Brian W. Antoine
October 29, 1993
"Boss, you're going to get fat if you keep this up."
"You're telling me. All the crab I could eat last night, and who knows what Kalindra has cooked up. I'm going to have to diet all of November just to be ready for Thanksgiving."
I'd been invited to dinner twice for my birthday, and it wasn't even Saturday yet. It had been a good week and was getting better as it went along. Someplace in the back of my mind, a little gremlin was warning me that it wasn't over yet, but for now he was being ignored. Good food and friends tended to override everything. Stepping up to the gate, I flared it into life.
"Are you feeling ok?"
"Never better, why?"
"Just asking. You've been pretty keyed up the last few weeks."
The Dog Tea I'd finished early had absolutely nothing to do with my current mood, I swear. "Thanks for thinking of me, but I'm fine. I think I know how I am going to handle Kal's question if she asks it. I don't think she is going to bring it up tonight though. It just doesn't feel right tonight, and I'm learning to trust my feelings."
"Well take care of yourself and have a good time. The last few months haven't been easy for you, and you deserve a little time to relax."
"Hey, don't sell yourself short. The last few months couldn't have been easy for you either. I'm not the one that drove herself into a coma trying to locate a friend."
"Family. I'm part of the family, remember?"
For a moment, I remembered the emotions that had flooded over me as I'd helped the being that was probably the only sister I'd ever have, struggle back from what would have been her death. "Sorry. I should know better than anyone what you became that night."
"Don't worry about it. I saw the empty glass on the counter. I'm not expecting you to make a lot of sense tonight."
Damn. "Ok, but I'm still sorry."
"Don't worry about it. If I can't trust you, who could I trust?"
"True, but he isn't family. Anyway, get going and enjoy yourself. How many times do you get treated to dinner by a friend."
"Not often, but I'm not going to complain. They do what they can and it comes from the heart. That's all anybody could ask of a true friend."
"Well go and say hello to another one for me, and try not to make a fool of yourself."
I waved goodnight as I stepped through the gate. "Yes sir!"
I hadn't looked real close before I'd stepped through and I found myself standing in a light drizzle. "Shit!" By the time I got the spell for a rain shield correct, I was about half soaked. I guess the Tea was affecting me more than I had figured. Oh well, such was life. With my judgment being suspect, I decided to walk to Kalindra's house instead of teleporting. It took a little longer, but I was feeling more myself when I knocked on her door.
"Well hello, you getting your exercise?"
"Something like that." I pinched my waist and chuckled. "I think my friends are trying to fatten me up for the kill."
"I know something better than walking to help you loose weight, and it's a lot more fun too!"
I wasn't sure wether I had missed something in the translation, or wether Kal had just implied something that I wasn't sure I wanted to think about. "That's ok, walking does me good." The smile I got told me that she had know exactly what she had said. For an instant, I was stone cold sober and wondering just what I had stepped into. As she led me into her home, I kept telling myself that she would probably wait until my birthday to corner me. It didn't help much.
"So, what's on the menu for tonight?"
"It's a surprise, but don't worry. I've been working with Penny to figure out some of the things in that cookbook she gave me."
"She gave you a cookbook?"
"After I asked for one, yes."
For a second, I thought about asking her why she needed lessons in Terran cooking, and then decided not to temp fate. My mood still insisted on being happy, and I didn't want to ruin the evening. "Ok, then lead on and let the carnage begin."
* * *
As I leaned back in my chair and waited for the cheesecake to settle. I had to admit that Kalindra was one hell of a cook, even considering the fact that she had substituted local ingredients for some of the dishes that I'd worked my way through.
"I don't think I could eat another bite without exploding."
"You liked it then?"
Before I even had time to stop myself, my mouth engaged itself after bypassing my brain. "I loved it. You're going to make some lucky male, one hell of a mate someday." Even as the words left my mouth, I was kicking myself.
"That's the idea."
As I sat in my chair and argued with myself about wether I really wanted to try to stand up, Kalindra stood and began to clear the table. When she had cleared most of the dishes, she stood next to her chair and proceeded to stretch as if to work the kinks out of her spine. Then she reached back and tried to rub her neck like it was bothering her.
I sat in my chair and watched like I'd been nailed in place. Wether it was the Tea, the food, or some combination. I found myself thinking that she was incredibly sexy as she worked at her neck. Don't bother asking me to explain how I could feel that way about someone who looked like a fox, I'd never be able to.
With a lot more enthusiasm than I had felt capable of, I sprang up from my chair. "Here, let me take care of that. Sit down in your chair here and let me loosen some of the kinks." I swear I saw a smile as she did as I requested. I had to dig deep for the memories, but as I massaged Kal's neck, it all started coming back to me. It had been years since I'd gotten this close to another person, and I'd forgotten how it could feel. As I worked on her neck, I swear she started to purr softly.
"That feel better?"
"Yes, thank you. You're pretty good at this, have you had much practice?"
"Yes, long ago and in a different time. It's been awhile though since I've done this. Let me know if I get too rough." The low purring I could hear told me I didn't have a lot to worry about.
"Have you looked outside lately?"
"It's turned into a nasty storm outside. It's going to be a cold and wet trip back to the gate."
With a final run along the top of her spine, I finished and walked back to my chair to sit down. "Meaning what?" Kal looked up at me and rested her head on her hands.
"You could spend the night. Your room is all made up."
I didn't catch on right away. "No thanks, I've got to be up early to go to work tomorrow. The time difference would skew the whole day." The look I got, kicked my fogged brain into gear and I realized what she'd meant.
"You sure? I give a pretty mean massage myself."
I swallowed and argued with the part of my mind that wanted to stay. "No thanks, I really need to get home." I could see her weigh what I was saying, with the emotional storm I had to be broadcasting.
"Ok, if you're sure. Maybe some other time."
Getting up, I helped her clean up the last of the mess on the table. As we worked, she kept brushing up against me and I was as sure as I could be that it could not have been accidental. By the time the table was cleared, I was becoming a nervous wreck. Half of me wanted to stay, and the other half wanted to run screaming into the night. So much for my knowing what I was going to say if she had started through the ritual.
Deciding to leave while I still knew what was I was doing, I thanked her once again for the meal and said my good-byes. "Thank you, that was one of the best birthday presents I've had in a long time."
"Don't get hasty, that wasn't your present."
"Just remember your promise and I'll see you in a couple of days for the party."
"Have I ever forgotten?"
"Not yet, and this would be a bad time to start."
The warning bell in my head had switched to a planetary alert. "I won't forget." I had grabbed my cloak and was getting ready to leave, when she Kal grabbed my and spun me around to face her. She pulled my face down to her height and leaned over to nip my ear as I stared into her eyes.
"You take care of yourself."
I looked into her face and found myself feeling calmer than I had felt almost all evening. I couldn't have explained why, but something just seemed to click in my mind. "I will." With a final hug, I turned and stepped into the pouring rain without even noticing it. The entire walk back to the gate, I spent singing half remembered songs. Come what may, at that moment I was at peace with the world.