How long did Miles's regenerative gene keep him alive while the Nisseri harvested him a piece at a time? As much as she tried to avoid the thought, it crept up on her so soon after her own brush with death. She doubted Miles met a swift merciful end. There was a reason they were the only red heads in her borough of Jamestown. The Nisseri would take full advantage of a gift like his. Miles likely lived for weeks, losing himself in bits.

A sob broke from her chest. Months she'd tracked the Nisseri who took him. Months she chased a faint erratic trail, because she was desperate to avoid this moment, when the reality of her brother's last moments caught up with her. Tears ran down her face. She ran every lead to the ground, followed every whisper. She walked the markets and trade posts of each world, stared into the mix matched faces of the Nisseri she came across,  as she searched for a feature she'd recognize. Weapon in hand, ready to make them bleed for her, she would offer them a slow end until they knew exactly who among their thousands of nameless victims they died for.

It was her fantasy of vengeance, to search all those broken faces for a piece of her brother, blood of her blood. She never found one, to her fortune, because if she had her rage would be eclipsed by the consuming grief she felt right now. She'd stumble into the trap of her great denial and fall at their feet.

Instead she came to pieces in a stranger's arms, caught in a stranglehold of grief, guilt, and anger. Sobs wracked her bruised body. The arm tightened its hold. Her stranger pressed their face to her hair, murmured words in a language she never heard before. The voice was deep, masculine. The words that tumbled into her ear were unknown but the tone was soft. Comfort from an alien stranger broke the dam she'd used to keep her grief in check. Daphne pressed hard against a chest clad in velvety leather. She kept her eyes shut tight, she refused to ruin the balance of grief and comfort with something as trite as fear.

It did not matter she was on an alien world, in the arms of a stranger, future unknown. The emotions of this moment were pure. The barriers of language and species shed, unimportant, because her stranger felt the flood of her grief, her pain, and empathized.

"I'm sorry, I'm so sorry," she sobbed into her stranger's warm chest. She breathed hard through her tears. Her fingers clutched his arms, muscles tense beneath her grasp. "I didn't save him. I couldn't. Maybe I didn't try hard enough. I should have tried harder. I hid. I was so scared, so I hid and they took him and it should have been me. It should have been me, not Miles. He was the good one. It should have been me."

She babbled, her words dissolved at the end into wet gasps. She began to hyperventilate. A hand tucked under her hair, pressing her tighter against him. She listened to the deep draw of his breaths, until they centered her. The rising fount of grief broke, her tears slowed as her breaths fell into his rhythm.

"Thank you," she whispered. It didn't matter if her stranger knew the words or not. She poured gratitude into her voice. She drew back into herself, let the rational Daphne rise back to the surface. The moment passed. She'd have to open her eyes soon, discover what and who held her, assess her situation, continue, survive, and go on. Part of her, a larger part than she would have guessed, wanted to prolong the moment, spend forever in arms that made her feel safer than she had in a long time.

Daphne let out a slow exhale and leaned back. She looked. Pale gold eyes stared down at her, shimmered with iridescent hues when the light hit them. The face was unsettling, but beautiful. Those stunning eyes gazed down the length of a short flat muzzle, the nose split at the end. His skin was textured like the great predatory cats of New Tokyo's preservation exhibits. His jawline was long, squared off, slightly protruded but his mouth was almost human in appearance, lips full, and a darker shade than his bronze colored skin. The metallic hues continued through the shaggy mane of dark gold that brushed his shoulders. Pearl colored horns curved up over the sides of his head, like ram horns, unlike the Pathosian's upward flaring horns.

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