“Mama! Higher, mama!”
Dosia squealed as her bare feet kicked Marcelina’s stomach. Despite her promises to Jory to keep low to the ground, Marcelina caught an updraft. Dosia screamed as her chubby fingers clutched the leather harness keeping her strapped to her mama. She was fearless and Marcelina loved her for it. It also kept her up at night with the sort of fear she’d never felt for herself.
“Mama had better not have done what the little terror said.”
Jory’s voice in her ear made her shiver in a way the winter wind did not. Whatever secret project he worked on must be done. She hadn’t seen him for two days as he’d been locked in his office.
“Want to go see daddy?”
Arms thrown out wide with a squeal, Dosia screamed, “Daddy!”
“I feel the same way.”
“Fast, mama! Fast!”
Marcelina whooped, tucked her scarlet wings in, and dove for the ground. The whole way down, Dosia laughed and kicked. Even knowing she was liable to wind up black and blue from tiny feet she couldn’t resist.
A stumble on her landing did not diminish Dosia’s fun.
It did, she noted, make Jory’s worried scowl deepen. Even though their daughter continued to squeal in delight, Marcelina didn’t manage more than a quick smile.
Jory had his cane and the few paces between them he covered slowly. Had he not slept at all the last couple days? New worry bloomed in her chest. Dosia tried to launch herself at her daddy, but the leather straps held her in place. Jory tried to undo the buckles, but his hands shook.
“Daddy! Hold me. Daddy!”
“I’m trying, terror. Just give daddy a minute.”
“Better idea. Let mama carry you til we get home.”
“I want daddy! Daddy, hold me!”
Marcelina rarely used that tone with her daughter. On more than one occasion it had been pointed out she spoiled her daughter. Most of the time, Marcelina would tell them to fuck off. Her daughter already had an abnormal childhood. All the terror she’d been insulated from was always a day away for Dosia. So, if she were a little spoiled she had it coming.
If there was one thing, one thing, she would not let her daughter get away with, it was anything that might harm Jory. He’d already suffered so much for her. She would die for him, kill for him. And, if the need arose, she would scold her daughter.
“It’s ok, baby terror. But, mama’s right. Let’s go inside and I’ll hold you.”
The harness itched, but Marcelina knew better than to take it off and free Dosia. They weren’t that far from the entrance to their hallway. The rooms they lived in were right by the outside door. No one had wanted them. Not secure enough for the more nervous sort. Marcelina liked the idea of being able to get out quick.
Once inside, she shooed Jory to the sofa. Her own hands shook as she watched his heavy limp. They worked him too hard and it made her angry. His own worries about some of her missions she could dismiss. After all, she was tough. Not that she would say such a thing to him. Not after last time.
Dosia was impatient. Her kicks had grown more insistent. So, Marcelina freed her and watched her race toward Jory. Once free of the harness she went to the bathroom. Another reason to take these rooms. Hardly anyone had their own bathroom. From the cabinet she took out Jory’s medicines.
“How do you do that?”
Dosia was curled up in a chair half-asleep.
His words made her shiver. Rather than kiss him senseless, she brought him the pills. After he took them. That would be the time to kiss him senseless.
Except, magic didn’t exist and by the time Jory felt better Dosia was awake and running around. Marcelina left them to fetch dinner. Not once did she think of asking him what he’d been working on. They’d agreed to that right after the rebels had pulled them into the fold.
A fold she knew he disliked as much as her. Three years now and she had the sense they’d already seen the best this group had to offer. Neither of them spoke of leaving. After living under the rule of a tyrant all their lives neither of them trusted anyplace to be free of observation.
By the time they were done with dinner, both Dosia and Jory were nodding off.
“They work you too hard.”
“Well, there’s not enough smart people to go around.”
“Are you calling me dumb?”
“Idiot. I should have let Charlotte have you.”
Jory laughed before he stroked the scarlet feathers on the back of her neck. If he was not so tired as to make the invitation, she would take him up on it. With any luck, Dosia would not wake up and interrupt.