Norquay’s spaceship was massive. Red’s eyes were wide with her mouth hanging open as he slowly circled around it. No wonder there were so many porcoyans in their compound. The last of their species, she mourned. No matter what, they would ever be what they were before.

When they were on their way back to earth, she asked the question that was doing cartwheels in her head. “Why did you tell me about your longevity and your abraza’s?”

After he dropped the news about the abraza’s on her, she lifted a hand and asked him to give her time. There were too many conflicting emotions for her to deal with new information.

“Finding someone who’s melody reverberates with yours is special. You, Red, you’re my abraza. The female I looked for but believed didn’t exist. I’m too old on my world and yours to believe that there was someone out there for me. Your body is young on both our worlds, but your soul is old. All those days sitting outside your door talking to you let me know how connected to you I was.” He ran his head through her hair before lifting her chin for his kiss.

“The first time I saw you, you walked in with fire in your hair and your eyes. I’d never seen anyone with hair your color before. No one on this planet or any other will ever hold a candle to you. I knew I was in over my head, but I ignored you. Then you flirted with me at the wedding. I knew who you were then, but I was determined to fight it. Then you showed up half dead and…” Anger coursed through his veins. His byema struggled for control wanting to come out.

“I could have lost you.”

“You didn’t.”

“It should never have happened.”

“Tell me about being abraza.”

“Before I do that, I have to tell you about our byema’s,” he imputed a series of codes that slowed our approach to the earth.

She took her time to enjoy the reentry. When they were moving through the air, she thought of the term byema. She heard it on several lips before they knew she was in the room. Em had talked about it once when she was ill, but it made no sense. Red filed it in a mental drawer and waited to learn more.

“What’s a byema?”

“The other part of our being. I am, we are shapeshifters. We take a form that I heard describe as a prehistoric sabretooth.”

“Sounds like a great movie.”

“I’ve heard that before. We are not the only race that can change shapes. One day ask Em about that. I hear she encountered another shapeshifter that wasn’t porcoyan.

“Do you really believe this?”

“Did you see that ship hanging in space? Did we really go to a ship on this flying saucer or was it just an illusion? If I took you to space why would I lie about this?”

“It would make my life easier. Ok, you turn into a big animal. What does that mean?”

He took his time returning the ship to the spot that was open and waiting. “Let’s finish this at home.”

Home? He thought of that as her home. She nodded because she was thinking of it as home too.

“We need a Christmas tree,” she told him as he drove. For the first time she could actively remember, she had a reason to celebrate the season.

When they got home, Teak was gone leaving them alone.

She changed her clothes into something comfy and met in the living room. When she sat, he took the floor looking up at her.

“My byema is a part of me. He wants a mate the same way I do. If you were porcoyan that would be no problem. As a human, you don’t carry his mate inside of you. The solution is for him to bite you. It extends your life was well as changes you just enough to allow you to shift forms.”

“As in bones shattering, muscles tearing? Me hulk, I kill you. For all that is holy, please tell me you’re not serious.”

“I am, but not in the way you described. It’s natural meaning it doesn’t hurt.”

“I’m human it’s not natural.”

“You’ll always be human, but if my byema bites you, you will become more.”

“That’s like saying Dracula is human.”

“Isn’t he?”

“No, he’s dead!” her voice went up at the end.

“A dead human?”

“Technically, kind of, sort of… that’s not the point.”

“Then what is?”

“Me…” she stopped to think about what she wanted to say. Some old proverb about speaking quickly and repenting in leisure was nipping at her heels. “I don’t know. I guess I’m just scared.”

“That’s smart, it’s the unknown.”

“Could I see your byema?”

“No. If I turned, he may try to attack you, to make sure you’re worthy of him.”

“Then we’re at an impasse. I need to see what you’re asking me to do. This is my life. I won’t ever just give it away, never again.”

“What if he attacks you?”

“I’ll risk it. I’ve been attacked before.” She got off the couch and went to sit in a corner. If Norquay was telling the truth, and she had no reason not to believe him, then running wouldn’t help.

“The courageous female had to be my abraza,” he mumbled before landing on four paws.

Red choked on the air. She knew he wasn’t lying, but part of her kept thinking that maybe he was telling a tall tale. She watched as the largest animal she ever saw outside of maybe a whale stalked towards her. That was going to kill her. Her heart rate kicked up, and she knew logically there was nowhere to run, and she wasn’t packing. Then she made peace with death. It had been stalking her for years. One day she knew it would catch up with her.

She closed her eyes when he got close. Turns out she really didn’t want to look death in its eyes. When she felt a weight on her thigh, she knew it was over. When nothing happened, she opened her eyes. Norquay, his byema, was lying next to her his head resting on her thigh. Unless he planned to kill her by starving her to death, she wasn’t sure what happened.

After they stayed that way for a while, she ran her hands through his coat. It was soft and comforting. Moving she stretched out beside him and fell asleep.

When she woke up those same blue eyes were watching her from the face of his byema. He didn’t move, but she knew what he was asking her. His opened wide showcasing his teeth for her. Was she willing to allow him to bite her? One aggressive move and she would have fought to the death. This, on the other hand, giving her the choice without forcing her. That was the kind of male she wanted to spend her life with. Norquay was the one.

“Yes.” His teeth clamped on to her shoulder. It was the last thing she remembered before she passed out.

 

“Why isn’t she waking up?”

“If one more abraza asks me that question I might make all of you sleep outside in your humanoid forms.” Rial snark and tiredness made his voice sharper than he intended. “Calm down Norquay, this isn’t exactly science and though I’ve had several more human females transform over the last year, that’s still not enough for me to say it happens the same way all the time.

Norquay stood and stretched before he gave himself a shake trying to release the tension that shifted through his limbs.

“Your turn will come, then you’ll understand.”

“I… I wish I thought you were correct.” Rial stumbled over his words before he turned back to Red. “There was no fight?”

Norquay shook his head.

“Do you know why? Did your byema let you in on his reasoning?”

“He said he didn’t need proof of her ability to fight.” There was more to it than that, but he would only share that with Red if she asked.

“While I think this stage for everyone is different, it reminds me of the human term coma. I’m not convinced that is the cause. Humans take roughly nine months to gestate. We are asking one of them to give birth to a different form and expect it to be done overnight.”

“Her byema is not complete?”

“It is. I believe that’s the problem. Her body changed almost instantaneously; her mind has to catch up. The human mind is not fragile but any scale of the imagination, but it still must accept that it now has a duality of purpose. Imagine waking up and no longer having your byema living within or hear his thoughts.”

Norquay shuddered. “I can’t imagine it. The disconnect…”

“That is what she is feeling right now. She has a right to several days to get used to her new reality.”

“Have I told you that you’re a good healer as well as a good male?”

“Good, I never want to make that mistake.” His words didn’t mask the look in his eyes. Rial took one look making a small move to acknowledge what Norquay couldn’t say in words.

“I’ll check on her later.” Rial’s voice as thick and gruff. Brotherhood wasn’t always easy when there weren’t females around to smooth the rough edges.

 

“I’m not sure I like you.” Red sat up and then laid back down her head spinning.

“Cry me a river.” Byema-Red licked at a paw paying the human no attention.

“Okay, I might like you a little.” Red gave in a little. Her head was throbbing and this… this extremely huge presence was in her head like she had just as much right to her thoughts.

“You know we are one now, right?” Byema-Red asked her.

One? She thought back to byema-Norquay laying his head on her lap. He was huge, but he also made her feel safe. That one thought was enough to make her question her sanity. How could something so obviously alien, different from her, make her feel safe? He did though. She gave permission for him to bite her.

Did part of her not believe what he told her? Maybe, she wanted to end it all. On some days that sounded good. There were days she didn’t want to be strong any longer. She didn’t want to hold her head high and tell the world to eff off while she was struggling inside. She didn’t want to see tomorrow, but she knew that was part of the curse. That was what the enemy wanted. He wanted to defeat her so that there would be no tomorrow. He wanted to make sure the world would never know her story or her rallying cry. The enemy was a he until it as a she. It didn’t matter the pronoun the enemy went by all that mattered was what he, she, it, they wanted. To silence her words and the words of the ones like her. Blessed are those that suffer for they shall inherit the earth.

Those in power and those that take power by force will never want those they hurt to inherit the earth. It would make them into people and not victims worthy of only one thing. She would not give in to the curse.

“You’re strong,” byema-Red told her. “We are strong together. Are you going to reject me?”

Reject her? Was that a possibility? Even as she was thinking it through, she knew that wasn’t going to happen. Already, she liked the other presence in her head. At least, she didn’t have to worry about being crazy when she talked to herself and then answered herself.

“I’m thinking you and I will get along just fine.”

“I want to go get her.” Byema-Red as sitting up looking directly into Red’s mental eyes.

Red shifted uncomfortable with the directness of byema-Red. It was like she was tapping into the deeper parts of her psyche. The parts she pressed down, then walked on. The parts that weren’t for sharing. These were her desires the things she wouldn’t think about because they could never be. This is where the people she cared about, dare she say loved, lived.

“Her?”

“Our mother. Who else?”

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