Jaesa was fretting and pacing about. She could feel something was wrong, that something had happened. Malavai’s – as she thought of him, she would never call him by name aloud, at least not now – presence has fluctuated before being overshadowed by something cold and dark. She thought it was Jadus at first, but his presence was slightly… warmer than this one. That didn’t seem possible, really, considering who and what Jadus was. And his power. She shivered and rubbed her arms subconsciously.
The door to their split quarters slid open allowing Malavai entrance. She finally stopped pacing and turned to the door to face him. He looked absolutely dreadful. He was pale and sweaty, as if he had seen the darkness in the void and had only just returned to the light.
“Are you alright?” Jaesa asked. In a few long steps she reached him. His eyes didn’t focus on her. “Captain?” Still nothing.
She dared to touch his cheek and was surprised to hear him shout as if burned. She jumped back and clasped her hand to her chest.
“It’s only me,” she said gently. “It’s Jaesa.”
He stepped into the room, turned, and pressed a button on the panel next to the door to close it. His arm dropped to his side and his shoulders slumped just a fraction. It was enough to worry her.
“Malavai?” she hedged.
Something snapped in him. He turned to face her, his face as neutral as ever, but his eyes were finally focusing.
“How did I get back here?” he asked, his voice even and measured.
“You walked, I assume.” She paused and looked him over. He looked none the worse for wear, but his jacket seemed a tad newer than when he left. She was certain she was overanalyzing it. “Would you like a cup of tea? You seem on edge from your visit with Jadus. All went well, I hope.”
He moved wordlessly to the settee and sat down. He was acting so strangely, but, hopefully, a nice hot cup of black tea – half a sugar, teaspoon of milk, steeped five minutes, slice of lemon on the side for potential use, sixty degrees Celsius – would perk him right up. He told her once how he liked the way she made his tea. It just wasn’t the same when he did it. Well, technically, it was exactly the same. He was as exacting as ever, but her tea was different somehow and he could never put his finger on it. She smiled wistfully as she heated the water and sliced into a lemon. She often wondered if, perhaps, she was reading too much into their time together. They were friends, at least to her. She never knew where she stood in that man’s mind. He was cordial, he talked to her, told her things she was sure he had never or would never tell another person, and allowed her to touch his person for the purposes of comforting hugs or wake ups from nightmares. Sometimes, he even hugged back.
When the tea was finished she gathered it up and made her way to the seating area. Malavai was seated with his back ramrod straight and his hands resting on his knees. And he was staring. Just staring at nothing. It unnerved her. He didn’t move at all when she stepped into his view.
“Malavai, I’ve made tea the way you like it,” she said quietly.
He shifted his eyes up to her face and blinked slowly. “You’re using my first name.”
“You seem to respond to it. You’re a bit out of it right now. I take it Jadus’ presence upset you so I went and made a cup of tea the way you like it.”
“Teaspoon of milk, steeped five minutes?”
“Yes, yes, and the water was heated to sixty degrees Celsius. There’s a slice of lemon there on the plate for you in case you want it.”
He grabbed the lemon and squeezed its juice into the teacup. Another bad sign. When he took the cup without taking the small plate as well she knew something terrible had happened. She turned and set the tiny plate on the table before sitting down on the couch next to him. He hadn’t so much as taken a sip of his tea yet.
“What’s happened?” she asked. She often tried not to pry in his affairs, but when he was like this – well, there was nothing for it, but tea and patience.
“Being in Jadus’ presence for too long tends to – upset really isn’t the right word, but I cannot think clearly just yet,” he explained.
“And nothing else happened?” she asked, gently prodding him for answers just in case. Always just in case.
“No,” he replied, shaking his head slightly. “Nothing at all.”