Keona slept in a hollowed out transport crate in a corner of the docking bay, lined with a fire blanket. Despite Luc’s best efforts to move her into an actual quarter, she kept disappearing and was found curled up among the cargo, more comfortable nested with her tail instead of an actual bunk. Eventually he gave up; and Jai saved an empty insulated food crate for her.

He peered over the edge of the crate, watching her murmur and whimper in her sleep, her leg twitching slightly in response to a dream. His mouth pinched into a pout, his black cigarette sticking upwards. His little dream of sharing a smaller room with her burnt away like the ash at the tip. Luc sighed and sunk back down, resting against the crate. The heat Keona radiated permeated the layers of insulation, warming the crate to the touch, but only just barely, like the surface of a thick paper cup full with hot coffee.

Her thick, bushy tail trickled over the crate’s edge and fluttered slightly, tickling his neck. He swore that thing sometimes had a mind of its own. It pushed itself closer against him, and for a surprising moment, Luc thought it had. But then he heard Keona yelp and yawn, the crate shuddering as she stretched her limbs out. Her tail practically wrapped around his neck like a scarf and sent warm tingles all over his skin. Eyes closed, he sat there for a while, fantasies of him and her sleeping in each other’s arms peacefully running through his head like a drugged cheetah. His hand stroked her tail absentmindedly.

Looks like her fear of hurting with her fire still overruled their years of close interaction. She had gained enough confidence to use her fire whenever necessary, and even casually; but was still prone to accidental spurts. The fear of it happening alone kept her from making any sort of intimate contact with anyone, even him who had on numerous occasions had proven himself more durable than the average companion.

Their first kiss had been a tentative one, full of apprehension and consternation. But it was also her doing; she made the first move. The joy and relief she felt when she pulled away and discovered him to be still unscathed brought tears to her eyes, and drove him to kiss her even more. Each kiss after that was and is equally breathtaking, as if she kept forgetting that she didn’t hurt him.

But that was as far as she could go. Hugs and holding hands, they both felt her overbearing habit of pulling away after a little, little while has passed. Sleeping together, even only just, was way out of the question for her. Something about having emotionally sensitive abilities to manifest fire, simply put.

But, there were times when she lay next to him, completely at peace, cherishing the stillness. And she would reach out and entwine her fingers with his, humorously attempt to synchronize her breathing with his, which he would purposely huff and puff to throw her out til they both ended up with painful bellies from laughing so hard, and then she would roll into his arms and they would cuddle and fall asleep together until her perpetual distancing literally rolled her out of his embrace again.

Luc got so annoyed he sucked so hard on the stub of his cigarette he choked a bit and spat out the butt. Eyes wide, he turned to look at Keona in the crate, to discover that she hadn’t stirred in the slightest. Sighing exasperatedly, Luc rested his head on the edge of the crate, staring at his beloved bougie.

She tilted her head like a confused puppy when he first called her that. “Whatsa bouchiee?”

“Bou-zhé. Bougie. It means candle.”

“Candle? You call me candle?”

“Mmmhmm.”

“Why not star?”

“Cuz stars are too far away.”

He chuckled at the memory. Sweet, sweet little candle. Capable of so much. She’ll light your way or light you up. And not just literally, well, for him and the crew anyway.

He ran his hand up her face, brushing her autumn coloured hair out of her abnormally large wolf ears. Keona murmured happily and squirmed. A soft squeak sounded in her throat. Luc wondered what she was dreaming about. He traced a dimple by the corner of her mouth, smiling himself.

She twitched at his touch, her face taking on that ‘kitty’ expression. He resisted the urge to bend down and kiss her, and pinch her cheeks. His naturally cold bluish fingers traced her lips tenderly. Her grin became wide for a moment, total bliss, then she opened her mouth wide and clamped her teeth down onto Luc’s hand.

BOUGIE!!!!!” Luc practically screamed, trying to pull his arm away. Keona’s canine-sharp teeth had a good grip on his hand, although they couldn’t puncture his skin. She had his whole trigger finger knuckle in his mouth and sleepily tried to chew.

Bougie bougie bougie bougie!!!! KEONA!?” Luc tried to jangle his hand out of her jaws, lifting her by her teeth.

She let go so suddenly she fell flat back into the crate with a loud *whumph*.  Luc flew backwards clutching his hand, breathing through his teeth; his fangs bared instinctively.

“Mmm?” Keona sat up groggily, her eyes heavy with sleep. A smile still glimmered across her face. She blinked slowly at Luc, her smile becoming wider. She noticed him cradling his hand and his eyes frantically wide. “What?” her voice adenoidal.

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