wasn't anyone else who'd care, and headed out as he was.

Kita'thalla woke to the smell of the campfire. The wood he'd gathered had a particularly nice fragrant smell to it, not an unpleasant way to wake up. It was dark by now, maybe a few hours after sun down she guessed. She looked at the still ongoing flashes of battle in the night sky, offhandedly wondering how she could fall asleep so easily when a war was going on above them, before glancing over to Eric, now wearing his fatigue pants and undershirt, and noticing that he was focused on something on the floor of the cave in front of him. Scooting over, noticing her leg was feeling more responsive now, she returned his silent nod of greeting and accepted the canteen from him before examining the focus of his attention.

"What exactly are you doing?" she asked after a few minutes, completely confused. In front of him were several stacks of what appeared to be wafers of thin plastic. On each one was drawn several symbols, mostly in red or black, though she did notice one or two with more elaborate designs on them. As she had watched, he would occasionally move one from one stack to another, sometimes flipping them in the process.

"Oh this?" he replied. "It's a game called solitaire. I'd initially forgotten about it, but our survival kits come with a deck of playing cards. It's meant to keep the mind active if one is stranded alone."

She reached out and picked one up, examining it. "That's it? Someone came up with cards just to play a game alone?"

"Well, not quite" he said, plucking the card from her fingers and replacing it. "The standard deck of cards was invented several centuries ago on earth. I think there are almost as many games as there are stars that can be played with a normal deck. Some of them are meant to be played solo, others are intended for two players or more"

"Really" she said, picking up another one, a small grin making its way onto her face. "And does each card mean something different? They look similar, but they're not all the same."

"Well of course they're not the same." he said, once more retrieving the stolen card and putting it back in its place. "The cards are organized into four suits, and each suit has thirteen cards in it. And would you stop doing that!" he yelled as the ten of spades was abducted

"What, am I in the way?" she asked, trying to put on as innocent of a face as she could. She had discovered the previous day that it was fun to fluster Eric, and her disruption of his little game was producing very amusing results.

Eric was dumbstruck for a moment before snatching the card back and looking down. If she'd been a juvenile, the kitten eyes she'd just given him would have had the desired effect, but with her being a grown woman of her species...the effect was a very conspicuous reddening in his face and a stirring in his loins that he hoped wouldn't produce any noticeable effects. He shook his head as he tried to clear it, but couldn't remember where the ten had been sitting. He rolled his eyes in exasperation and dropped the card. "Alright, you have my attention, are you happy now?"

"Maybe" she said, giving him another impish look before picking another card (ace of spades) and looking at it. His expression of annoyance had made this even more fun. "You said you were playing a game for when you're alone. You're not alone now, are you?"

"Well I..." he stuttered. Those golden eyes were making it hard for him to concentrate. Finally he sighed and said "I guess not."

"Right. So teach me"

"What?"

"You said there's games for two players. You have any better ideas?" she said in a playful voice, moving closer so her face was only a few inches from him.

"Uh, okay" he replied, grateful for anything to distract her from looking down. The glow of her eyes in the fire, her voice, and the expression she wore had gotten his attention in more ways than one. He picked up the cards from his original game, combining them back together into the full deck. Wait, almost full. He looked at Kita in mild annoyance, holding out a hand expectantly. "I need that one back as well." He nearly dropped the deck when Kita actually giggled before handing back the missing ace. What had gotten into her tonight? He breathed a sigh of relief as she moved back to give him more room as he shuffled the deck.

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