8.0

Everyone was awake and sitting around the fire pit except for the vagrant, who had moved to a bedroom and immediately fallen back asleep after breakfast. Vortran sat near Sam, trying to ignore Mark and Yik’s pointed looks. She’d dragged Yik along to gather more vegetables to stretch their food, and they had enough to last most of the week at this point. Something dropped off the log next to her and she jumped, looking over to see Sam’s kid sitting next to her suddenly, staring at her.

“Um… hi.” She glanced at Sam, who was lost in his own thoughts about something and fiddling with a data pendant.

“Your name is Vortran, right?”

“Yes?” Vortran looked at the others for help, but they just looked amused.

“Want to… go…” The girl looked up at Sam briefly then leaned in close to whisper, “For a walk?”

“Uh…” She looked up at Sam, who seemed ignorant of their conversation, “Sure?”

The girl giggled and hopped to her feet, tugging Vortran along. Vortran struggled to keep up with her hyper strides until they got free of the clearing. They slowed and the girl let go of her hand finally, slowing down a bit.

“So… uh… Jessie right?”

“Mhmm. Granny doesn’t like that Misa calls me that though, she calls me Jessica cause it’s more feminine and proper.”

“Heh, yeah. She’s all about proper.” Vortran smiled a little.

“You know Granny?”

“We’ve met… she doesn’t like me.” Vortran shrugged when Jessie gave her a curious look, “Doesn’t approve of me hanging out with Sam at least.”

“Is that why you don’t talk anymore?”

“That’s…” Vortran opened her mouth then stopped, seeing the girl’s eager look, “It’s complicated. I guess we just took different paths.”

“I wish you would, Misa gets lonely sometimes, I can tell.” Jessie darted ahead a little and jumped up to grab a low-hanging branch, swinging from it until Vortran reached her. She dropped down again.

“He’s got you to keep him company though.”

“I’m nothing but trouble.” The response caught Vortran off-guard and she fell behind, having to sprint to catch up again. They walked in silence for a while as she thought of a response. They reached the river and followed along it, past the dead log Jessie had been trapped in.

“Why’d you want me to walk with you, kid?”

“I wanted to talk to you but I’m not supposed to around Misa.”

“What?” Vortran stopped and Jessie sat down under a nearby tree, folding her legs neatly.

“Granny says I’m not supposed to let Misa know that you’re a girl for some reason.”

Vortan sputtered a bit, lost for words. Jessie gave her a confused look and she sat down under the same tree with a sigh. “So how do you know, and what does that have to do with anything?”

“Granny mentioned it and I was afraid I’d let him know on accident. I’m not always good at thinking before I talk.”

“Yik could learn some things from you.” Vortran shrugged off the girl’s confused look, “What did you want to talk about?”

“Can you tell me stories about Misa? From before he found me? He only tells me the same ones and I want to hear new ones.”

Vortran laughed at the request, “Well I definitely have stories… but I’ll only tell you if you promise not to tell Sam or your ‘granny’.”

Jessie nodded eagerly and Vortran leaned back against the tree, trying to think of kid-friendly stories.

***

Yik nudged Mark in the side and Mark frowned at him.

“What?”

“I am bored, what can we do?”

“I dunno, why don’t you go for a walk?”

“I do not want to walk.”

“What do you want to do, Yik?” Mark struggled to keep the annoyance out of his voice.

“Can we play with the cards again?”

“Yik we’re stuck here for most of a week, I’m not playing poker the whole time.”

“You are just mad because you lose.”

“I just…” Mark glowered at him, but the argument was lost, “We need more than two people.”

“The accursed one?” Yik gestured to Sam, who was still staring at nothing in distraction.

“He looks almost as checked out as Calvin.”

“Then the other man? The shifter?”

“He’s…” Mark trailed off as Yik jumped up and darted into the ship. He emerged a moment later with a drowsy Jerret.

“Three for cards, we play now.”

“What?” Jerret yawned a little.

“He wants to play cards and we need more than two. Sorry, I was trying to tell him you were sleeping but…” Mark trailed off.

“Cards?”

“Poker, yes, please. It is boring here. You will play?” Yik’s already poor language skills got worse with excitement and he leaned into Jerret excitedly. Jerret pushed him away slightly and looked up at the sun.

“Are you going to keep doing that until I say yes?” He asked. In response Yik nodded rapidly, his tail thumping against the doorway of the ship, “Fine.”

“Same stakes as before?” Sam spoke up finally, startling the others.

“Stakes? What stakes?” Jerret raised an eyebrow at his sudden interest.

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