‘So I came to Canis, and… well…’ Jaisa let out one more long, hard breath as xer fins flicked back, and Distro noticed xer shoulders sink. ‘You know the rest.’
‘Yes,’ Distro gave a gentle nod. ‘Yes. I believe I do.’
Coi’Lili scribbled down the last of the conversation and then tapped his pen against his notes. ‘Is there anything else you would like me to add, Q?’
‘Uh… I’m not sure,’ Jaisa admitted. ‘I just feel… tired, I guess. I know there’s more to say, but I can’t think of it.’
‘I’m sure you’ll remember later,’ Distro waved a dismissive hand and shook her head. ‘But we’ll get to it when we get to it. For now, you take a break. I’ll have a few questions for you when you’re better.’
‘Just a few. Not too important, so don’t worry,’ Distro stood from her chair and stretched, feeling her numb legs start to get feeling back. ‘Simple things. Numbers, mostly. Like how many cultists you think there may have been, a guess at how much funding they have— But— No! Nuh-uh!’
Distro pressed a finger against Jaisa’s mouth as xie went to answer.
‘Later,’ Distro ordered. ‘Rest first. My questions can wait.’
‘I… suppose,’ Jaisa sighed. ‘If you’re sure.’
‘Of course I’m sure,’ Distro brushed back her hair and sniffed. ‘Now. You’ve had a hard time. I’m very proud of you and how brave you’ve been.’
‘Same,’ Penel’s hands met Jaisa’s back, and Distro saw the young felinic start to work out the tension in the seces’ shoulders. ‘You’ve done amazing.’
‘Thank you,’ Jaisa relaxed xer shoulders and sunk back into Penel. ‘I’m glad it’s over. Though I, uh…. I don’t know where to go from here.’
‘Where do you want to go?’ Distro asked.
‘How about my place?’ Penel suggested. ‘I live in Balannsuire, just a day’s train ride away. My girlfriend’s a bit of a sad-sack, but I can’t imagine she’d have a problem with you staying for a while.’
‘Oh, uh…’ Jaisa rubbed xer arm and looked to the floor. ‘I wouldn’t want to put you out.’
‘It wouldn’t be putting me out,’ Penel reassured. ‘It’d be my pleasure.’
‘Or if you would prefer to stay with a bachelor in the city my house has a very nice guest room,’ said Coi’Lili. ‘It has a very nice view of the ocean and Dancing’Puddle would not mind you one bit. She is very friendly. What do you think, Q? Would you like that, Q?’
‘I… I’m not sure,’ Jaisa admitted, rubbing xer arm.
‘You’re also welcome to stay in the palace as long as you need,’ Distro said, then raised a hand to quiet Coi’Lili and Penel. ‘You need time to rest, and to think about the future and where you want to go. If you want to stay in Canis I can get you housing and help you find a job. Or, if you would prefer another country, I can bully almost anyone into taking you. You decide you want to live in Sapious? Konde? Kazzaquin? I’ll get you there.’
‘Thank you,’ a weak smile formed at the corners of Jaisa’s mouth, which xie offered to Distro. Then to Penel, and then to Coi’Lili. ‘All three of you. Thank you.’
Penel returned Jaisa’s smile as she leant over and kissed xer on the cheek. ‘It’s alright. We just want what’s best for you.’
‘Yes,’ Coi’Lili agreed. ‘What is best for you is what we are wanting.’
‘Thank you,’ Jaisa said again. ‘I… I do think I want to stay here. At least for a while. You’re all so friendly. And… I don’t know. I know I want to work again. Labour but… not as a dockworker. I don’t think I could do that again. Something similar, though. Farming, or crate-loading….’
‘Well, Balannsuire’s export season starts soon. You could help in the harvest and then load the trains in the station,’ Penel suggested. ‘They’re always understaffed so it wouldn’t be too hard to get a job with them, if you wanted it. And you can stay at my place until you can afford your own— Because I’m assuming you’re not wanting hand-outs from Distro?’
Distro caught the felinic’s cheeky grin and rolled her eyes.
‘No, I don’t want to be given anything,’ Jaisa let out a long, heavy sigh. ‘But, if you really wouldn’t mind having me, at least for a while, I’d appreciate it.’
‘As I said, it’d be my pleasure,’ Penel gave Jaisa a friendly punch in the shoulder.
‘O-Okay,’ a weak laugh escaped Jaisa as Penel pulled a face, and xie rubbed xer hands together anxiously. ‘Thank you. That’d be nice.’
‘Well, it sounds like you’re a little more sure about things than you first thought you were,’ Distro gave a nod and pet Jaisa on the back, before helping the seces to xer feet. ‘Though, before you make any promises, I think it would be best to sleep on it…. Coi’Lili? Would you take Jaisa back to xer room?’
‘Of course, my wonderful friend,’ Coi’Lili gave the queen a nod, then offered the seces his hand. ‘Come along, lovely blue one. Let us get you into bed.’
‘Thanks,’ Jaisa replied, leaning into Coi’Lili as xie was lead to the door.
‘Not a worry, my lovely!’ Coi’Lili beamed. ‘Come! Come now.’
‘Goodnight, Jaisa,’ Penel gave Jaisa a wave. ‘I hope you sleep well.’
‘Yes, goodnight,’ Distro echoed. ‘If you need anything, please, don’t hesitate to ask for me. I’ll be up all night and it won’t be a bother.’
Jaisa simply nodded at that, and the two girls watched as xie and Coi’Lili disappeared into the hall. They sat in quiet for a moment before Distro gave a throaty snort and turned to the felinic.
‘Well, Penel, I suppose we should finish that painting.’
‘Oh, most definitely,’ Penel responded, giving a flourish of her hand and taking on a playful, half-mocking tone as she rose to her feet. ‘Though, I believe I have left my paints in the garden. Perhaps you would honour me with a walk? We could go the long way around.’
‘Yeah, sure,’ Distro felt herself grin as she was offered the felinic’s hand. ‘I could certainly bear to stretch my legs, after today….’
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