Days become weeks and before Koschei can really grasp it, a moon cycle has passed. He is still plunged into darkness but Theta’s presence makes it bearable and also her constant chattering. Sometimes bedtime stories, sometimes the looks of shells she saw while out hunting. It still mesmerizes Koschei that a non predator is capable of hunting.
Upon asking Theta tells him in a very timid voice that she invented a trap for hunting. He doesn’t understand why she isn’t proud of her achievement, because in his opinion inventing a trap is brilliant and he tells her as much. In the next second he had a sobbing Theta clinging to his chest babbling about his kind words for her and other things she doesn’t seem used to. It breaks Koschei’s heart to know, that no one praises her for her brilliant ideas.
With his eyes still healing he can’t do much, but he can give her praise. It is the least he can do for her, since Theta changes the bandages every day and applies fresh healing paste.
In the few hours of the day where he is alone, he wonders why she puts so much effort into his well being. He always forgets to ask upon her return, because she starts to chat right away.
It is a few days later, that he gets actually scolded by her, for leaving the nest and they have a small argument. “You shouldn’t already be up!”
“I am good. I am already feeling better!” he shoots back. “You are still pale and the dressing on your eyes still need changing!” - “I am blind and not a cripple. I have very well functioning hands to see and find my way around this cave!”
“That’s not what I said or meant and you could have told me that you needed to stretch your tentacles! We could have left together for the outside. This cave is not only a cave it is a labyrinth for maximum safety for me! You could have gotten lost!”
Koschei was surprised that Theta could be so vocal and if he trusted his hearing, it wasn’t anger he heard, but fear. She had feared to lose him here, if he had wandered off. “I’m sorry…” is his quiet reply. Wordlessly she takes his hand and leads the way out. “I’m sorry too. I shouldn’t have kept you in there for so long, but it is the only safe place I have and know about…” She murmurs softly, almost too soft to be heard by untrained ears. He has gotten better at hearing with his eyes missing.
He felt honoured that she was sharing her safe place with him. Sitting side by side outside he sees his chance to finally ask her. “Theta, why are you carrying so much about me? Not that I am ungrateful, dying by jellyfish poison is not nice, but, you could have let me die. One less predator to worry about.”
“Others could and would have let you die. I am not others and besides, it felt wrong to leave you there after I found you.” was her murmured reply, while her head rested on his shoulder. “How did you find me anyway?” he goes on asking. For a long time there is no answer and he isn’t pushing her for one. “I’ll tell you, but you have to promise that you won’t laugh at me.”
“I promise.” With his left hand he draws a cross over the place where his right heart beats. “I dreamed about you being in danger and there was a voice urging me to come to the algae forest and save you.” He snickered and got a shove to his side. “You promised not to laugh at me!”
With all good things the peace they enjoy doesn’t last. It is about half a moon cycle later that they are separated because Koschei’s siblings find him. He smells them in advance which safes Theta. She has enough time to hide inside her labyrinth while he remains sitting still outside.
There he is! That little misfit of a half brother! Missy’s face is a scowl promising damnation to anyone who dares talk back to her right now. Saxon is by her side, an equally pissed look on his face. Rassilon has been nagging them to find the littlest swarm member. “I can smell you two. No need to keep quiet.” His head turns in their direction and it is only now that they see the bandage over his eyes.
“Shit! Koschei! What happened to your eyes?!” All her frustration and annoyance is forgotten when Missy fully grasps that her little brother is hurt and quite severely. “Jellyfish poison.” Both older siblings wince in sympathy. In stunned silence they watch Koschei as he leaves the stone he was sitting on, swimming directly towards them, finding his way, as if he could see. “Before you two ask, no, I don’t know where my saviour went off to and yes, he had me practice finding my way around without my eyes.”
In a strange way he loved his siblings but he wouldn’t tell them about Theta. Not even if his life would be threatened which would happen by the hands of Rassilon upon his return to the tribe. Saxon and Missy take him between them, slowly making their way back.
Sad eyes watch them leave. Theta’s heart is breaking. She will miss Koschei dearly, is already missing him, knowing, that if the graceful Calypso hasn’t mercy on them, they will never see each other again this way. They will be enemies, sworn to kill each other no matter how wrong it feels.
She just manages it in time to stifle her scream of fear and surprise by biting her tongue. The smell of Tecteun assaults her sensitive nose. “There you are Theta! We were worried about you.” The fake concern dripping from the others voice makes her sick down to her core. She should be grateful that she was taken in by Tecteun's tribe, but no matter what she does or doesn’t do, she always feels wrong. And it is not only her snow white tail. The other tribe members are all grey in different varieties and she stands out like a sore eye.
She is keeping quiet as Tecteun starts rambling about Theta letting her hair grow out and other nonsense while leading her back. That woman doesn’t really care about her or she would probably have asked where Theta had been all this time and what she had been doing. Not for the first time she longed for a wishing scale to change her fate.