"The Masquerades?"

"The other group your kind has to deal with. Most of them are the sort who want to take over the world or, heck, blow it up even."

My eyes got big. "Seriously?"

"There's a TV show in your other world about a rat who wants to blow up the moon because he thinks it's made of cheese, which he's allergic to. That's the sort of person we would expect to join the Masquerades."

That was nuts. That was nuts. Were there really people who would go to that sort of ridiculous extreme?

"Anyway, we have a baby waterfall in here if you ever want to see it. If I could, I'd stick my head under it right now."

"Was it hot last night?"

"In my room, anyway. I hardly slept a wink last night. I'm pretty sure my air conditioning broke. I went to tell maintenance before I came to see you."

That didn't sound fun. If it got bad enough, most of us would camp out and sleep on the tile floors. Heck, I was not opposed to sleeping in the bathroom if I had to. Del had actually done that once or twice.

"Guess I'm lucky then."

"I don't know where you were raised, but I looked forward to a white new year every year. If we got one, everybody expected the new year to bring miracles and all that jazz."

I laughed. "There was a white Christmas where I was from. It was something a lot of people looked forward to."

"Isn't that a holiday where people spent a lot of money on gifts?"

"Did you have that?"

Arthur furrowed his eyebrows. "I don't think we did. Not where I grew up anyway..."

In that moment, Christmas in July was something I wished everybody did.

Come to think of it, were there any holidays this month? The Nachimians definitely don't have as many as I was used to.

"My country used to be a part of another country a really long time ago. They celebrate the day it became its own country every fourth of July."

"Did you plan to celebrate while you were here?"

I shrugged. "I didn't care about holidays when I got here. I was just trying to get by."

"Trying to get by?"

"Sweet Minicha. Things went nowhere near as smoothly as they could have. Cuz of that, I wanted to get my job done as soon as could and go home."

"You still want that, right?"

I glanced at the ceiling. "Nowhere as badly as I did back then. I had my puppy, but I was on my own too much back then. No other time in my life had I been on my own so often."

He raised an eyebrow. "You have a dog? Where is she now?"

"With my roommate if I had to guess. I've just had to have faith that she and her friend could take care of her."

"That sounds horrible."

I shrugged. "It wasn't as bad since I hadn't really thought about her much. I'd been too distracted to."

"Nothing wrong with that. It has been pretty rough."

"It almost feels selfish..."

Arthur took a long breath. "Why?"

"She's a dog. Dogs love those who care for them unconditionally. She deserves the best she can get."

"And you don't think your friends can do that?"

I shook my head. "It's not like that. We were together every day from when I took her in until the day I was brought here. This is the longest we've ever been apart."

"Wow. If I could've, I would've brought the dog at least. There are people I know wouldn't have been able to transition to life here without them."

"Well, I wouldn't be here without you and Raymond." My cheeks got hot. "I sorta need to be around people."

"What do you mean?"

I smiled. "I've been painfully shy my entire life."

"Seriously?" Arthur's eyes got big. "I never would've guessed."

"When I was little, my favorite place was on my dad's back. It was a good vantage point and I could hide whenever I got spooked."

"Really?"

I nodded. "After I went to live with Hannah, I often did the same with my big brother. It was easy since I've always been small for my age."

"But your brother left a few years ago, right?"

"Yeah. I was comfortable enough that I didn't need him anymore by then. I didn't run a lot of errands, but I could get by if I needed to since the people knew who I was."

"I just can't imagine it."

I laughed. "Which part?"

"When I saw you for the first time after you woke up, I was sure you were good with people."

"I'm good with kids." I paused. "I had to be. It was the only way I could think to repay her."

"Repay her? Your Earth Protector?"

I nodded. "She gave me a loving home. They gave me what I needed. I didn't understand it the gravity of it until I touched down here."

"It couldn't have been that bad."

"A lot of old scars reopened then. They probably didn't heal as well as we thought."

"Well, if I can get something you need, I will."

I smiled. "I know."


***


Thoughts on the interaction with Arthur? Theories? Predictions?

~Shino out!

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