On Love’s Wings
copyright c. 2016 T.A. Chase
After crawling out of the tent, Miataga stretched his arms above his head and yawned. A twinge of pain in his ass made him grin. They hadn’t gotten a lot of sleep, but he wasn’t going to complain.
A soft chirp caught his attention and he glanced around to see Vikex peering at him.
“Did you sleep well?”
Most of his friends at the House would think him crazy for talking to the phoenix as though he could understand. The bond birds were highly intelligent, but only their bondmates knew how smart they really were. Yet Miataga didn’t doubt that Vikex understood every word he said, not just understood them but knew what he meant. Miataga had a feeling the phoenix was as intelligent as he or Ari was.
Vikex tilted his head then chirped again before flapping his wings. Miataga ducked his head against the breeze.
“It’s time to go, I know.” He leaned down to shove the tent’s door aside. “Ari, you have to get up. Vikex is saying we need to leave.”
“Yes, he’s been squawking at me for the last five minutes,” Ari complained as he wiggled out of the structure. “I’m going to wash up then get some food ready. We’ll need to eat before we leave. Do you want to clean up now or wait until the gear has been packed?”
Miataga wrinkled his nose. “The stream sounds good. I’m a little sticky and smelly.”
Ari brushed a kiss over his lips before grabbing his hand. “Then come with me, my love, and we’ll wipe the stink away. Vikex will get the fire going and we’ll eat. I want to get back across the border before we have to stop again. Flying during the night will be better once we’re back in Eminen. Less likely to be spotted.”
He grabbed a clean pair of pants and shirt before following Ari to the stream. Stripping off yesterday’s clothes, Miataga pushed into the water, ignoring how chilly it was. That didn’t matter. He’d gotten used to washing in cold bodies of water. Ari often offered to warm up some for him, but he didn’t want Ari to waste his power on trivial things.
After rinsing the grim away, he climbed out and dried off. Miataga dressed quickly then turned to watch Ari finish his bath. Once they were done, they headed back to the clearing where Vikex had a fire going.
While Ari worked on their meal, Miataga packed their clothes and the tent in the bags. He dropped them next to Vikex’ harness before joining Air by the fire. He settled on the ground, holding his hands out to the heat.
“Thank you,” he said to the phoenix. “I appreciate you doing this for us.”
Vikex whistled and Ari smiled. “He says you’re welcome. He’d have had breakfast ready, but he doesn’t have any hands, which makes doing much of anything difficult.”
Miataga laughed. “I think right at this moment, I’d rather have a fire than food.”
Ari nodded. “You’re right. Being warm is more important than eating, though here’s your bowl.”
He accepted the bowl of porridge and dug in. There was just a hint of sweetness mixed among the oats. He frowned. “Where did you get sugar?”
“Oh, it’s not sugar. It’s honey. Jemsel has several hives and there was a jar of it stuck in the supplies they gave us.” Ari hummed a little after he took a bite. “I miss not having it when I’m in Sendler. There’s only sugar available there.”
Miataga tried not to think about how expensive sugar was for the people in the Lower city. It took a man almost a week’s wage to get a spoonful. He knew the soldiers were treated better than the civilians, and he couldn’t find it in his heart to be upset about it. They risk their lives for our safety every day. They deserve something special. If it happens to be sugar, then so be it.
They ate fast then got everything situated in the sling under Vikex’ harness. Miataga put out the fire while Ari made sure Vikex was comfortable and ready to go. He helped Miataga mount before joining him.
An enormous heave of Vikex’ muscles and a few powerful strokes of his wings, and they were airborne. Miataga leaned back into Ari’s warmth, closing his eyes. He couldn’t see anything below them, so he might as well try and get some rest.