Chapter 48: Small Pleasures

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January 2, 2358

Mid-West

America

Cai didn't know how long he and Amaris stayed out in the woods, away from the group. One kiss was liable to cause more issues that needed resolving than not. As it was, when they stepped apart and stared at one another for a long moment, he knew that it was one of those times where he would have no choice but to sit down and talk about it. Instead, Ris grabbed his coat again and pulled him into another breathless kiss.

They didn't talk about it. No need. Being friends for so long certainly had its advantages. What wasn't said in words was expressed in every desperate meeting of their lips. The way their hands clung to one another. In the looks they shared when they paused for breath. There was nothing he could say that hadn't already been conveyed, so they said nothing at all.

When they finally emerged from their own reality, it was to realize that the temperature was dropping rapidly and everything around them was growing darker. With a grin, Cai held his hand out to his friend and they began walking back to their makeshift camp. And as soon as they emerged from the trees, Eila and Ari looked at them with knowing expressions.

Neither Ris nor Cai said anything to validate the hand-holding as they approached the small fire the girls were sitting beside. With the way Ari and Eila were grinning, not much explanation seemed to be needed anyway. Though there was one set of scrupulous eyes missing...

"Jace went hunting. I'm charged with babysitting Ari," Eila informed him as his eyes did a quick sweep of the campground.

Ari's smile was bitter as she announced, "He thinks it's too early for me to kill an innocent animal after taking human lives. Or he's just afraid I've gone a little bloodthirsty."

Cai snorted as he and Ris sat beside the fire, completing a small circle. "Which one is the reason you agreed to stay?"

"The first one. But we're not telling him that."

"So what did he want to talk to you about, Eila? Before we ... left," Ris asked.

Cai thought it admirable that they managed to avoid exchanging a glance before Eila replied, "Nothing in particular. Just set me my task and asked me to keep an eye on Ari." Just as he was about to call her on the lie, he caught Ari's subtle shake of the head.

For a moment, an awkward silence threatened. Though he'd learned a lot about Ari in the past day, it still wasn't enough. Which also meant he probably hadn't shared enough of himself with her. Plus there was Eila and Amaris to consider. It was a circle of strangers and no one knew how to lessen that fact.

As if she were reading his mind, Ris sighed, "I feel like we need to have a sharing hour just to figure out who everyone is."

"And what we are to each other," Eila responded as if her mind were running on the same track.

"And what we've all been through since this started," Ari added.

"And how we figured it all out," Cai finished.

They all gave each other tiny, knowing smiles. Then the real discussions began. It started with how they met, where their friendships started, and their school years. For himself, Cai didn't have much to say, but the level of overprotectiveness which his mother forced on him seemed to be a point of mild fascination to his sister. He was just as awed at the level of freedom she retained once she moved to Genesis. His mother would freak if he suggested going around an entire city on public transportation by himself. And after an hour or so, the conversation finally circled back to how they learned about one another.

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